The Challenges of Modernization: From Aging Infrastructure to Employee Retention

Ben H.

Hatched by Ben H.

Jun 04, 2024

4 min read


The Challenges of Modernization: From Aging Infrastructure to Employee Retention


In the ever-evolving business landscape, companies often face hurdles that impede progress and growth. Two distinct challenges that have recently made headlines are Amtrak's struggle to modernize its railway infrastructure and corporations' difficulties in retaining talented employees. While these issues may appear unrelated at first glance, they both highlight the complexities of adapting to change and the importance of addressing underlying factors. In this article, we will delve into these challenges, explore their commonalities, and provide actionable advice for businesses facing similar obstacles.

Amtrak's High-Speed Acela Fleet and Aging Tracks:

Amtrak, the renowned American passenger railroad service, has embarked on a $2 billion project to replace its Acela express trains, aiming to enhance efficiency and improve passenger experience. However, this ambitious endeavor has encountered a significant setback – the new trains must operate on century-old tracks shared with commuter and freight trains, rather than purpose-built, high-speed tracks used in other parts of the world. As a result, Amtrak's partnership with French manufacturer Alstom has been delayed, pushing the launch of the new fleet from 2021 to 2024.

The core problem lies in the stark contrast between the infrastructure requirements of the Acela trains and the existing tracks. While Amtrak officials express frustration with the delays, they remain optimistic about the articulated design of the new units, which promises a smoother ride and faster acceleration, ultimately reducing trip times. However, it is worth noting that the expected top speed of the new trains is only marginally faster than the current units, emphasizing the limitations imposed by the aging infrastructure.

Employee Retention: A Struggle to Maintain Talent:

Employee retention is a critical concern for businesses across industries. A study revealing the average tenure in various companies in the United States brings attention to the stark differences between sectors. ConocoPhillips, an energy company, leads with an impressive average tenure of 10.6 years, while technology giant Apple lags behind with a mere 1.7 years.

ConocoPhillips' success in retaining talent can be attributed to its strategic initiatives, such as offering university scholarships to attract young talent and providing enticing projects for military veterans seeking secure yet exciting work. On the other hand, companies like Tesla, Goldman Sachs, Netflix, and Alphabet (Google) struggle to retain employees beyond two years. In the case of Apple, a once-praised retention strategy backfired when the company offered substantial stock incentives to dissuade engineers from defecting to competitors. This move inadvertently created divisions within the company and left employees feeling undervalued.

Connecting the Dots: Common Threads and Insights:

Although Amtrak's infrastructure challenge and employee retention may seem unrelated, they share underlying themes of adaptation and the need to address core issues. Both cases highlight the importance of aligning infrastructure and resources with long-term goals and employee expectations.

In the case of Amtrak, modernizing tracks to accommodate high-speed trains would require significant investments in infrastructure. Similarly, companies struggling with employee retention must invest in creating a supportive and fulfilling work environment that aligns with the expectations and aspirations of their employees. Failure to adapt infrastructure or address workplace issues can have detrimental effects on performance, efficiency, and overall success.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Evaluate infrastructure needs: Businesses should conduct regular assessments of their infrastructure to ensure it aligns with their objectives. This includes identifying potential challenges that may arise due to outdated systems and making necessary investments to modernize and optimize operations.
  • 2. Prioritize employee engagement: Companies must actively engage with their employees to understand their needs, aspirations, and concerns. Open lines of communication, opportunities for growth and development, and a positive work culture are vital in retaining talented individuals.
  • 3. Foster a culture of adaptability: Embracing change is crucial for long-term success. Businesses should encourage employees to explore different roles, departments, and projects to unlock their full potential. This not only enhances job satisfaction but also allows companies to tap into underused talent and foster innovation.


Amtrak's struggle with modernizing its railway infrastructure and corporations' challenges in retaining talented employees shed light on the complexities businesses face in adapting to change. By addressing infrastructure needs, prioritizing employee engagement, and fostering a culture of adaptability, companies can overcome these obstacles and thrive in an ever-evolving landscape. The key lies in recognizing the importance of aligning resources, infrastructure, and talent with long-term goals, ultimately paving the way for success in the face of challenges.

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