E.ON Behavioural Health and Safety Innovation

The context


E.on, one of the UK's leading energy companies, the second largest electricity generator in the UK and the second largest distribution network in the UK had a stated ambition to deliver safety standards comparable to those of the nuclear and petrochemicals industries.

The need

In moving towards this ambition, it recognised the criticality of its relationship with its key Contractors. The "raising of the leadership bar" for its Contract Managers was of paramount importance.

The solution

Jim Allen, Energy Services Senior Manager and Contract Safety and Engagement Project Sponsor at E.ON called in behavioural change specialists DevelopChange for support in the investigatory phase.

DevelopChange were asked to develop an investigatory process based less on formal safety audit and more on a two way safety discussion to explore contractors' view on the effectiveness of the safety relationship with E.ON.

Jim understood that a traditional safety audit would not deliver the depth of understanding required and stated that "These guys, DevelopChange, had worked for me before on a transformational leadership programme and the results they helped me to achieve were outstanding. I knew they would look at the engagement with our contractors in a less traditional way and help me to find the innovative approach that was needed".

It is a harsh fact but true, that companies get the contractor performance they deserve. DevelopChange's start point therefore was not the traditional one of carrying out an H&S audit or survey of contractor activity. It was to engage the leaders in each company in a way that helped them understand their relationships and tensions, in the first instance, and how these manifested themselves in either good or bad safety behaviours.

This meant developing a simple protocol, whilst coaching the E.ON Energy Services safety team in conducting a different style of dialogue with the contractors' leaders and managers.

This approach had a two-fold impact. One, it elicited good quality information about the relationship and understanding of safety standards; two, it reinforced the message that safety responsibility rests with line managers, not with the H&S department.

In fact it had a third impact - the dialogue between client and contractor became one that was about values and standards, the things that underpin good performance.

The conversations were structured around a simple leadership model; the assumption being that good leaders:

  • set direction
  • lead by example
  • take others with them

The aim was for the leaders within E.ON to challenge contractors, and in doing so, challenge themselves about their personal activities and behaviours to demonstrate leadership in safety.

Outcomes so far

DevelopChange created a partnership with E.ON in order to develop their capability to lead the process themselves and prevent dependency. This meant taking a staged approach.

It began with a short coaching session on the process and handling the meeting; this was followed by support during the first tranche of meetings and finally, Energy Services project team 'flew solo', with DevelopChange support only on a demand basis.

The information generated and subsequent findings from the investigations were of major significance to E.ON's Contractor Safety and Engagement Project, contributing to an overhaul of the company's policy and process for the procurement and management of contractor safety.