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November 30, 2011

OCTA CEO: Employee development essential in challenging times

by Will Kempton

“Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”  – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower said it well when he used this metaphor to describe the men and women who actively protect the freedom of the greatest nation on earth.

Nearly 26 million Americans alive today have served in the military. That includes 71 individuals employed at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).

This month, to commemorate Veterans Day, OCTA hosted a ceremony honoring our employees who have spent time in the military. The event recognized coach operators, maintenance workers and administrative employees who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

The event was an opportunity to reflect and also to thank those who have served bravely in the U.S. armed forces. These men and women are continuing their commitment to public service as employees at OCTA. They have made the transition from the military to serving the people of Orange County as well as their fellow OCTA employees.

Honoring and recognizing our employees, both veterans and others, shouldn’t just happen once a year. We must take an active role in developing and retaining our workforce.

This is especially important in light of the current economic turmoil. Our employees, just like employees in the private sector, have made many sacrifices in recent years. Hiring and wage freezes are commonplace, layoffs have taken place and service levels have suffered.

As an industry, we have to find unique ways to retain our employees and attract top talent to ensure we are providing a high-quality service to the public. Through programs such as the Veterans Day event, we can engage our workforce, letting them know they are appreciated.

OCTA has numerous programs in place to develop and recognize our employees, including a newly launched Leadership Development Academy, a program to train those who will be stepping into executive management positions in the future. We also have a formal mentoring program that pairs employees and encourages development at all levels of the organization.

I also strongly believe in fostering positive employee morale and building camaraderie among administrative and transit personnel. We do this through events like softball, basketball and flag football competitions, and my personal favorite, a 5-mile race vs. our neighboring transit agency Los Angeles Metro. As an aside, I am pleased to report that OCTA recently won the event this year, sending the loser’s trophy back to MTA.

Just as President Eisenhower said we can not lie down on the tracks and wait for the train of the future to run us over, we must find ways to empower, retain and attract employees who will carry on the future of our transportation agencies.

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "'A tale of transit in two cities" here.


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Zack Shubkagel is partner and creative director for the San Francisco office of Willoughby Design, a strategic branding and design firm.


Amy Snyder

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