Many traditional behavioural safety change programmes hit problems when trying to influence how workers on the ground see the world and embrace change. CIRAS’ Katie Healy met with Head of HSEQ, Hakim (Hak) Nazerali and Senior HSEQ Manager and Behavioural Coach, Luke James (both from Morrisroe) to find out more about the fresh approach they are taking to win the hearts and minds of their frontline staff.
What does a ‘Behavioural Coach’ do?
Luke: I spend all my time out and about on site talking informally to workers on the job, about what they do and why they approach certain jobs in a particular way. Asking the people who actually do the job about the best and safest way to do it taps into a rich stream of experience and builds trust, so they talk candidly about what works and what doesn’t. People generally take pride in what they do and are willing to get involved in making things better if approached in the right way.
Hak: Unlike traditional change management programmes, this is not classroom-based training. We get out into the field and focus, not on the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way of doing something but on the best way to achieve the end results we’re looking for. We don’t rely on a regime of formal inspections, checks and measurements. Instead, we have genuine conversations with our staff, on their turf and in their own language, about how to make things better.
Luke: So, for example, my conversations tend to be less about the ‘do’s and don’ts’ and more about the ‘why’. Rather than management saying, ‘wear this PPE’, I’ll have a chat to staff about why the PPE is important.
What makes this approach work?
Luke: The key to success is to genuinely relate to staff. Take them seriously and buy into what they say. But to truly see what happens on a site, you have to become part of the ‘fixtures and fittings’ so people don’t change their behaviour when you are around. I’m on site all the time so staff have become familiar with me - it’s not like a special visit from ‘safety management’ which could make people act differently than normal – and potentially hide what’s really going on.
Hak: It works because, though day to day conversations workers can question themselves and the status quo, and in doing so discover safer, better ways to work themselves, which they then discuss with our health and safety team to ensure changes are managed. Having created their own solutions rather than having them imposed, they are more likely to embrace the change.
Where does safety reporting and CIRAS fit in?
Luke: Where staff know they are listened to, they are more likely to report health and safety concerns, providing the opportunity for us all to reduce risk and avoid incidents. Whether it’s by talking to me or through more formal reporting channels, intelligence can help Morrisroe understand the risks, what causes them and how to address them.
Hak: CIRAS forms part of this picture by giving staff yet another route for reporting health and safety concerns. It shows our people that we recognise, no matter how open we are, it might be harder to speak up sometimes. Even in those rare circumstances, we want to hear what they have to say.
What barriers may people face and how can they overcome them?
Hak: Management buy-in is critical. We’ve been fortunate to have a supportive board of directors who lead on these initiatives. It can be challenging as it takes time for this approach to deliver – it doesn’t change overnight. So, you are asking management to take a leap of faith and make a long-term investment in changing culture. The way to win managers over is to articulate the anticipated benefits up front. As well as better safety performance and risk reduction, the coaching approach can also improve staff loyalty and productivity, and lower absenteeism. Our RIDDOR-reportable incidents reduced by 50% from 2017 to 2018 and we are currently RIDDOR free this financial year, which started in November 2018. In terms of staff retention, 72% of our current workforce were with us two years ago.
Luke: Similarly, not all staff will buy in straight away. It takes time for the new approach to sink in and for staff to trust it, so don’t expect instant results. But once more and more staff start having positive experiences, it’ll become easier to bring those who are less convinced on board. Focus first on getting the local ‘influencers’ on board – who do your people talk to and listen to. Others will follow.