SunLine Transit Agency provides public transportation to the Coachella Valley in the desert about 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The area is known for its resort hotels, golf courses and blistering summer heat. But SunLine is making a name for itself with environmentally friendly buses, including a hydrogen fuel-cell bus, and its emphasis on continual improvement.
"The environment within the agency demanded change due to the mismanagement by the prior administration," says General Manager Mikel Oglesby. "Change was not only accepted, but welcomed as the concerns of employees were finally addressed through open dialogue."
Oglesby is credited with instilling a vision of success throughout the organization through teamwork, open communication and providing each employee with the tools to succeed through education and training. He believes in "management by walking around," engaging in conversation with all employees and demonstrating his accessibility as a leader.
Keeping the Board of Directors engaged in the agency's mission of providing great service has been a key goal for the general manager. Through Oglesby's encouragement, the board participates in many agency activities, such as the annual holiday event and celebrations of SunLine milestones. Employees consistently voice appreciation of the board's participation.
Innovative practices in maintaining high employee morale are apparent in programs created within the agency. Acknowledging the importance of diversity and celebrating the differences that unite, SunLine invites all employees to participate in the Black History Month barbeque, Cinco de Mayo feast and holiday events. Also, to celebrate SunLine's 30th anniversary, the general manager and directors prepared and served breakfast to all employees at both divisions.
Giving to the community bolsters employee morale and encourages employees to experience the benefits of helping those less fortunate. During the holidays, SunLine created the "Fill-A-Bus" program, placing its high-profile hydrogen fuel-cell bus at stores throughout the Coachella Valley to accept food for a homeless shelter. The program's success was evident as the bus collected a record amount of food for the shelter.
Another innovative program uniting employees and highlighting the value of a healthy lifestyle is the "Weight-No-More" program. Under the eight-week program, teams of employees compete against each other to see which one can lose the most collective weight. Employees on the winning team are recognized at the end of the program. All employees are provided with valuable information on health issues in a newsletter distributed every two weeks during the program. Healthnet, SunLine's healthcare provider, supports the program, providing incentives to participants. In addition, directors play a role in the health program by leading participants in an exercise class twice a week. Oglesby has actively participated in the program and has been a "guest instructor" of the exercise classes.
Employees also benefit from monthly safety training programs. SunLine's director of safety and security provides the training to all employees, focusing on protecting riders, drivers and the rest of the general public. To further interest in safety, the agency created a safety incentive program that rewards employees with points for safety-related accomplishments. They can then use the points to purchase merchandise from a catalog.
As an employer, SunLine offers traditional benefits, including 100% paid medical for employees and dependent, a family plan, dental, vision, a tuition assistance program for academic degrees, an employee assistance program, car pool program and free bus passes for dependents. To improve relations with bargaining-unit employees, the agency hired a director of administration who has improved the handling of grievances, resulting in better employee relations.
For more information about SunLine, visit www.sunline.org.