Whilst client and business expectation and the type of services we offer grow exponentially, we must be mindful the systems we have in place do not control emotions, mindsets or mental wellbeing of the people who are our main assets. We therefore have to make sure that our employees are well taken care of as they are our eyes and ears on customer sites, and are also at the nucleus of potential hazards and risks.
Step one to achieving this is knowing your employees – something that takes time and concerted effort. It requires focused, on-ground, day-to-day communication and engagement with every employee. It also requires taking care of your team’s mental welfare, as incidents can be manifested through factors unrelated to the tasks they are carrying out.
Working closely with a team in this way over a period builds trust, openness, and cohesion, and for the supervisors and managers, creates an unclouded understanding of every employee, how they fit into a team and their strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge is vital whether undertaking a hazardous activity or dealing with a crisis.
In normal business situations, the key health and safety idealism is that every employee comes into work and operates safely and responsibly, which is largely a result of how they are managed and supported. What we need to ensure, however, is that safety comes intuitively to employees, rather than having to rely on reminders. An intuitive approach is an optimal natural behavioral action, irrespective of internal or external environmental factors.
The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged us to start thinking differently to ensure business continuity, particularly in terms of safety. It has impacted everyone, personally and professionally, and the implications on businesses is major. It has prompted senior management and leadership teams to think disruptively, and employees to operate under unusual circumstances – especially when it comes to safety practices.
In times like these, you come to know the individuals within the organization who have the capabilities to ensure business operation run smoothly while safe-guarding the people they work with – they will have no boundaries to what can be achieved in troublesome times. Being put in such a situation draws out leaders who might not have been overtly visible in the past. Every individual is different, every individual is exposed to different pressures outside of work, and every individual responds differently to a situation or their immediate actions when presented with a crisis or incident.
To reach and importantly maintain this natural level of awareness and actions boils down to one key ingredient across any operation or business: leadership. Particularly, leadership borne out of strong management and an unerring desire for every director, manager, supervisor and employee to lead by example – and believe in it. You cannot lead entirely from a desk, nor can you generate, publish and distribute multiple policies, processes and procedures and expect the workplace to be instantaneously incident risk free. True leaders will, as the saying goes, practice what they preach.
At ENGIE Cofely, we believe in taking a hands-on approach to managing our teams, and provide our employees with the tools they need and an environment that is safe to work in, so that they can realize their full potential.
(The author, MILES WEBB is the COO of ENGIE Cofely)