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BAM Nuttall Achieves a Sustainable Shift in Organizational Culture main image

A result of these improvements, BAM Nuttall was awarded the Engaging Employees Guardian’s 2013 Sustainable Business Award

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  • Client: BAM Nuttall Achieves a Sustainable Shift in Organizational Culture
  • Industry: Civil Engineering/Construction
  • JMJ Service: Organisational Transformation through delivering Incident and Injury-Free® (IIF®) Safety
Results: • Environmental incident rates have dropped significantly • 84% of waste was diverted from landfills in 2012 versus 60% in 2010 • 41% reduction in construction waste since 2009 • 11% reduction in staff turnover

“JMJ helped us analyse more deeply what the problem was rather than just finding technical solutions” Richard Prime Special Projects Manager BAM Nuttall

JMJ supports Civil Engineering Company, Bam Nuttall to build and strengthen their existing Beyond Zero safety culture resulting in a sustainable shift in organisational
culture, reduced environmental incidents and increasedemployee engagement

BAM Nuttall, a part of the Royal BAM Group, delivers complex civil engineering projects throughout the United Kingdom. The company is involved in infrastructure projects including roads, railways, marine facilities, airports, energy and water treatment plants. BAM Nuttall also provides specialty contracting services such as tunnelling, geotechnical, and mechanical and electrical engineering.


Business Challenges:

Beyond Zero was developed from BAM Nuttall’s strong culture in 2005. At that time Beyond Zero was established as a philosophy to create a safety culture that looked beyond statistics—where people went home better off as a result of working at BAM Nuttall. Safety rates improved at first, but performance soon plateaued. Though the safety record at BAM Nuttall was consistent and strong, accidents were still occurring. It was clear that Beyond Zero needed something more to enable the culture to develop and to keep people from being hurt.

By 2011 BAM Nuttall realised that the Beyond Zero philosophy could be applied to all areas of the business, and care and concern could be the foundation for everything the company did. They believed that with this holistic approach, safety improvement and other business improvement would follow. However, while Beyond Zero was recognised by some at BAM Nuttall as a positive ideal, there were still issues with company-wide adoption.

Since establishing Beyond Zero in 2005, the company has seen significant growth. During that time the number of full time BAM Nuttall employees has grown from 2700 to just over 3000 and the number of subcontractors from 2000 to approximately 5000.

For a company that prides itself on a family feel and values-based culture, this growth demanded a new approach to communication and employee engagement. Top down messages were not as effective to reach everyone. To maintain the personal, family-oriented feel, there was a need to improve the way values were communicated. At the same time, toughening economic conditions meant that competition increased and organisational efficiency and effectiveness became even more important.

Company Goals:

  • Go from “Good to Great” in safety performance.
  • Eliminate accidents.
  • Drive down plateauing incident rate.
  • Retain the family feel and values-based culture during company growth.
  • Build on progress and accelerate the commitment to Beyond Zero principles.
  • Enable BAM Nuttall to be a leader within UK construction, particularly in the areas of culture, health and safety performance, environment and well-being.
  • Develop leadership skills that impact all areas of business performance—not just health, safety and the environment.

BAM Nuttall partnership with JMJ

Before engaging with JMJ, it was evident to the people at BAM Nuttall that any approach adopted had to be owned and driven from within the company.

“It was really important to us that this wasn’t seen as something new [to BAM Nuttall],” says Sam Risker, Beyond Zero Advisor at BAM Nuttall. “We did not want this to be something another company was coming in and doing to us. It was a strategy to build Beyond Zero to a new phase.”

Retired BAM Nuttall Executive Director Bob Treadgold echoes this sentiment. He says he saw JMJ’s approach as something that could integrate into their existing culture.

“We like to promote from within, we think of our own ways of going about things. We reluctantly engage with others to help us,” he says. “On this occasion, though, we saw it as something where JMJ could, if they tailored something for our own aspirations, really bring something to the party.”

This clear intention was brought forward and addressed during extended co-design meetings between BAM Nuttall and JMJ in 2010. From early discussions to a final aligned approach, elements of JMJ’s Incident and Injury Free® (IIF®) safety approach were tailored and incorporated for BAM Nuttall. This programme became an integrated catalyst for, rather than a replacement to, the Beyond Zero platform that had already been established. 

“Once we agreed on the direction,” Treadgold says, “we entered into an extremely successful and enjoyable relationship that will affect our legacy for many years to come.”

