Building and sustaining a health and safety brand that connects everyone to being Safe at heart
‘Safe at heart’ is HS2’s pan-project health and safety brand and philosophy. After five years, it was failing to resonate with employees and supply chain and connect hearts and minds to the mission of making HS2 the UK’s safest ever mega project. A comprehensive review highlighted the need to clarify health and safety accountabilities, simplify and realign the delivery framework, identify the USP and get to the truth of the brand to give it more definition and discipline and make it easier to understand and more relatable and accessible.
A realignment of the components of the delivery framework against three clear areas of accountability, cross-related to corporate brand messaging, enabled the essence of ‘Safe at heart’ to be distilled into a powerful, memorable, meaningful tagline – I Count, You Care, We Matter – that made clear to everyone what was required of them.
Despite the unanticipated pressures and constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic an intensive campaign of engagement and communications activities has seen almost 3000 people across HS2 take part in 130 team conversations about what Safe at heart means to them, their teams and the project. Around 97% of employees can now describe what Safe at heart means to them.
This Learning Legacy paper captures the lessons learned and recommendations from implementing the brand refresh and will be of interest to future projects considering creating, developing and/or refreshing their own health and safety brand.
Background and industry context
Organisations, large and small, use brands to express their core values, build a positive association, influence behaviours, differentiate themselves, help people understand the role they play and create a common sense of purpose. The same applies to health and safety brands.
Not all major construction projects have their own distinct health and safety brand but some, like Crossrail and its Target Zero strategy, do. HS2 is of such a scale, geographical span, complexity and duration, involving thousands of contractors and tens of thousands of operatives in its construction, that an overarching health and safety brand was believed to be essential to galvanising a diverse, changing workforce behind a common mission through all phases.
Just like a corporate brand, a health and safety brand, particularly one which overarches the brands and philosophies of multiple contractors, needs to be much more than a logo. It needs to make clear the values, accountabilities and behaviours and it needs to be relevant to all, from leaders to operatives. It should empower and engage all employees, elevating aspirations beyond compliance, enforcement and rule following to a unified, heart-felt belief that they can contribute to doing health and safety differently and better.
Over a lifecycle of many years, HS2 will employ tens of thousands of people on site and in offices through a supply chain of hundreds of organisations, some with their own established health and safety cultures, programmes and brands. Hundreds of thousands of people will be impacted by their work. Many millions of people will be using the railway for decades to come.
As the client body for the HS2 programme, HS2 Ltd’s objective was to create, develop and embed a health and safety brand and philosophy that:
- connected everyone working on HS2 with the mission of creating the UK’s safest ever mega-project; and
- supported the development of a consistent ‘one team’ culture’
Creating and embedding the HS2 ‘Safe at heart’ brand
Good health and safety performance is a critical measure of success in achieving HS2’s mission. It is a core value, a key component of the delivery strategy and one of HS2’s seven organisational strategic goals. From the outset it was recognised that HS2 represented a once in a generation opportunity to raise the bar higher than ever before for health and safety.
A set of strategic health and safety principles (Figure 1) was established in 2015 to inform HS2’s approach to health and safety and provide a framework against which the programme’s strategic deliverables would be developed and delivered over time.
Using these principles as a guide, a number of themes emerged from a series of brand focus groups and commitment workshops held across HS2 directorates, supply chain representatives and industry bodies.
- Viewing health like safety;
- Creating a legacy for industry and future major projects;
- Going beyond legal requirements and compliance; and
- Raising the bar for occupational health.
From these themes seven focus areas (Figure 2) were identified where HS2 could have the greatest impact and key deliverables – HS2’s 21 health and safety commitments – were defined within each focus area.
This framework shown in Figure 1 above was encapsulated into HS2’s health and safety brand – Safe at heart – intended to be a key tool in building understanding of strategy and commitments with workforce, suppliers, local communities and the public.
Safe at heart was launched internally in December 2015 and to industry bodies and future supply chain in January 2016.
Challenges maintaining the brand
By 2019, although well-recognised as a logo, anecdotal evidence suggested that Safe at heart as a brand had lost its way. This was initially highlighted by a joint venture communications lead, who said:
“I don’t really know what Safe at heart stands for. I couldn’t describe what it means to me personally, or to our workforce, in a simple sentence.”
Further anecdotal evidence and a small survey across a range of stakeholders and roles reinforced this view.
