If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that certain basics in life are indispensable. Fancy restaurants? Weekends on the continent? Sport? All ultimately dispensable.
But without a bus or train service, society cannot function. Nurses, doctors, grocery shop assistants and other essential workers still need transport options in the face of crisis.
Last year’s Best Employer Survey, published when the most restrictive impacts of the pandemic were still a reality, placed state-owned transport operators Irish Rail and Dublin Bus in second and third spots overall, beaten only by Google. This year, both companies are in fifth and 12th respectively and joined at 64 by sister firm Bus Éireann.
All three companies, accounting for roughly 10,000 staff between them, have made big advances when it comes to the relationship between staff, management and trade unions. After a period when transport strikes always seemed a real threat, the tone of industrial relations at the former CIE companies seems less like trench warfare.
Dublin Bus in particular has worked hard to champion diversity, making it more reflective of the community it serves.
There is also a growing sense of purpose within public transport regarding climate change. New low-emission buses are a visible sign that finally, albeit too slowly, there are real responses happening. Slow progress around the electrification of the commuter rail network will also hopefully soon manifest itself on the ground. Lower fares in recent weeks are also a very visible signal that some politicians finally take public transport seriously.
A sense of optimism undoubtedly helps explain higher job satisfaction. And it is not just the state transport companies that have benefited from this renewed sense of purpose.
Look at An Post. It has come in at number 24 on the list, down from number eight in 2021. It is a company that has done a hugely successful job of reinventing itself under CEO David McRedmond.
What had felt like a company in a state of managed decline for a long time ever since email began to kill the letter has become a crucial part of the new world of online shopping. The postman became the main point of contact with the outside world for many people in recent times. An Post also has shown its caring side with its free Address Point service, which provides a fixed address to those without a fixed home.
The good vibes around logistics extend too into the private sector. DPD, Fedex and DHL have also scored strongly in this survey. Their visibility around the housing estates and rural lanes of Ireland has never been higher.
All of this optimism and sense of a real purpose within the transport and logistics sector has a very real impact for the companies themselves. At a time of huge staff shortages across many sectors, being able to offer a working environment that someone can feel good about is an invaluable way to keep attracting good people.