The Tectonic Shift of Energy’s HSE Culture
From rule-based to behavior-based, the health and safety environment culture has changed in ways both practically undetectable and completely palpable. Through the years, companies operating in every stage of the energy industry life cycle have realized the importance of enabling this shift not just by analyzing health, safety, and environment (HSE) rules and policies, but also by examining how the rules manifest when activated by people.
Safety research confirms the power that people have in influencing safety behaviors, especially managers. In The Psychology of Workplace Safety, authors Andrew Neal and Mark A. Griffin define safety climate as “workforce perceptions about the way managers enact safety policies and practices.” Research tells us that employees are likely to behave in line with their perception of their manager’s priorities, whether conveyed through explicit statements and actions or through implicit messages.
Acknowledging the power that people have in developing, sustaining, and changing the HSE climate was the first step in the HSE culture shift in the energy industry. Through this process, energy companies have been continually humbled upon seeing the correlation between increased employee safety behaviors when following leaders who endorse safety messages compared with increased employee risk behaviors when following leaders who endorse productivity at the expense of safety.
Because competitive standing should not apply when it comes to keeping people and professionals safe, I would like to share the best practices that Technip has developed as a way to highlight one company’s role in the industry shift of HSE culture over the past decade.
Technip is a project management, engineering, and construction services company with more than 40,000 employees in 48 countries. Despite the fact that Technip was using a robust HSE management system in 2007, its HSE performance was not as desired. To stimulate change in the HSE culture, we needed to consider our people in a deeper and more focused way. This commitment led us to develop our global HSE program, Pulse. As it was from the beginning, the program’s vision is embedding health, safety, and environment as values for life in the company.
The strategy of Pulse is rooted in the power of effective leadership and communication as essential catalysts to the successful cascade of HSE climate change and betterment. From this strategy came a suite of interactive training modules, workshops, and learning opportunities to provide Technip employees with tailored tools and techniques to aid each individual’s professional development.
In line with industry best practice and research, the program covers the following key HSE themes:
- Senior management commitment
- Supervisors’ commitment
- Line managers’ priorities
- Leadership visibility
- Transformational leadership
- Leadership behaviors
To cover each theme, Technip engaged with Insights Learning and Development in the creation of the program modules in order to enable Technip employees to develop in the areas of understanding their individual communication styles, working with others, modeling leadership behaviors, influencing and coaching others, and intervening and communicating in team structures.
The key to the success of each module in the program is the completion of an online questionnaire through Insights Discovery, which generates a personal profile in order for the individual to assess his or her personal preferences in communication, management, and leadership. This training prework continues to serve as the crucial foundation of the Pulse program because of the importance of starting on an individual level and increasing each individual’s self-awareness in order to examine how their communication and management style is influencing safety behaviors and outcomes.
Ross Wilson, client relationship director at Insights, has worked to bring development programs to energy companies for more than 10 years and is a strong advocate for starting the learning process at the individual level.
“The personal revelations that occur through the use of self-assessment tools, especially for engineers, scientists, and technical professionals, can be profound,” he said. “Energy professionals have made their careers in the mastery of technical tools, skills, and processes. For many, Pulse and Insights Discovery is their first professional opportunity to develop their interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills that undoubtedly enhance the effectiveness of their technical skills.”
Pulse has delivered results, and Technip has seen a 7% positive shift globally in employee perceptions of managers’ attitudes toward safety between 2008 and 2012. As a testament to the power and success of the program, Technip has set a 2015 goal of having 75% of its personnel complete the Pulse program. In survey results collected on the effectiveness of the program, one participant said, “I wanted to quit until Pulse started. It has given people an opportunity to get engaged personally, transcending the manager/employee relationship to the point that employees feel empowered to disagree with their managers and act on their own to improve HSE.”
Despite the energy industry’s notoriously stressful conditions and pressures, the HSE culture shift would not have occurred without companies rededicating themselves to their employees. Technip’s experience in shifting HSE culture using a top-down approach that instills safety philosophies driven by common value across the company can serve as a learning opportunity for other companies in their own HSE culture shift potential.
At its core, we must remember that even the most comprehensive and well-intentioned technical safety policies will fail if the people who operate within those health and safety environments are not considered, valued, and provided with development opportunities.