- Safe at heart had become just a logo;
- Though robust, the framework (figure 2) was too complicated to provide an instantly graspable, emotive and defined mission (4 basic tenets, 8 underpinning strategic principles, 7 focus areas, 21 health and safety commitments, 49 health and safety deliverables);
- There was nothing that suggested the unique opportunity HS2 had over other projects to harness the collective power of thousands of supply chain organisations in pursuit of the goal to create the UK’s safest (and healthiest) ever mega project;
- It was not embedded across a rapidly growing supply chain and was competing with the Joint Venture companies’ own health and safety brands;
- It was felt to ‘lose its direction in times of uncertainty’
Drivers for review and refresh of the brand
2020 was a big year for HS2 with significant milestones and change including:
- The findings of the Oakervee review1 into how and whether to proceed with HS2 were due to be published in February.
- Subject to Notice to Proceed, the supply chain was ramping up for safe construction to begin: a spike in health and safety incidents is common in the early stages of a project
- A new organisational structure to support delivery had gone live and was bedding in; attention was turning to the need for a consistent health and safety culture across HS2
The ‘Safe at heart’ mantra of ‘caring for our workforce and everyone impacted by HS2’ had become somewhat lost during a period of intense pressure for many people across HS2.
The significance of the Notice to Proceed milestone that HS2 was about to reach was reflected in HS2’s health and safety objectives for 2019/20:
- Mobilise to build HS2 safely, facilitating all tiers of the supply chain to be construction ready Improve H&S performance across HS2 and the supply chain
- Safe at heart approach instilled with demonstrable and visible H&S leadership
- Caring for the health, safety, security and environmental (HSSE) impact of HS2 on neighbours and communities
HS2’s executive leadership team saw health and safety, through ‘Safe at heart’, as a driver of delivery excellence, not just in the crucial early stages of the programme, but throughout its lifecycle. Beyond delivering the strategic health and safety goal and because of the sheer scale, scope and influence of HS2, they saw the opportunity to make HS2 the UK’s safest ever mega-project. If ‘Safe at heart’ was going to support the delivery of that aspiration, it was vital to rebuild people’s personal connection with Safe at heart so it felt relevant, relatable and simple to understand in terms of accountabilities.
This is the story of how HS2 set about reviewing and refreshing Safe at heart and the lessons learned along the journey that could be applied to future projects.
Developing the Refreshed Approach
Aims of the ‘Safe at heart’ review and refresh
Significant investment had been made in developing the ‘Safe at heart’ brand and framework of health and safety deliverables. Though its overall mission and purpose was not well understood, it was well known and recognised as a logo, so the watchword was evolution not revolution.
The HS2 Safety Culture Development team defined the aims of the review and refresh as:
- Improving brand clarity: strategic thinking
- Clarifying health and safety accountabilities: what do we want people to think, feel and do?
- Improving brand differentiation: analytical thinking
- Pinpointing the USP, which would differentiate it from joint ventures’ existing health and safety brands and programmes;
- Giving the brand more definition and discipline, using the existing framework as the basis
- Improving brand consistency: practical thinking
- Making the mission simpler to remember, understand and use in a multiplicity of ways;
- Supporting the development of a ‘one team’ health, safety and wellbeing culture right across the programme.
- Improving brand engagement: tactical thinking
- Sharpening its relevance and accessibility to a diverse workforce
Developing the new framework
The following approach was applied to addressing the review brief, with the aim of developing a simpler, more accessible framework (Figure 5) that aligned the brand to accountabilities, deliverables and strategic goals.
- Stage one was to review the purpose of ‘Safe at heart’ in delivering HS2’s health and safety strategy and goal and how it fitted into the existing framework2.
- Messaging – the ‘truth’ of the brand was found in the CEO’s own personal commitments to health and safety3 , which highlighted the role and importance of individual, team and collective areas of accountability.
- The next stage was to ‘work the framework’. Could the principles, focus areas, commitments and deliverables be aligned to these areas of accountability in a more logical framework?
- As HS2’s only sub-brand, Safe at heart needed to align to corporate brand messaging. Did the three proposed areas of accountability for the refreshed brand, I care (individual caring for self and others); You count (empowering teams and organisations); We matter (programme-wide commitment to history-making legacy), map across to the corporate personality traits of ‘neighbourly’, ‘can do’ and ‘visionary’?
- One of the key areas of focus was to bring to the fore what differentiated ‘Safe at heart’ from the supply chain partners’ existing, well-established health, safety and wellbeing programmes and brands. This was identified as the collective power and potential transformational impact of many organisations working together on HS2 to raise the bar for health, safety and wellbeing.
Developing the brand messaging
Having established the new framework, the challenge was to distil the ‘truth’ of Safe at heart into a powerful, memorable, meaningful tagline and messaging (Figure 6) that would enable anyone, anywhere to understand what is required of them.
