HSE Leaders Connect - Branding & Perception

by Sean O'Mahony

The most recent HSE Leaders Connect event, held at the beautifully sun kissed panoramic 19th floor UBM  office, focused on the topic of branding & perception.

Fifty leading health and safety professionals attended the 6th of our quarterly events to discuss safety branding and perception as well as looking at its significance and impact throughout the wider business. As usual, we utilised the skillset of three keynote speakers (with a twist) to both engage the room and to maximise the opportunity of having a multitude of leading safety professionals present in one room.

The event could not have started better as we entered the stunning UBM offices on a rare sunny day in March. The first of our attendees arrived in timely fashion, successfully avoiding the nearby Biergarten, with an influx of attendees drinking in both UBM’s refreshments and the amazing view on display.

 

Chris Rowlands, Director of HSE Network, started proceedings as usual with an introduction of the speakers and an overview of the evening ahead. Due to a 15 year presence as the leading HSE recruitment agency, to say this topic was close to our hearts would be an understatement. Chris began with an overview of recent findings on employer branding and talent attraction and the impact it has had on the market.

Chris went on to expand on findings from recent studies relating to current trends and employer branding. PwC, for example, estimates that 47% of CEOs are confident about growing over three years but only 30% think they’ll have the talent they need, whereas Gallup state that staff turnover costs exceed £31billion annually in the UK. So if businesses already do not have the talent to match their aspirations, and retention is costing astronomical figures, how do we effectively plan for an ever changing future?

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"Due to a 15 year presence as the leading HSE recruitment agency, to say this topic was close to our hearts would be an understatement. Chris began with an overview of recent findings on employer branding and talent attraction and the impact it has had on the market."

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With current unrivalled advances in technological developments as well as international political uncertainty, flexibility and preparation for change are now necessities. However Chris highlighted a new study released by the Harvard Business Review which found that 91% of companies report unsuccessful change programs as well as experts at McKinsey estimating that 70% of Transformation Programs fail. Deloitte (2016 millennial survey) asked “Generation Y” employees at which point do you believe you had shown sufficient loyalty to your employer? Their average answer… 7 months.

This paints a drab picture for the future “War for Talent,” however it isn’t all doom and gloom. Whereas Generation Y are typically typecast with narcissistic ambitions of ever improving external perceptions, Generation Z seem to be the long awaited ethical generation, focussed more on their internal understanding of topics, telling employers to “be more honest” and to “tell us what we’re actually doing.” The World Economic Forum has indicated that Creativity and Emotional Intelligence will be two of the most prevalent skills across the board in the workplace over the next decade.

 

After Chris’ overview of the future of Branding and Perception, it only seemed fitting to review successes of the past (like a well orchestrated Dickens novel.) Next to take the podium was Scott Ellis, Group Health and Safety manager at Eric Wright Group, keen to expand on the journey that they had been through with their Behavioural Change Program.

According to Scott, the first step was to create a “Culture Change Theory Group,” which gave them a forum to develop and expand on ideas. Bringing members of the board in to this group was then an essential step in ensuring not only buy-in across the entire workforce, but ensuring that commitment to the same goal was a prerequisite. Research was gathered through a variety of techniques, however Scott pointed out that the one of the key successes came from utilizing the HSL climate survey, stating it finally gave the work force a voice, and an understanding of what was essential to those on the tools.

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"The first step was to create a “Culture Change Theory Group,” ... bringing members of the board in to this group was then an essential step in ensuring not only buy-in across the entire workforce, but ensuring that commitment to the same goal was a prerequisite."

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Celebrating successes and encouraging observations were the two points that really stood out. Driving the workforce to “stand up and be counted” whilst ensuring that the culture is there to promote both positive reinforcement as well as positive intervention across the workforce. Scott reiterated that the success they’ve experienced across the business is down to each individual taking account for their own and colleague’s wellbeing and although they have been monumental, this is merely the foundations of a 40 year plan.

Our final speaker (the ‘Ghost of Branding and Perception Present’ if you will) was Joseph Raishbrook, a training consultant at Keystone Training promoting an innovative way of employee engagement and safety perception within businesses. Keystone partner with clients such as Balfour Beatty, Amey and Vinci to name but a few, however, as Joe has worked with Scott and Eric Wright closely over the past few years, it seemed a fitting case study to expand on their fresh and inventive techniques. 

 

Joe explained that safety training had traditionally been based around technical qualifications, and this had contributed to a plateau of lost time incidents and accidents. The aim when Keystone was brought in was to ensure a decrease of the AFR by highlighting the impact of behaviours upon safety; in particular, they wanted to highlight the power of people-to-people intervention in regards to visual leadership. The plan? To run a series of road shows to promote positive intervention whilst maximising exposure.

Combining his passion for training and acting background, Joe engages the room with a mix of facts, stories and audience participation. When asked by Joe what the practical limitations are to implementing cultural changes one attendee responded that due to the size and scope of his role, he ultimately had to put his trust in his site manager and hope that they would work to the standard he had passed down. This caused a level of grumbling throughout the room and another attendee interjected to say that in his opinion, hoping that something would work out for the best was the wrong attitude to have and in order to ensure that change was implemented, proactivity and focus is required throughout.

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"Planting an actor to challenge the norm of listening without questions or accepting things said as a given, places attendees in a position where they want to actively challenge the conflicting view points, in turn creating an open forum and platform for a debate on best practice."

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Following on from this another of the attendees, Russell Bone - Head of H&S at Mitie, pointed out that they find that increases in success correlate directly with levels of engagement. Hence, they try to create innovative ways of getting buy-in from the workforce, an example given was a “who wants to be a safety millionaire” gameshow that was particularly productive whilst being able to keep learning and discussions enjoyable.

It would appear that we had been lead up the garden path by Joe in all of this and fallen into a coy technique that he utilizes during the roadshows. The aforementioned response provoking attendee was actually an actor, planted by Joe, to elicit a reaction from the rest of the attendees and to create an environment that was comfortable with challenging different viewpoints. Joe pointed out that often in safety related training, attendees will be passengers, at best trying to absorb as much information they can. Planting an actor to challenge the norm of listening without questions or accepting things said as a given, places attendees in a position where they want to actively challenge the conflicting view points, in turn creating an open forum and platform for a debate on best practice.

 

Following on from this revelation there was an enthusiastic discussion regarding the techniques and practices the Safety Leaders had themselves implemented, ending with a free flowing Q&A session between them and the speakers. Chris concluded the presentations with a reminder for the upcoming NEBOSH partnered HSE Leaders Event, held on June 13that Birmingham’s stunning Maple House.

As the cascading sun set over the capitals landmarks, we saved the UBM staff from wasting any of their refreshments and continued networking through the evening.

I, for one, can’t wait for the next one…

You can view photo's from the even over on the HSE Leaders Connect Flickr page, and can subscribe to our YouTube channel to see highlights from every event!

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