These focused efforts allowed BAM Nuttall to do something they had never done before: articulate and define the desired results they wanted Beyond Zero to accomplish. In October 2010 thirty of their senior managers gathered during a one-day workshop, facilitated by JMJ, to start to define what Beyond Zero was really about for them. While the Beyond Zero ideal had been an aspiration for some years, this was the first time they had articulated why it was there and what they needed it to do for the business. So began a journey unprecedented in the company.

Initial roll out

The JMJ supported Beyond Zero programme kicked-off in January 2011 with a company-wide integral survey completed by almost 3000 employees. With a primary focus on safety, the survey explored all aspects of the business including systems, behaviour, personal attitudes and organisational culture. The data was then used as input to subsequent activities and to guide the on-going Beyond Zero programme design.

A series of two-day Commitment Workshops followed over a period of eight weeks. These events provided a forum for managers and supervisors to take on a personal commitment to eliminating incidents and injuries in the company. The BAM Nuttall leadership team played a key role in partnering with JMJ during these workshops. By having BAM Nuttall people deliver some elements themselves they ensured that Beyond Zero remained clearly a BAM Nuttall endeavour. To date, 467 BAM Nuttall people and 102 BAM Nuttall contractors have participated in the Beyond Zero Commitment Workshops.

To further ensure the company-wide adoption of Beyond Zero, 22 local leadership teams were then established. Based around the UK, these included teams set up for head office, specialist businesses and for some of the larger projects. Volunteer team members, representing a cross section of the workforce, were then brought together in a series of four regional one-day workshops. These events, co-delivered by JMJ and BAM Nuttall leadership, launched the teams and defined their critical leadership role in the success of Beyond Zero.

The local leadership teams started meeting monthly beginning in the summer of 2011. Members of the BAM Nuttall company leadership team each adopted three or four local teams to support, ensuring that the initial enthusiasm and momentum remained strong. This network allowed BAM Nuttall to take increasing ownership of the process.

One of the first actions for the leadership teams was to identify potential Beyond Zero trainers within the organisation—people with a passion for safety and the potential for leadership that had not yet been fully realised. Those selected were trained by JMJ to more deeply understand the Beyond Zero approach and how to deliver four-hour Beyond Zero workshops (Orientations) to the entire workforce.

Over a period of 2 years a total of 191 people have been developed within the JMJ “Train-the-Trainer” process to lead four-hour Beyond Zero workshops. These trainers have gone on to reach 5544 people, 2800 of whom are BAM Nuttall employees, in these highly participative and engaging sessions.

Since the start of the roll out the Company Beyond Zero leadership team has continued to meet monthly, in partnership with JMJ, as a way to ensure that Beyond Zero takes root throughout the company. They regularly review feedback from across the company and adjust their approach accordingly.

The last element of the Beyond Zero programme, Beyond Zero in Action, focuses primarily on supervisors, foremen and anyone putting people to work in the field. Two four-hour workshop sessions are separated by two weeks in field practice and followed by on-going support by local trainers and manager. This programme, also delivered by BAM Nuttall, JV and contractor employees through a JMJ Train the Trainer, is designed to develop participants as leaders who embed the Beyond Zero culture within the company.  

Bringing Engineering to Life

A year after the launch of the JMJ supported Beyond Zero programme, it became clear that there was an opportunity to build on what had been created and apply a similar approach to develop the existing purpose, values and vision for the entire company.

“After the first 12 months, we saw that Beyond Zero started making an impact on individuals,” says Risker. “But to transform the organisation, we realised we needed a common vision and set of values. With our ‘top 30’ we saw there was an opportunity to use the team at the top level to create something that everyone was using all their energy to work towards. This vision came out of Beyond Zero thinking.”

In early 2012, a group of about 40 people, representing a cross section of the company, were brought together to start to define the core values that makes BAM Nuttall unique. After articulating the five values, a BAM Nuttall purpose statement was developed that could speak powerfully to everyone in the company: “To create a sustainable future by bringing engineering to life.” 

The top thirty senior management team then held three events over a period of several months, also supported and co-led with JMJ, to build their relationship with each other and create the new company vision. Through these engagements, and a lot of work in between, the company vision for the next ten years was created.

 “Originally, the company’s vision, values and purpose were just a form of marketing. Nobody read it and nobody knew what it was,” Treadgold says. “We got together and asked the questions, ‘What is the vision? What do we aspire to in ten, twenty years’ time?’ There we were with the encouragement to think creatively with a group of senior managers who welcomed the opportunity to think differently. This took the lid off a whole potential that was waiting to be released.”

