Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Commute Alternatives Help Business Move

Note: Korry Electronics was named Employer of the Year at the Community Transit Smart Commuter Awards earlier this month. Below is a portion of the remarks presented at the event by Korry Director of Human Resources Victoria Lindsey.

By Victoria Lindsey
Esterline Control Systems, Korry Electronics

A bit of background - Korry had been Seattle-based employer since it was first established in 1937. We were at our South Lake Union address for 25 years. That was our home, our neighborhood. So moving was – like it would be for many companies – an emotional, traumatic occasion for many employees.

About three years ago, it became inevitable that we had to move locations. The decision to move to the Paine Field area near Mukilteo really raised an outcry. We had employees from all over Puget Sound , and moving 20 miles away was going to really disrupt lifestyles. So we were faced with a real challenge to persuade and motivate employees to come with us!

A committee was formed to survey employees, meet in small groups, and really dive into people’s fears and concerns. The top concern was, “How am I going to get there (new location) and how long will it take?”

The importance of commute alternatives now became a key management focus. The employee support committee began developing a strong transportation program . The main decision was to increase our vanpool subsidy from 75% to 100% of the cost and provide monthly incentives to employees who drive the vans, as well as incentives to back-up drivers. Employees wanted to ride in a van, very few wanted to drive.

With more knowledge about the improved vanpool program and the incentives, people really came around. While many were self-sufficient in planning new commutes, we had a large number – over 100 employees – who were confused, upset and quite honestly, baffled by the alternatives. One key to our program success has been having a skilled CTR Coordinator, Joni Hards, an HR administrator.

Joni spent the time with each employee, discussing the possibilities, listening to their objections, concerns, and challenges – and she made it all work so that every employee had a commute solution by the time the move started in August 2009.

When the last employee group had moved, the number of vanpoolers had increased to 35% of the workforce and just about 50% of our employees overall use some form of alternative commuting to get to work – vanpool, carpool, bicycle, walk.

So, while we were prepared to lose - and dreaded to lose- up to 30% of our employees in the first year after moving, we lost less than 1% - just four employees resigned from Korry in 2010 because of the move/commute.

What has made this possible is the support we receive from Community Transit Transit Transportation Demand Management Coordinator Mark Melnyk and the Community Transit Vanpool Program. They have been a wonderful partner, helping us with all our questions, modifications and program design.

There’s one particular bit of serendipity. Korry has about a dozen employees who rode their bicycles to work in Seattle, and they wanted to be able to ride to the Beverly Park location. However, the additional distance made it a bit impractical. The commission of the Swift service provided our bicycle riders with a way to ride the bus with their bikes, then get off at a specific stop on Highway 99 and ride the rest of the way to the plant. They love the option it gives them and we didn’t have to do anything ourselves!

We hired about 40 new employees last year, they like the commute benefits we offer as much as our employees with longer tenure and often, they join vanpools immediately after starting work.

For Korry, it is critical for us to retain our talent – we absolutely depend upon the knowledge and skill of our employees. Our move was a tremendous success; we are very happy to be members of the Snohomish County business community and we thank Community Transit for being a part of our success!

Korry has participated in the state Commute Trip Reduction program since the law was first implemented in 1991.

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