September 14, 2018

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Skills, Leadership & Diversity

Skills, leadership and diversity, a Q&A with recruitment specialist Simon Bliss

Following our recent skills, leadership and diversity webinar, we put some of your unanswered questions to one of the panellists Simon Bliss, from Principal People.


How can you gauge whether the proposed EHS person is a good fit for the role? Should this be assessed by HR the same as you would for a new employee?

Simon Bliss

Simon Bliss

Simon Bliss (SB): “For senior position manager and above we now run a behavioural profile on the role with the client before we look for candidates. We then do our traditional search for skills, experience etc. and then run profiles on the shortlisted candidates and benchmark who is the best fit. It makes sure the job is right for the candidate as well as the candidate is right for the role.”

Is it necessary to have a NEBOSH Diploma or equivalent to progress within your safety career?

(SB): “It depends on the client. I worked with a TECH IIOSH professional who is now head of a huge Utilities Business in the North. He employs a team of technical experts who are CMIOSH, but his leadership experience won him the role.

“Sometimes it’s up to the recruiter to review the person spec, as well as the job spec and advise the client what skills are required for the role. Qualifications and membership are sometimes not so important where experience is clear.”

Are EHS professionals having to become more ‘business aware’ than ever before? If so, what training is recommended to a safety practitioner that would best suit this change in requirement?

(SB): “Yes. Most practitioners are not aware of their company’s revenue or business performance. Work closely with Operations Sales, HR and Finance to understand budgetary challenges they all have and look for creative synergies to reduce cost or more often improve productivity.

“Health & safety people are in a brilliant position to watch over how the whole business works. ‘Seek first to understand before you are understood’, said Steven Covey. Then you can really add value and gain respect.”

What is the role of psychometric profiling in Health and safety?

(SB): “Huge. As with any significant role now in any specialism. There are big demands now for stakeholder engagement. We have been hiring on skills and experience for years and firing on behaviours. It’s about time we looked at this at recruitment stage.”

Are we in danger of losing the basic, deep on-site understanding of how work is done as the role of the H&S professional is seen to be moving further away from those we are looking after. The older generation of H&S people, who came from the shop floor after years of experience are now approaching retirement. Should we not be looking to replace them with people from the same source and not ‘go to college’ for the answer?

(SB): “This is a good point and we can learn huge amounts from the experience employees. A balance of skills are needed and lots of great new entrants are joining the industry and are being snapped up for their passion and ideas and engagement skills in new industries with younger workforces and the millennials. If you can get both, pass on skills and experience in both directions.”

What are the three most important soft skills?

(SB): “Listening, empathy and influencing/positive communication at all levels.”


How important is it that the senior team of a business, model good safety behaviours?

(SB): “Vital. Part of a senior HSE manager’s role is to ensure and influence the board and senior management to buy into HSE and make them aware of their legal responsibilities. Poor support from above can make the job very difficult, if not impossible.

“There are two key points on this, firstly – Can you get them to change their behaviours? Is that your weakness or theirs? I ask this as your next employer may not be convinced if you failed to influence stakeholders, it’s such a key requirement for today’s professional.

“Secondly, if they cannot or will not change, maximise your impact, influence and get some tangible key achievements nailed down.”

When other departments don’t really buy into the reality of costs relating to a safe working environment, how do you bring them on board to demonstrate it actually saves money?

(SB): “Production, Operations and HR are key areas where you can make an impact. Try and position yourself as more of a business partner not just a safety practitioner. Get interested and understand their budgets, challenges and pinch points in their operation and look for areas to support, streamline, reduce or improve process for productivity.

“John Green, ex-Laing O’Rourke and now Battersea Power Station Development Company, supports his operational teams with a full on-site force of health & safety advisors every Friday. They have spotted that both accidents and productivity are at their worst on Friday’s, as workers are tired, and focusing more on the weekend. There have been two outcomes from this, accidents reduced dramatically and productivity shot up.”


What do you see as the main driver within business to encourage diversity?

(SB): “The world is changing; if we don’t match that world we’ll miss out on ALL elements of business performance let alone HSE. Point this out with passion, vigour and examples from competitor organisations.”

Will age matter in the health & safety career market place?

(SB): “Age, young or old shouldn’t be a barrier to success.”

How do we encourage the career growth of young female EHS practitioners in an industry populated with older, more experienced and often prejudiced males?

(SB): “Women in health and safety are now growing from 30% a few years ago to 37% now and they many are getting to the top. Look at the achievements of Ruth Denyer, ITV, Heather Bryant, Balfour Beatty, Lucy Fell, Highways England, Debbie Clarkson, Arup, the list is growing. Also, it’s great to have Bev Messinger at the helm at IOSH. This should be inspiring for HSE females of all ages.”

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