- Relates to HS2’s CEO’s first personal commitment3: “I will put health, safety and wellbeing at the heart of all my decisions and actions as CEO.”
- Means: Caring about ourselves, our colleagues, everyone impacted by HS2 and the work we do4.
- Links to the individual area of accountability and largely to HS2’s occupational health and wellbeing commitments, with associated behaviours being: caring for self and others; being risk aware; speaking up, challenging and reporting
- Relates to HS2’s CEO’s second personal commitment3: “I will put all my energy into creating a culture we can be proud of.”
- Means: making sure that every safe decision and action we take in our teams and organisations counts4.
- Links to the team/organisational area of accountability for preventing injury and proactively managing risk, covering workforce safety, assurance and supply chain management and the associated behaviours of challenging existing norms, putting health, safety and wellbeing at the heart of all decisions and actions, holding open and honest conversations (seeking and listening to people’s opinions), treating people fairly.
- Relates to HS2’s CEO’s third personal commitment3: “I will lead the drive to achieve an improvement in standards and ways of working.”
- Means: Recognising that what we do together matters to the future of HS2, our industry and country4.
- Links to the collective area of accountability for setting a better standard for health and safety performance in the delivery of a major project and the associated behaviours of collaboration, identifying, sharing and embedding learning, innovation and good practice required to create a history-making legacy.
Delivering the refreshed approach
Having engaged with key stakeholders in the earlier review of the Safe at heart review (2019) to assess their perceptions of relatability, accessibility and relevance of Safe at heart, the proposed refreshed messaging, clarified areas of accountability and realignment with the existing Safe at heart delivery framework was taken back to the same group of stakeholders early in 2020.
These included the HS2 Executive, Health, Safety and Environment committee, safety, health and wellbeing cross-programme leadership team, health and safety professionals and the Safety and Assurance directorate team.
The response was universally positive and the refreshed Safe at heart approach and brand messaging and areas of accountability were tightly interwoven into the content and structure for a planned health and safety leadership conference (Figures 10 and 11) in early March 2020.
This was the launch pad for a rolling communications and engagement campaign throughout 2020/2021, running alongside a series of Safe at heart workshops for leaders across HS2 and the supply chain to transform their thinking about the safe delivery of the programme.
Content, 5videos and workshops at the conference, for an audience of 300 leaders from across the project, were anchored in the individual components of the tagline: I care; You count; We matter.
The opening video for the conference provided an emotive, conceptual introduction to I care, You count and We matter. Pre-conference, a series of short, impactful vox pop videos had been created, featuring the views of a wide range of workforce representatives on what I care, You count and We matter meant to them as individuals.
Workshops were also themed to bring real life meaning and relevance to I care, You count and We matter. Leaders were reminded of the importance of caring for themselves with a practical taster of the power of mindfulness. An immersive, drama-based workshop demonstrate why the role of supervisors counts so much. Delegates explored why it matters so much for leaders across the project to work collaboratively on improving mental and physical health as well as safety and sharing and embedding learning.
Leaders also made a shared commitment (Figure 12), through a Safe at heart transformation journey, to ‘change the face of our industry and set new benchmarks and standards of performance in health, safety and wellbeing by 2025’.
Extensive engagement with leaders and key stakeholders took place post-conference to explain the Safe at heart transformation journey and the deeper meaning of I care, You count and We matter.
Briefings were supported by collateral7 to facilitate onward cascade through the supply chain leadership tiers, including:
- A conference takeaway document for all delegates summarising the purpose of the refresh, why it was required, expectations of leaders, what they could expect to happen over the coming year and where to get support.
- Access to all conference videos to share with their employees and supply chains
- A Safe at heart leadership briefing pack, facilitated by a recorded voiceover, to support leaders in briefing their senior leadership and management teams
Concurrent with the conference, the pandemic was starting to take grip and a new organisational structure to support main works delivery was bedding in. There was a twin desire not to let new working patterns brought about by lockdown hinder ‘Safe at heart’ engagement activity, but, rather, to use ‘Safe at heart’ as a mechanism for supporting people through the difficulties of COVID and as a unifying bonding force for new teams.
The strategy for rolling out the internal phase of HS2 Ltd staff engagement with the refreshed ‘Safe at heart’ messaging was through the creation of a series of action-focused conversation packs8 that line managers could use to do a deep dive into what I care, You count, We matter meant to their teams and the impact of their work on raising the bar for health, safety and wellbeing across the project. The packs included:
- General background on ‘Safe at heart’ for line managers and conversation facilitators.
