What is the key to a safe and great place to work?

Author: Sally Austin, Group HR Director

At Costain we understand that for our business to be successful it has to operate sustainably over the long term. To do that, we need a workforce that is safe, well-motivated, productive, and who feel enthusiastic and passionate about what we do.

Ensuring Costain is a safe and great place to work is one of our four core sustainability goals.

Safety is a fundamental priority for us. It is the first thing that is discussed at every Board meeting, and it is absolutely embedded into our hearts and minds. Above everything else we want to make sure that everyone who comes to work goes home safely.

We have a very well defined and successful behavioural safety programme but we are always looking for something new to keep people safe. It doesn’t need to be a large innovative project, it may be something quite simple that brings a mind-set change.

As well as having a safe workforce, we also want employees to be healthy, so we place significant emphasis on health and wellbeing. Physical wellbeing impacts performance and productivity, so we have set a number of targets around the health of the workforce.

We have set ourselves the target that 100% of our employees must have an in-depth medical check at least once every two years.

Traditionally, emotional and psychological wellbeing were issues that our industry didn’t like to talk about. It is hugely encouraging that mental health, anxiety and work-life balance are now firmly on the agenda.

The long-term sustainability of the business depends on being able to recruit and retain employees from as wide a pool of people as possible. Currently, 20% of our workforce are women and we are also underrepresented by black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) people. To address this imbalance, the Executive Board have undergone unconscious bias and inclusive leadership training and we are currently developing the next phase of our diversity and inclusion strategy.

As part of this strategy we are establishing a women’s network this year, aimed at supporting women (and men) to fulfil their potential in the workplace through networking, hearing from female role models and building confidence. We need to encourage more women to join the industry by understanding and taking action towards some of the perceived barriers that women may face.

Apprenticeships help to improve the diversity of our workforce and we currently have over 100 apprentices, covering more than 20 different disciplines. Costain is well known for the standard of its award-winning graduate training programme, and we are working hard to raise the bar of our apprentice programme to an equal standard.

We invest over £4 million every year on training and development, covering everything from safety training and technical skills to talent programmes – including the Emerging Leaders programme launched last year to develop future leaders for the next five years. We also provide study support for anybody in the organisation who wishes to embark on further academic learning, e.g. a Degree or Masters, relevant to their role and the organisation. It works both ways: as a business it means we are building our skills and capabilities for the future from within. It also helps with staff retention and engagement. People appreciate that the company is investing in them.

Every two years we conduct our staff engagement survey. This is a great way to give our employees a voice and to provide us with a true sense of how people view the company. In 2014, 79% of our employees took part, which in itself indicates a good level of engagement, and we received over 1500 verbatim comments. By listening to this insightful feedback we are able shape our business going forward, ensuring Costain is a safe and great place to work.