Aligning Safety Within the Business

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Penelope Twemlow, CEO, Energy Skills Queensland on the  importance of a well-defined, working culture.

Energy Skills QLD - Penelope TwemlowPenelope Twemlow, CEO, Energy Skills Queensland speaks on, “Aligning Safety within the Business,” as an esteemed partner for the upcoming OHS Leaders Summit, stressing aspects that include embedding safety within the organisation as a whole and the importance of building a culture of transparency and accountability.


What are the fundamental aspects, or your ‘four key points’ for aligning safety within the business in general and at ESQ? 

Aligning safety within the business at Energy Skills Queensland is a key requirement for success. Energy Skills Queensland operates in a number of different industries with varied and complex safety requirements. As such, integrating and aligning safety considerations with business processes, goals and decisions must be conducted to ensure fit-for-purpose outcomes.

To successfully align safety within the business, four key elements are required:

1.  A safety strategy that outlines safety culture, safety talent and safety processes, with the most crucial element being safety culture as it is ultimately responsible for sustainable safety performance.

2.  A well-defined culture approach which outlines leadership drive, commitment and personal involvement, employee participation and ownership, systematic safety integration into and alignment with business processes, tools and decisions and a drive to eliminate risks.

3.  Embrace and understand the role of driving safety within the organisation; in order to do this, define the current state of affairs and outline what future state you wish the organisation to achieve and map tasks accordingly. Ensure that safety professionals are seen as change agents or motivating leaders and not simply an enforcer or ‘compliance-based cop’.

4.  An implementation plan that enables engagement with stakeholders and drives change; to drive early success in aligning and integrating safety with the business, focus on roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, business planning, recognition and reward and discipline.

Among these points, you’ve expressed the importance of a well-defined culture in the workplace. What does that mean to you and what does that look like at ESQ?

Organisational culture is the character and personality of a company; it is what makes an organisation unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours and attitudes.

Since joining Energy Skills Queensland in mid-2015, I have prioritised improving the organisational culture for competitive advantage reasons. Organisational culture attracts the ‘right-fit’ talent and drives engagement and retention. It impacts happiness and satisfaction which subsequently affects performance. Most importantly for Energy Skills Queensland is that strong intentional cultures are tangible to the customer and enhance the customer experience in a way that creates value.

Currently, it is not so much what Energy Skills Queensland does, but how we do it that sets us apart from the competition. A multitude of different workplace factors have played a role in the development of Energy Skills Queensland’s new culture including:

  • Leadership and the way leaders communicate and interact with employees
  • Management and how the organisation is administered through systems, procedures, structure, hierarchy, goals and objectives, and the degree to which mangers empower employees to make decisions
  • Introduction of new workplace practices such as rewards and recognition, benefits and work/life balance
  • Mission, vision and values have been re-developed and clarified to ensure they honestly reflect the beliefs and philosophies of Energy Skills Queensland
  • Communication including the degree, type and frequency of interactions that occur (collaborative vs. confrontational, supportive vs. non-supportive, social vs. task-oriented, etc.) and transparency in sharing of information and making decisions
  • People, ensuring that personalities, beliefs, values, skills and experiences are the right fit for the organisation.

What are the practices and strategies that you would stress to an organisation, looking to improve its culture?

The first step for an organisation looking to improve its culture is to match strategy with culture. Too often, company’s impose strategy from above so it is at odds with the ingrained practices and attitudes of the organisation’s culture as a whole. As they say ‘Culture trumps strategy every time’.

The next step is to understand what is working and what is not working. It is very easy for organisation’s to focus on the negative traits of culture, but we must be able to honour the strengths of existing culture in order to prove good intentions.

An organisation will not be able to achieve a complete shift in culture overnight or at once. By focussing on a few critical shifts in behaviour, employees will develop additional ways to reinforce them. Part of the shift is to highlight how the new behaviours affect the organisation’s strategic performance; this can be done by integrating formal (i.e. rules, metrics, incentives) and informal interventions (meaningful connections, behaviour modelling etc).

Finally, much like any other business initiative, a key component of improving culture is to measure and monitor its’ evolution. Rigorous measurement will provide tangible evidence of improvement and assist with maintaining positive momentum over the long haul.

How can employees increase their transparency and communication with one another at all levels of the organisation? 

Improving communication in the workplace cannot be achieved without first building a culture of transparency and accountability. An essential prerequisite for effective workplace communication is trust, and there can be no trust without a feeling of authenticity, cooperation and responsibility among employees, managers, partners and clients/customers. This feeling is created through transparent and accountable behaviour consistently displayed by all members of the organisation.

To improve workplace communication through transparency and accountability, the organisation must hire well an provide subsequent coaching and mentoring to new team members, remove any ambiguity from all workplace communication (i.e. processes, guidelines etc.), prioritise inclusivity, give all personnel ownership over their work, celebrate successes and learn from failures and finally, lead by example as change happens from the top down.

A workplace that places a high value on transparency and accountability will see positive impacts on business results through improved communication, the attraction and retention of the best employees, improved products and services, reduced exposure to risk, a satisfied and loyal client and customer base.

Can you share how defining values for all employees can play an integral role in this communication, resulting in culture?

Internally, well developed, defined and fully integrated organisational values assist employees to undertake their roles daily. By guiding decision-making and behaviour, values can underpin the wide range of interactions and professional relationships employees have with others in their day-to-day work. Values also contribute to an organisation’s strategic direction and can be highly motivating for employees.

Externally, values assist Energy Skills Queensland to undertake the varied roles required for and on behalf of industry. Values provide the organisation with core statements of ‘who we are’ and unify the industries we work within. Overall, publicly stated values shape our stakeholders expectations about the organisation and reinforce the organisation’s professionalism.

Energy Skills Queensland is a key partner for the OHS Leaders Summit in addition to being a longstanding partner for Media Corp International’s Resources events that include the COO Leaders and HR Leaders Resources Summits. 

About Penelope: Penelope is eminently qualified and experienced to assist the mining, energy and telecommunications industries build a skilled workforce. Penelope has over 15 years of operational and strategic management experience in national and international high risk environments, including the resources, oil and gas, construction and energy industries. She brings a unique combination of deep industry knowledge and global management experience to the Chief Executive Officer role, having consulted at senior levels in the energy industries and the Australian Navy before joining the Energy Skills Queensland team.

For more information regarding the OHS Leaders Summit, please visit: www.ohsleaders.com.au