Across the energy sector, there’s been a cultural shift over the last decade. At Contact Energy, that meant an overhaul of processes and leadership around health and safety. The result? A huge change in organisational culture.
The energy sector has always prioritised health and safety - but the shift Contact has pioneered has been about applying more of a cultural lens to health and safety rather than overcomplicating things with lengthy written guidance and too much training. We spoke to Contact Energy’s Chief People Officer, Tania Palmer, to hear about how much a small change in process had a big effect.
Tania says the culture at Contact Energy wasn’t always so positive.
We used to have a blame culture. If something went wrong, we focused on who to blame. It was about punishing a mistake rather than preventing it.
The effect of this was that employees feared making a mistake which led to a bigger problem - people not being open when things went wrong, which meant there wasn’t much learning and improving taking place. At Contact Energy, an initial survey uncovered these attitudes towards health and safety that were affecting overall culture in a hostile way.
Once we changed the way we thought about health and safety, and moved towards a more supportive, open and understanding approach, we noticed a definite change.
Instead of blaming someone for making an error, there was more emphasis on learning what went well, what was unexpected and how we could strengthen and improve the conditions in which our people did their work.
More recently Contact has used AskYourTeam to collect feedback on how employees are feeling about health and safety processes and overall culture. Contact Energy has found their people have seen a substantial improvement - people feel more empowered to make their own decisions, and assess risk - without the fear of blame or judgement if things go wrong. With employees feeling more supported in their decisions by the organisation, the culture has become more positive overall.
The AskYourTeam system is able to gauge whether employees felt the shift in culture, and if their feelings of empowerment are growing, declining or being sustained. By creating a health and safety index through AskYourTeam, Contact was able to pinpoint specific areas that had seen the most improvement, and what areas still needed work.