- Background relating to the specific focus of accountability (I care; You count; We matter)
- A sample structure for the conversation, with suggested questions to stimulate discussion
- A series of resources to enhance the conversation, including relevant videos and slides
- An automated feedback form embedded into the pack itself
The roll-out of the packs was supported by:
- Numerous engagement sessions with executive and senior leadership teams and key stakeholder groups including health and safety leads and staff networks and forums
- Targeted communications to senior leaders to encourage them to have their team conversations
- Articles and 9video interviews with senior leaders, including the Chairman of HS2, to provide leadership perspective and advocacy for each area of Safe at heart accountability
- Case studies from across the project showing Safe at heart in action
- Integration of Safe at heart messaging into a wide range of corporate training, performance, induction and wellbeing materials and initiatives.
The original (and overly ambitious intention) was to roll the conversation packs out over a three-month period. A key learning from this was that a much longer timeframe was required to allow for the right level of engagement and so that teams could have conversations at their own pace. In actuality, the 8’I care’ conversation pack was released in June; the 8’You count’ pack in September and the 8’We matter’ pack in January 2021.
Although there has been an enthusiastic supply chain reaction to the Safe at heart refresh, much of the initial phase of engaging and embedding understanding of ‘I care, You count, We matter’ accountabilities has been focused on HS2 Ltd teams. One area that has seen significant progress is the stations team. This implementation is detailed in a supporting legacy paper Delivering the Safe at heat transformation plan for the Stations Team ‘Safe at heart’ I care, You count, We matter engagement.
As at February 2021:
- Almost 3000 people had taken part in conversations at around 130 events.
- The most recent all staff survey revealed that 97% of employees can describe what Safe at heart means to them.
- The inaugural ‘Safe at heart’ learning legacy challenge, badged as a keystone initiative for communicating We matter attributes, attracted almost 150 initial submissions, highlighting the value attached to identifying and sharing learning, innovation and good practice across HS2 and with wider industry.
- Internally, ‘Safe at heart messaging’ has been integrated into health and safety eLearning, health and safety performance objectives, organisational handbooks, leadership and line manager training, corporate inductions, COVID-related wellbeing initiatives, frontline leadership training, safety leadership conversations.
- Sharing of messaging – and recognition of its value – has extended well beyond internal teams. It has been incorporated into online events for more than 2000 potential suppliers and contractors, procurement and tendering processes, undertakings and assurances and memoranda of understanding with strategic external partners and stakeholders.
- Some JV partners have used the refreshed messaging to demonstrate leadership commitment to listening to and acting upon the health, safety and wellbeing concerns of frontline operatives through workshops, video vox pops and poster-led initiatives.
- You count, the area of accountability for safe decisions and actions, was applied to a cross-HS2 site learning initiative to tackle a recurring vehicle safety issue.
Lessons learned and successes
In refreshing an existing brand
- Regular review of the H&S brand is required: There had been a complacency and assumption around the brand following the initial launch in 2015. HS2’s workforce is fluid and growing rapidly. Leaders and workforce come and go and will do so in increasing numbers as delivery gathers momentum. 2020 was the year when there needed to be an unequivocal client-led clarity on how HS2’s strategic goal would be achieved. Safe at heart will regularly be tested, evaluated and reviewed to optimise and determine its impact.
- Simplicity of message was key: While there needs to be substance behind the brand, which Safe at heart had, simplicity ‘the truth of the brand’ – is key and that was lacking. People need to relate, be able to explain and see the connection between the brand and the strategic goal.
- Focus on Safe at heart USP: Brand development required a particular focus on the USP Safe at heart had over the programme’s JV safety campaigns and behavioural programmes. Initial brand development had highlighted ‘what good looks like’ but there was little to distinguish what differentiated Safe at heart from the aspirations of any other health and safety brand.
- Early consultation: Gaining the views of a range of stakeholders before the brand refresh started was really valuable (essential) because those views helped to shape thinking and provide evidence to leaders that a refresh was needed.
- Leadership: Launching or refreshing a brand really benefits from a high-profile launch platform and visible leadership endorsement, which the March Safe at heart conference and subsequent programme of Safe at heart transformation workshops provided. Although a global pandemic was neither predicted nor welcome, the ‘I care’ element of Safe at heart came into its own and was wonderfully demonstrated in action right across the project during very challenging times.
In delivering a refreshed brand
What worked well
- Conversation packs were developed in collaboration with health and safety professionals who supported the roll-out of the conversations. The benefits of doing this were particularly experienced in the Stations team who all went through an immersive ‘I care, You count, We matter’ experience.
- Videos produced for and edited from the Safe at heart conference have been extensively viewed and used and have been invaluable in stimulating discussion. They have become the most viewed videos at HS2.
