Freelance Journalist

July 1, 2019

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Wellbeing

Siemens demonstrates how the simple power of talking can improve the conversation about safety and wellbeing

Through an exciting new initiative called ‘Talk to Me’ (TTM), Siemens is shifting the focus of conversations about safety and wellbeing.

phone callEHS are facilitating the initiative; operational managers are taking ownership; and safety & wellbeing are now discussed together as part of the same conversation. This hugely interesting session shared the details of the programme, and how your business could benefit from the lessons learned.

A recent session at Safety & Health Expo was presented with tangible passion by those involved in the programme, with the following speakers: Christopher Goscomb, responsible for Organisational Change at Siemens; Louise Ward, EHS Director at Siemens; and Melanie Nicholson, from Dramanon, the training company that Siemens engaged to help deliver the training.

The two crucial pillars of the programme revolve around everyone in the business adopting the approach of having:

  • The courage to intervene;
  • The character to accept.

The need for change

In 2017, Siemens underwent a period of significant change, and this was, unfortunately, followed by a fatality within the business – thereby consolidating the necessity for a major review of health and safety.

Louise’s brief was to drive significant change through the organisation – something that would ‘knit it together’. Initially sceptical about the ‘Talk to me’ initiative, with its theatre- style mode of training, after attending a presentation about the programme it literally ‘blew her away’, resonating really deeply on a number of levels.

Implementing the programme

Chris Goscombe, responsible for organisational change at Siemens, was tasked with implementing the TTM programme, which is now rooted in the business’s everyday workplaces and practices. He began by evaluating what the employees thought – identifying this as the best place to start because they are the people that know the business. Via this interaction, it became clear what the strategy needed to be – people needed to be empowered to have the courage to intervene: the old culture had fostered a mindset whereby people didn’t feel listened to, and because of this their attitude was that there was no point in saying anything about issues they felt or witnessed.

Chris highlighted two unique parts of the programme: firstly, it’s a two-way process i.e. talking together is fundamentally important and delivers valuable insights; secondly, the formula can be amended and moulded for each site – as each site culture is unique – so that everyone feels they can own it i.e. they’re not being handed a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

With a maximum of groups of 12 people working together, it was possible for everyone to have a voice that could be heard, and therefore people not only could get involved – but perhaps most importantly, wanted to get involved.

Key lessons from the training

With over 1,000 people at Siemens having now undergone the training, what were the key lessons learned?

  • Because the training involved people sharing their own stories and experiences, consequently the training and key messages resonated more loudly with them, and ‘stayed with them’ to provide ongoing benefits
  • Feedback from managers and supervisors was critical – also that they took the training on board – so they could then effect the changes required
  • How to make the programme ‘a living thing’ within Siemens – by weaving it through the fabric of the business and culture
  • Siemens included all departments in the programme e.g. they realised it was important to include the cleaning team, not least because of the potential exposure to risk
  • The importance of including the wider environment in the process e.g. customers; sub-contractors; and stakeholders. This created more of a team tactic, and encouraged the exploration of joint conversations, so that it was no longer a case of ‘Siemens are over here, and Eurostar are over there – and never the twain shall meet.’

Deliverables

The programme has delivered a number of valuable outcomes across Siemens’ business, including:

  • The amount of notified near-misses doubled: because employees felt empowered to talk about issues and share them, they felt they could effect the changes required
  • An increased number of reported incidents and accidents: now that employees feel safe to have conversations about this, they are more confident that they can prevent the future incidences by, for example, improving standard operating procedures
  • The number, and impact of, conversations across the key areas of Safety, Health and Wellbeing improved, as a result of the programme being delivered into the everyday workplaces and practices of the business

Conclusions

Melanie majored on the message of how crucial it is to have someone in the organisation who has both the time, tenacity and passion to not only champion the programme – but also to make it work. And, equally importantly, that it’s vital to change the rules: don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all formula, even if each training session is different to the last one – each session must be totally relevant to the team being trained.

Christopher talked about how the possibility of how something really small can result in delivering something so major – and is basically about the simple premise of empowering people to feel able to have an exchange of ideas, that can result in making a critical difference to a business and its employees.

Another key takeaway from the session was the importance of remembering why you’re doing the programme, and how it fits into the greater context of the business.

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