Eurostar's director of people: "Line managers helped us survive"

Eurostar’s director of people, Gerard Jacques, wants line managers to get the recognition they deserve for their resilience during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to HR magazine, Jacques said the business would not have been able to care for its staff during the difficult period the coronavirus pandemic created if it wasn’t for the extraordinary work of its line managers.

Throughout the national lockdowns, Eurostar had around 700 to 800 members of staff on the furlough scheme and Jacques said they continually worked with trade unions to ensure no one felt overlooked or disregarded.  

He told HR magazine: “We had open communication with trade unions such as the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), and they’ve been really supportive.

“We still had some activity during the businesses that needed working on, so having a mix of staff on furlough and still working meant we had to ensure nothing was slipping through the cracks and our people were still being supported.”

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Jacques said the pandemic shone the light on how important the role of a line management is.

“We valued the hard work our line managers put in to ensure team members were being checked in on and having their questions answered.

“They really worked the extra mile to ensure everyone was getting through this tough time,” he said.

He added that line managers have also played a large role in enabling some Eurostar staff to work remotely during the pandemic, and perhaps post-pandemic too.

Jacques said: “We have a number of great managers within the business, and they’ve really been the ones who allowed us to begin remote working far earlier than we thought we’d be able to.

“Having line managers checking in on staff on more of an informal basis has demonstrated that no one felt isolated from the business, which is the last thing we would want to happen.

“Over the past year we’ve seen firsthand that with good line managers and open communication, remote working can be smooth, simple and produce great work.”

As Eurostar has offices in both the UK and France, Jacques explained how important good communication is when adding remote working into the mix.

He said: “We want inclusiveness whether a member of staff is sat in our new building in Kings Place, London, in Paris, or at home.

“The only way we can do that is effective communication and effective contact with line managers.”

However, Jacques highlights that no matter how good the line manager, they will always need support, and the people team must ensure they get it.  

He said: “With all the training we’re doing in terms of inviting people back into the workplace and the remote working policy, we’ve made sure mandatory training and support for line managers is put in place.

“We need to make sure line managers are equipped to deal with any situations now, and if they’re not, they need to know where to go to get support.”