CSX Case Study—On Track For A Culture of Inclusion

Susan Hamilton

In the competitive landscape of today’s workplace diversity champion companies, CSX is an anomaly. CSX is a freight railroad—the product of several mergers of eastern railroads, including the original railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio. The company is almost 200 years old and does not market to consumers but to other businesses that ship over our rails.

CSX moves America and many of the things Americans use, including automobiles, materials to build our homes, grain for our cereals, beer enjoyed at the ballgame, coal for electricity, ethanol for alternative fuels and the chemicals that purify our water supplies. The company is vital to Homeland Security and supports our nation’s defense with critical transportation services.

What is CSX doing in the DiversityInc.Top 50, the G.I. Jobs Top 50, the Diversity MBA magazine Top 50, the Black MBA magazine Top 50 and the Hispanic Business magazine Top 60? CSX is committed to being the most progressive North American railroad and relentless in pursuit of customer and employee excellence.

The Research

To fulfill this vision, CSX focuses on the core value that people make the difference. In early 2006, CSX asked Hattie Hill Enterprises of Dallas, Texas, to improve employee engagement and CSX culture. Hill and her team conducted a corporate culture assessment across the railroad over a two month period. She conducted focus groups, surveys, interviews and workshops with 2,000 of CSX’s 35,000 employees. At an off-site meeting, she presented a report of our strengths and challenges, with recommendations to the CEO and his direct reports.

A small strategy team of cross-functional senior leaders took Hill’s recommendations and refined them into a set of goals adopted by the executive team. The chief operating officer initiated top-down "results through people" training to every manager in his organization and the other members of the executive team followed suit. This interactive full-day training was given by managers to their direct reports throughout the organization and utilized role playing realistic situations, including numerous diversity and inclusiveness lessons.

Building a Strategy

CSX then developed a comprehensive strategy building on our strengths while also addressing our challenges to achieve an inclusive and engaged culture.

Our comprehensive strategy is multi-dimensional and uses a variety of tools. We asked our employee diversity councils and employee resource groups to re-invent themselves, changing their names to "inclusion councils" and "inclusion groups." CSX felt this recognized that in the past some employees felt excluded by groups devoted to certain ethnic backgrounds or interests. Our global inclusion council and its almost 30 satellite councils were consulted as the strategy was developed, as were our nine employee resource groups.

A workshop was conducted with representatives of the councils and groups from all over the eastern United States to coach them in being change agents. Each council and group was responsible for coming up with three goals, including one business imperative unique to their area or location, one employee engagement goal and one community outreach goal. These councils and groups, consisting of hundreds of employees, are cultural change agents. Each council and group had at least one sponsor director-level and up. Many of these councils and groups are vital to the CSX diversity and recruiting strategy. The groups contributed to its development and lent representatives to make recruiting trips.

Our CSX Associate Development Program was integral to this journey. Our nearly 20-year formal coaching program is open to any employee who has one year of service, whether in management or a job represented by a union.

A cross-functional team of volunteers run the program apart from their department affiliation. Each associate admitted to the program is matched with a hand-picked coach. The class of associate and coach pairs meet off site for a structured 48-hour kick-off at which the associate creates a personalized development plan to pursue over the next year. The class meets quarterly for themed programs and progress reports and graduate in front of the next class. Other companies have benchmarked this unique program, which has two headquarter phases per year plus six programs across the railroad, accessible for all employees outside headquarters.

Every April we host Coaching and Inclusion Week in Jacksonville, Florida, where the CSX headquarters are located. We invite representatives from our inclusion councils and groups, as well as participants in the Associate Development Program, to spend a week in workshops and programs dedicated to advancing understanding and teamwork. The week is kicked off by our executive team in a panel presentation. Participants are surveyed following the week of events and their advice is used to continuously improve the events.

Other core values that are important to CSX include:

  1. Safety is a Way of Life—Every meeting, every shift change, every new project starts with a thorough job and safety briefing because we want our employees to go home the same way they came to work.
  2. It Starts with the Customer—We use JD Power surveys to measure our customers’ views of our service quarterly. CSX is currently the highest-rated railroad among the modes of transportation. It is no coincidence that our steady focus the past five years has included safety and on-time service.
  3. Right Results the Right Way—CSX has mandatory quarterly ethics training for every manager and mandatory periodic Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)/Action/Inclusion training for all employees, regardless of level in the company, available in a variety of formats: classroom, workshop, lunch and learn, study circles, computer POD and dvd-based.
  4. Fact-Based—CSX is dedicated to Six Sigma methodology in problem solving. Process mapping and project management software are routinely used.

CSX has not arrived at our final destination. We are on a journey to be the best we can be. Our financial results the past three years indicate we are on the right track.

Editor's Note: Over the past three years, CSX stock has performed in the top 5 percent of all publicly traded stocks. CSX stock split at $60 in July 2006 and is trading at $65.30 today. Last year and last quarter CSX reported record earnings.

First Published on Human Resources IQ.