Results

At the forefront of BAM Nuttall’s Beyond Zero results has been the formation of a leadership network and the creation of a clear, articulated company vision—the first collectively created vision in the company’s long history.

The early efforts established a leadership network that enabled more effective communication and employee engagement than previous top-down approaches had allowed.

“A big thing that was really profound was that [JMJ] helped us to create a network of people that didn’t exist before,” says BAM Nuttall Special Projects manager Richard Prime. “We became highly effective through the Beyond Zero leadership teams at communicating and promoting.”

He emphasises that this leadership approach has enabled a sort of communication that represents and reaches more people in the organisation.

“What we’ve got now is a network of people who are a real mix,” he says, “from the office to those out on site driving machines or pouring concrete. They’re highly effective because they represent the diversity of the whole company. It’s no longer just a top-down cascade of information.”

Prime also says that the approach of looking at safety as an adaptive challenge that may not have a fixed, technical solution was an important one. As an engineering company, the ‘go to’ approach was often one of analysing the problem and attempting to solve it with a fixed set of procedures. 

“[JMJ] gave us a new way to look at challenges, to understand what the challenges actually were,” Prime says. “This gave us a different way to look at a problem or understand it. It helped us shift from just trying to solve a problem technically to understand the whole adaptive challenge side of things. That was something we hadn’t got our heads around. Before we had said, ‘here’s the problem let’s fix it.’ JMJ helped us analyse more deeply what the problem was rather than just finding technical solutions.”

Another result of this willingness to address problems in this way was that BAM Nuttall staff began to appreciate that management was genuinely interested in their views. Openness to feedback has led to more people speaking up about incidents or perceived hazards and so bringing forward their ideas and contribution. It has also shed light on areas where people were hesitant to speak up, and helped to shift many other barriers. 2012 surveys revealed that, in one year, employee perceptions of managers’ levels of care and concern had improved, dangerous situations were more likely to be avoided or stopped, and there was increased trust in management genuinely meaning what they said about their commitment to safety.  

Because of the shift in openness and the emphasis on enabling greater communication through leadership networks, a new level of employee engagement has emerged. This has led to what Prime calls a “mobilization of potential” throughout the company—new levels of creativity, effectiveness and performance being seen from individuals at all levels that had not been realised before.  

As Beyond Zero has taken hold throughout the company, environmental incident rates have dropped significantly, and the company is producing considerably less waste (84% of waste was diverted from landfills in 2012 versus 60% in 2010, and there has been a 41% reduction in construction waste since 2009). While the overall accident rate is still at a plateau, the noticeable increase in reported incidents as a result of a more open culture may have something to do with this. There has also been an 11% reduction in staff turnover.

As a result of these improvements, BAM Nuttall was awarded the Engaging Employees Guardian’s 2013 Sustainable Business Award, as well as achieved Investors in People Gold status for the first time in 2013, a standard highly recognised in the UK industry.

 

According to Derek Ross, Director of Business Process and Sustainability, the positive impact can be seen in the way that management no longer sees the solution to a problem as a top down process—rather, that the solution to problems can come from anyone in the company.

“Of course we’ve turned completely around,” he says. “We’re now saying, ‘look, everyone’s got an ability to see a better way and we want to hear it. You may be wrong, but you may be right.’ Now, we want to hear from them. We don’t want to blindly follow a procedure just because it’s a procedure. We might believe [an existing procedure] is the best way, but we know we may not be right.”

Bob Treadgold concurs that the Beyond Zero/JMJ partnership opened up new ways of thinking and doing that had not been previously there.

“What this did for everybody is to free up thinking,” Treadgold says. “One of the key things that came out of it for me personally and for many of my colleagues is that we spent our lives thinking about engineering predictability as numbers in equations. Suddenly, there we were being encouraged to also think with our creative side and saw that it was a good thing. In the past, creative thinking in an engineering company was frowned upon. Suddenly, we were faced with the fact that not only is this kind of thinking okay, it is beneficial.”

In 2013 Beyond Zero continues to build momentum and grow through strengthened relationships within BAM Nuttall and with clients, subcontractors and Joint Venture partners. Local leadership teams are now supported entirely by the Company Beyond Zero team members who also lead focused development events without the support of JMJ. In addition, the early roll out of the vision, purpose and values has been warmly received. The focus now is to integrate Beyond Zero thinking to impact all aspects of business performance in line with the company vision.