Courage on the Frontline

In early 2010, the Operations team made a commitment to change the approach to people management in bpTT. Business performance was solid, but three consecutive Pulse Plus employee satisfaction surveys showed that the hearts and minds of the people were not fully engaged. A change in approach and engagement was required.

Craig Wiggs, then Regional Vice President of Operations at bpTT, driven by his personal creed that 'an engaged employee is a safer employee', decided to tackle things head-on.

The Operations leadership team listened without prejudice to countless groups in various forums to identify and explore frontline concerns and issues. Frontline broadly describes employees who work at the operational end of the business, and in the case of Trinidad, refers to both offshore and onshore based staff at Galeota and Beachfield. 

At the listening sessions, both parties were compelled to acknowledge the impact and consequence of their actions, or lack thereof as there was no history of such candid conversation happening across certain levels in the business. This resulted in an action plan focused on leadership accountability, rewards, career progression, employee voice and hygiene issues. 

This cogeneration of actions increased the trust and confidence between the frontline and senior leadership and confirmed the visible commitment to the people agenda.

Mark Ramkhelawan has been involved in the Frontline Engagement programme for the very beginning. As an Operations Technician for the Immortelle platform, he describes his personal drive as a passion for people: “Human capital is our most important resource. There were times when it was evident that an organisation as large and influential as ours should have been doing much more to engage the Operations frontline staff. I’ve always felt that coming to work should be meaningful and fulfilling. I had many ideas about how we could have improved the way we did things in Operations and the Frontline Engagement initiative gave me the opportunity to do just that.”

The Operations People Plan Team was established and worked to consolidate and prioritise the issues and actions required to close gaps. Once the action plan was established, regular progress sessions were initiated, including quarterly face-to-face engagement sessions which continue today.

 “People like to see results. Unless you see results, nothing you say has any meaning. And a disgruntled workforce is not going to be a safe workforce. With this initiative however, the leadership's response to the concerns of the frontline staff was not only courageous, but it also helped to build trust with people,” offered Trudy Patrick, Aviation Coordinator of the Logistics team. 

The Operations Leadership Team collects feedback three times a year and in 2012 developed a more sophisticated and systematic programme based on that first gathering, using employee survey data to identify and influence actions.

Each site has a representative who works on managing smaller issues within each of the 10 sites, and they’ve put more of an onus on managers engaging with staff.

This approach significantly transformed employee satisfaction with a rise of 25 points in the Pulse Employee Satisfaction Index (ESI) among technician levels. There was also an improvement in process safety, with a 66% reduction in losses of primary containment (LOPC).

A foundation and legacy member of the core working people team, Roger Sosa, worked on developing the action plan and engagement agenda. He says, “The Frontline Engagement initiative, now established as the way we work, is a systematic and sustainable mechanism that continues to provide an opportunity and a meaningful forum where team members can air their concerns openly without fear of retribution. We are able to continually improve the working lives of the fabric of the organization and this had made a huge difference.”

As a leader in the Operations team, Lyndon Mohess’ role involved understanding the people concerns by different areas, and planning actions and session agendas using data collected from the engagement sessions. By working with the leadership team, Mohess has been able to inform future actions and to get feedback on the actions/interventions that were taken.  He says, “If I am a frontline worker in the field at the Terminal, Beachfield, or Cassia just knowing that people concerns are being addressed, and there are multiple forums for me to raise concerns and get feedback, that frontline worker now has the opportunity to be more focused on doing activities safely in a high-hazard environment. That fact is what led me to take on a bigger role in this, and remain committed to it years on.”

Frontline engagement calls for courage from all quarters, not just to speak up, but to acknowledge where we are vulnerable. Communication is the key but the real triumph may well be the vast improvement in relationships.

“It is definitely important to build personal relationships with the people you work with,” says Ramkhelawan. “Nowhere is camaraderie more visible and necessary than in an offshore environment where at the end of your work day you still interact with the same people, even for several days. Personal relationships are therefore crucial to the functioning of a sound work environment and living the values of Safety, Courage, One Team, Respect and Excellence. I believe enduring personal relationships can even give us the competitive edge in business.”

The Frontline Engagement sessions were entered into the BP Helios Awards in 2013 and were among the top 15 finalists selected from over 1300 entries across the BP world. It has been recognized as a BP best practice and been highly commended for its positive impact on the Trinidad business. Mohess, Ramkhelawan and Sosa were among those who attended the final Awards Ceremony in London. Sosa remarked, “We are using the engagement sessions to connect with people in a personal as well as quantitative way that helps me do my job better while delivering benefits to the staff. I guess you can call that looking out for each other. Once people know there is that outlet, they can be more focused on doing what they do safely and that link is very real to me. We are making a visible commitment that promotes trust and endorsement of living the BP values and behaviours.”
"I've always felt that coming to work should be meaningful and fulfilling." 
Mark Ramkhelawan, Operations Technician - Immortelle platform