Norfolk and Atlanta prepare for Roanoke Employees
Drills buzz, hammers pound, and paint brushes swish in the Goode and McKinnon buildings as Norfolk Southern prepares to welcome around 400 Roanoke employees to their new offices in Atlanta and Norfolk this summer.
NS’ decision to close its Roanoke office building coincided with a planned revamp of the Goode Building to create a more contemporary, open, and collaborative atmosphere. In addition, many departments now split between floors or cities will be housed together, improving communication and effectiveness.
Lynnanne Catron, assistant vice president information technology, who has been based in Roanoke, said she looks forward to joining the IT forces in Atlanta, already home to about 550 of the department’s employees.
“There’s value to having a complete department and leadership in one city,” she said. “It’s easier to build networks and leverage communication when we’re all in one city.”
David Goodson, senior manager facility services, said the goal of the Goode Building renovations is creating a modern, functional office environment that employees are satisfied with and proud to work in.
“We want people to be happy where they work as well as have a facility that helps us collaborate to achieve our business objectives,” said Goodson, who is overseeing the overhaul.
About 300 positions formerly based in Roanoke are being transferred to Atlanta, while about 200 are going to Norfolk. The moves are intended to foster departmental interactions and make better use of NS’ real estate assets.
“The number of employees in the Roanoke office building had been dwindling over a number of years, and less than 50 percent of the building was being used,” said Cindy Earhart, executive vice president administration. “When we consolidate to two office locations, there will be more opportunities for career development and advancement, which is great for our employees.”
Approximately 70 percent of employees working in the Roanoke building opted to transfer with the company, while nearly 30 percent are retiring or leaving NS. About 2 percent are transferring to NS positions that will remain in Roanoke.
“We’ve lost some good people, and that’s painful, but it’s not totally unexpected,” Earhart said, adding that the company is committed to Norfolk as NS’ corporate headquarters and Atlanta as the operations headquarters.
At the start of 2015, about 1,700 NS employees worked in Roanoke, and more than two-thirds of the positions will stay there. While NS plans to sell the downtown office building, the company will maintain Roanoke as its Virginia Division headquarters. The locomotive and car shops, the research and tests group, the Roanoke Material Yard, and the Transportation Department’s switching yard for local NS customers will continue operations there.
Of the groups moving to Atlanta, accounting operations and information technology are the two largest. The coal transportation group, which now is part of network and service management, also will move to the Goode Building, along with audit and compliance positions involved in information systems, revenue-related process, and functions related to Atlanta-based departments.
Making the move to Norfolk are the industrial products group, the coal marketing group, sourcing, taxation and treasury, and audit and compliance positions involved in financial reporting and functions of Norfolk-based departments.
The moves to both cities are scheduled to be completed by the end of August.
Overhaul in Atlanta
At the 34-year-old Goode Building, renovation work is being done on each of the building’s 14 floors to realign work spaces and ensure maximum collaboration between departments. Occurring in four phases through mid-2017, the work includes installing a new roof and improvements to lavatories and heating and cooling systems.
Construction related to the Roanoke consolidation began in June, with design and planning processes completed earlier this year.
While renovations are made on each floor, affected employees are moving into NS-leased space in Colony Square, a mixed-use facility across from the Goode Building. Goodson said departments can expect to be based in Colony Square for a maximum of 18 months, returning to the Goode Building in stages as each phase of construction is completed.
“We’re essentially gutting every floor and redoing the building from the ground up,” Goodson said. “This is a project the likes of which has not been seen in our lifetime at NS. We want to have space that will engage our existing talent and help us attract new talent. We have put a lot of effort into exploring what that means and how we can accomplish it within our project scope.”
The result, he added, will be a light, open building with fewer offices and more height adjustable work stations separated by lower partitions. “The big focus is on ergonomics and employee engagement,” Goodson said. “Employee focus groups in Atlanta said they wanted access to natural light and an accessible work space with an ergonomic focus.”
Changes in Norfolk
At Norfolk’s McKinnon Building, the bulk of remodeling work is taking place on the first, fourth, and eighth floors, but construction will occur on 13 floors of the 21-story facility. The work includes adding dedicated health and fitness rooms for WellNS activities on the first floor; a marketplace featuring a variety of food options; and new office space on the eighth floor for coal, business development, short line marketing, and automotive. Industrial products will move onto the fourth floor, which was occupied by the Bank of America until earlier this year.
“The renovations are designed to be very modern and encourage an open, collaborative space where departments can be together,” said Andy Paul, senior manager energy and facility services.
Every office and work station in the remodeled areas will feature stand up/sit down desks. Team rooms for conferences and huddle rooms for smaller meetings will be placed throughout the fourth and eighth floors.
Hospitality areas will be a focal point on the fourth and eighth floors, with high tables and chairs and a kitchenette set up near the elevators. “It will be the perfect place to meet, have lunch, and interact with co-workers,” Paul said.
Smoothing the transition
As additional employees arrive in Atlanta and Norfolk, NS is working to ensure parking is adequate at both locations. The company has sent information about nearby monthly parking lots and various commuter options to employees moving to Atlanta.
In Norfolk, NS is working with city leaders for additional parking, said Jay Traywick, assistant vice president executive. “We are confident that the city recognizes the economic value NS is bringing to downtown Norfolk with the addition of 200 professionals.”
To help employees prepare for the move, Human Resources sponsored employee and family site visits. “It gave employees a chance to visit their new locations and see their department operations firsthand,” said Barbara Paul, manager training and development. “They could meet their colleagues, ask questions, and tour the office building.”
NS has made available job-placement assistance for employees who decided to leave the company rather than relocate and for the spouses of employees who are relocating, Paul said. NS has hired several spouses of employees making the move, she added.
Many employees moving from Roanoke had spent much of their careers there and are leaving with mixed emotions, especially those with children finishing high school or who assist family members in the region.
“A lot of employees are looking at this as an adventure, but every individual and situation is different,” said Ben Chapman, assistant vice president sourcing. “People had to work through their circumstances and decide what was best for them.”
Several employees in sourcing decided not to relocate, and the department is hiring new people both inside and outside of NS who will be blended with existing employees to build a strong team with diverse experience, Chapman said.