Building a safety culture with coaching skills for managers
With over 65,000 employees working in more than 100 countries worldwide, Linde asked Performance Consultants to take a pioneering approach in helping managers and leaders develop the coaching skills needed to engage and empower their teams to address specific behavioural safety challenges and improve safety performance.
“For me, the Performance Consultants training was a pilot not only related to safety but more of a pilot around leadership . . . The question was: if we can’t manage safety, how the heck are we going to manage our company?”
Christian Bruch, Chief Executive, Linde Engineering
Linde Engineering is a global leader in the production, processing, storage and distribution of hydrogen. It has the largest liquid hydrogen capacity and distribution system in the world. The company also operates the world’s first high-purity hydrogen storage cavern with an unrivalled pipeline network. Linde is at the forefront in the transition to clean hydrogen and has installed over 180 hydrogen fueling stations and 80 hydrogen electrolysis plants worldwide.
Using traditional techniques, Linde had reached a plateau on safety and continued to experience small problems — skin punctures, falls — considered a sign of overall safety deficiencies. The question was why, when Linde had so many safety processes in place? They wanted to create a coaching culture to help Linde become the safest place in the world to work.
They were looking to:
- Create a sustainable approach to reach large numbers of managers and supervisors within construction and manufacturing
- Help managers develop a safety coaching skill set that reduced injuries and incidents
- Significantly reduce recordable incidents at Linde Engineering construction sites
- Enable managers to unleash their own potential and the potential of their team within safety performance
“This training really is one of the most well thought out training programs I’ve been involved with. It makes you think throughout, and in my opinion, will affect our performance in a positive way..”
James M. Suddarth, Manager, Linde Construction
Performance Consultants created an innovative and exciting learning journey, which inspired participants to champion the programme and build a coaching safety culture across the organization. What set this leading edge global learning programme apart was the way that the online programme was used to shift people’s mindset around leadership to address specific behavioural issues around safety.
The integration of coaching skills in various safety contexts occured through in-person and virtual elements:
- Three month Coaching for Safety Performance learning journey For senior leaders we designed and delivered an instructor-led programme which combined a 2-day Face to Face workshop with two Virtual workshops at 30 and 60 days to embed skills across Europe, the USA and Asia.
- Comprehensive online E-learning programme including six 1-hour modules delivered in English, French, Russian, German and Chinese for front line leaders. This included video demonstrations, assessment, activities for putting skills into practice, accompanying worksheets and expert commentary.
Here is an example of a demonstration focused on how to give feedback in a safety context. We used real employees to make the content feel accessible and designed each piece of content to deliver simple performance outcomes.
The new approach led the team to question some of the fundamental ways they had worked. “Everyone thought ‘This is never going to work. How are we going to get things done if we start asking people to do stuff rather than telling people to do stuff?’ . . . Historically speaking, the construction industry itself, in the Gulf Coast area, especially in the US, in order to get things done, you tell people what to do.” said Bruce Parnell, Safety Manger at Linde, “A lot of these workers were never engaged by management and never had an opportunity to prove to management that they knew what they were doing. One guy said he’d been out there in that business for 24 years and nobody ever asked him his opinion!”
Within 3 months, leaders, managers and supervisors changed their behaviour and approach that translated to significant improvements in safety performance. Overall there was a 72.4% reduction in recordable safety incidents at constructions sites.
The initial intention was to target the 7,000 employees of Linde Engineering starting with the Construction and Manufacturing arms of the group. After demonstrating clear results, the scope widened to include other businesses within The Linde Group.
The number of monthly interactions between managers and workers using a coaching approach nearly tripled from 11 per month to 30. In 2018, for the first time, Linde Engineering lost no time for injuries on any of its construction sites.
Three years on, the project continues to live within Linde Engineering championed by the HSE specialists who now deliver the training internally. The impact of the shift in mindset and behaviour created by the programme is apparent – employees recently celebrated 10 million accident-free hours.
The safety coaching is now being rolled out to other parts of the Linde group and Linde and Performance Consultants are now offering it to third-party companies. An Employee Engagement Survey is also being rolled out within the organization and results will be published in the coming months.
The transformational power of coaching and its success at Linde was recently highlighted in the Financial Times. You can also Hear the story on our webinar featuring Kai Gransee, Head of Construction & Commissioning HSE at Linde Engineering, and James Neville, Commercial Director at Performance Consultants.
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