The HSEQ profession should completely transform the way it presents itself, attracts talent and approaches challenges, industry experts have said.
Bold new approaches were discussed at the inaugural Beyond HSEQ conference, co-created by Shirley Parsons and Change Management Consultancy The Speakers’ Gym.
More than 70 of the best minds from the HSEQ profession representing 61 organisations kickstarted the Beyond HSEQ “movement” to reflect, rethink and re-imagine a better future at the event hosted by Arup in Fitzroy Street, London, on November 29.
Run by Chris Wickenden and Jonny De Mallet Morgan from The Speakers’ Gym, attendees were challenged to refocus their purpose and adopt new ways of engaging with stakeholders.
James Pomeroy, Global Health & Safety Leader and Director at Arup, recommended The Speakers’ Gym as they had previously helped him to transform the way he presented Health & Safety within his business.
He said: “Their advice improved the engagement, buy-in and commitment to HSE priorities and the effectiveness of senior level communication.
“It is about engaging with people, listening, learning and understanding people. We want to bring together extraordinary minds in the industry and enable change.
“We need to realise that we don’t always need a safety specialist, someone like me and everyone else we work with - we need creative people, analytical people, extroverts, introverts, those who challenge and those who don’t often challenge.
“We want to celebrate diversity and give people the confidence to use their natural traits.”
The interactive day included group discussions and feedback, role play and Talent Insight (MAPP) assessments.
The group put forward the purpose of HSEQ was to educate, lead, challenge, enable, empower, protect and simplify, among other things.
Alastair McCubbin, of Toppesfield, said HSEQ directors need to define their own purpose rather than let it be given to them in a tick box style by companies.
He described the role as ‘the conscience of the business’ which was expanded by other attendees to be the role that ‘enabled other people to be the conscience of the business’.
Rhaynukaa Soni, of East West Rail, said HSEQ directors need to be direct about what their role is when describing it to other people in the business - outlining the financial implications of actioning HSEQ recommendations and how it would reduce risk, which may incur future costs, and hours of work, as well as other potentials.
She said HSEQ directors are well versed in business and there is no reason they could not go on to become a director of a company, she said there are different promotional routes than the traditional ones.
“Honest conversations mean better business,” she said.
Jay Vekaria, of Visa, agreed. He said HSEQ directors need to show CEOs, who can be cost and reputation driven, the elements of their work that can save the company money.
A panel discussion tackled big questions such as what would help the profession evolve, what role does HSEQ play in advancing psychological safety, what mindset shifts are needed for HSEQ to evolve and how do we make the profession more attractive and diverse?
The panel included David Richmond CBE, an independent veterans advisor, Shelley Matthews, who has over 20 years’ experience in international real estate investment and is undertaking extensive research on how to create inclusive, high performance environments, Jay Vekaria, head of H&S at Visa, and Shona Paterson, Director of Talent Consultant at Shirley Parsons.
The Psychological Impact
Shelley Matthews said: “We know that a failure to speak up can be dangerous, history is littered with people who have failed to speak up and it has cost lives.
“I would therefore suggest HSEQ has a fundamental role to play in advancing psychological safety in organisations.
“You are all incredibly passionate about creating a safe environment and making a safe place for your voice to be heard is important in your companies, it will mean you can advance psychological safety too.
“A first step is thinking about the way we frame a conversation and the language used.”
David Richmond, who has played leading roles in charity and government sectors, offers a unique insight into leading in extremely challenging environments after serving in the army for 26 years.
He said: “Part of the leadership role is to create an environment where people are safe to use their voice.
“They won’t if they might be ridiculed, ignored or there are repercussions.
“Management is important but it is not leadership - it is about people, conversations, understanding the people that work for you and with you. What alarms them, concerns them.
“Take time to know about their personal life, not to be nosey, but to understand what’s going on, show a genuine interest in your people, their careers, their interests, create an environment of safety and in that environment they will use their voice.
“This will help you to be more transformational rather than transactional.”
Diversify The Industry
One way the attendees discussed transforming HSEQ was to increase diversity in the sector and focus on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
Shelley Matthews added: “You need to ensure that once you have attracted people into the profession, they can progress, thrive and want to stay.
“EDI is not a technical problem that can be solved by one person or department. It requires change in thinking, behaviours, attitudes and sometimes values across the organisation.
“You can’t outsource EDI to a single division. You can be sure that whatever solution you come up with will create new problems, so you need to constantly check in with progress.
“Ask each member of your team how they are feeling and what they are thinking. Let people tell their stories. When they do, something incredible happens.
“Some people feel excluded because they have been treated the same as others, others feel excluded because they have been treated differently. There is no one size fits all solution.
“But if you ask the question rather than make the assumption then it sets the foundation to allow diverse talent to thrive.”
Jay Vekaria said Shelley’s words resonated with him and reminded him of conversations he has had in the workplace.
“It’s ok to feel awkward about the situation because it should give you the confidence to ask,” he said.
“Speaking about it will help, it helps remove the barrier.”
Behaviours For Success
In the week before the event, all attendees were invited to compete their own RoTI
psychometric profile and Shona presented the summary “Avatar” to workshops during the afternoon.
The four main factors demonstrated by senior HSEQ professionals were revealed to be patience, cooperativeness, motivation and self confidence.
Shona Paterson said: “We wanted to encourage leaders to look at how they create diverse teams within HSEQ, to challenge each other is key.
“Our aim was to emphasise the importance of caring about people, listening to them and making sure they feel heard.
“Shirley Parsons do this from the moment we begin recruiting for a role but it is essential that it continues throughout a career too, we developed MAPP to help leaders understand the talent in their business.
“We need to look at our own mind set, have curiosity and openness, maybe go against popular opinion at times and especially go against the ‘usual way’.
“It is about taking a human approach, yes the job itself is incredibly important, but at the moment HSEQ is too focused on compliance and processes, it needs more self awareness.”
On top of sparking challenging conversation around the purpose of the profession and equipping attendees with practical change management and influencing skills, The Speakers’ Gym bespoke role-plays created a safe space for practice and further rich discussion.
The attendee’s saw their most challenging communication scenarios played out and analysed. They learnt how to handle different people - to listen to them and get their point across while keeping their motivators in mind.
The group were encouraged to intentionally carve out time and space to reflect because once you get the information about yourself and others, what’s important is what you do with it.
Excellent Feedback and Further Events
Initial feedback from attendees to the event has been excellent. Some said:
“I really enjoyed the group interaction and the opportunity to discuss common issues across the profession.”
“The speakers’ panel was very informative and thought provoking with some great insights from David and Shelley outside the HSEQ bubble.”
“It is always reassuring that across all industries and sectors, we face similar challenges and it’s great to hear alternate perspectives.”
The MAPP session was popular with attendees, and several are now discussing running a full project for their full HSEQ team in the new year. Nearly all attendees want the Beyond HSEQ movement to continue in 2023 and many suggested larger events should be supplemented by smaller focus groups too. A large number also volunteered to help steer the direction of Beyond HSEQ in the future so stand by for details of opportunities to take part in early 2023.