- The team learned that content for the packs needed to evolve as the campaign developed, specifically to demonstrate ‘I care, You count and We matter’ in action so they became tangible rather than abstract aspirations.
- Wherever there was direct engagement with stakeholders the messaging landed well and was felt to be relevant. A significant amount of effort was invested in engaging leaders and senior managers – crucial for gaining traction.
- Integrating ‘I care, You count, We matter’ messaging as widely as possible, where appropriate – including into the Safe at heart learning legacy challenge – helped to familiarise people with the three areas of accountability.
- Very clear guidance was provided to the joint venture communications leads by the HS2 Creative Services team, not just on how and where to use the refreshed branding, but how it connected to the original Safe at heart focus areas, commitments and deliverables, right the way back up to HS2’s strategic health and safety goal.
What didn’t work so well
- Diversity and inclusion: More effort should have been invested in engaging with HS2’s diversity networks to make sure the messaging and collateral was as inclusive and accessible as possible. Messaging and accessibility are now tested with members of the networks routinely and they are involved in planning and participating in health and safety-related initiatives.
- Supply chain engagement: The campaign has had less impact in the supply chain for a variety of reasons, including issues with cascade processes, the time pressures associated with delivery and, linked to this, a certain level of cynicism in some quarters about the integrity of the messaging. Working on these issues will be a key focus area in 21/22
- Overload: The sheer momentum of delivering main works has placed time pressures on leaders and delivery teams, making conversations about being Safe at heart seem like yet another thing to do. This makes it even more important to link Safe at heart to the realities of delivering HS2.
- Where there is lack of leadership engagement there is a corresponding lack of team conversations and resultant lack of awareness of accountabilities.
- Internally, some HS2 line managers were simply not accustomed to the notion of having a team conversation or delivering a corporate team brief, so extra support was necessary, through engagement, through the pack itself and through video recorded guides.
- The Safety Culture team under-estimated the timescale for all the conversations to take place. What had originally been anticipated to be a 3 month timespan turned into year-long endeavour, with conversations overlapping and still continuing well into 2021.
- Despite clear guidance from the HS2 Creative Services team at the outset about when, where and how the refreshed branding could be used, a very firm, purist line had to be taken to prevent the supply chain from applying it more widely to non-health and safety-related parts of the business and compromising brand integrity.
- It is an ongoing, relentless endeavour to give a brand ‘teeth’ and keep it ‘live’ and meaningful. Embedding the philosophy in a way that translates into beliefs and behaviours is not possible through a single campaign.
- No matter how much engagement you do it’s never enough. A huge amount of time and effort had to be invested in identifying and engaging with key stakeholder groups and nurturing advocates to engage their understanding and enlist their support in delivering Safe at heart conversations – far more than originally anticipated.
- Establishing key performance indicators for measuring impact and success is vital, but not always easy. Formal feedback from line managers has been negligible, despite an embedded feedback form within each pack, though ‘sought out’ qualitative feedback has been positive. Other measures of success, such as downloads of conversation packs, number of people who have attended engagement sessions, number of times videos have been viewed, number of submissions to the learning legacy challenge, number of views of articles are easier to measure, but not an indication of impact on behaviour.
- Brand clarity: strategic thinking
- Be clear about the purpose and effectiveness of your brand in delivering your health and safety goal and review it as the project evolves.
- Actively seek the views of your stakeholders to determine what is and isn’t working for them.
- Be clear about who your audience is and what you want them to feel, think and do.
- Be very clear in your brief to whoever is charged with refreshing your brand. Provide as much information and insight as possible.
- If your brand has lost its way, review the strategy and existing framework for delivering it. If the strategy and delivery framework remains valid, look for the clues to the ‘truth’ of your brand mission. Be prepared to update your strategy if it no longer fully reflects where you are now.
- Avoid trite taglines, but use them to make the essence of the brand instantly graspable. They must illuminate the accountabilities of everyone working on the project in an accessible and relatable way.
- Brand differentiation: analytical thinking
- Look for the things that distinguish your approach to health, safety and wellbeing from other projects. Health and safety communications can be very similar from project to project and suffer in their effectiveness as a result.
- Explore all the ways you can bring your USP to the fore, to realise its maximum potential
- Brand consistency: practical thinking
- Provide comprehensive guidelines and parameters for how, when and where to use your refreshed brand. Be robust about retaining the integrity of the brand and its application.
- Create brand assets for everyone to use, following the guidelines. Provide templates, copylines, icons, photography, diagrams, illustrations etc.
- Seek out every opportunity to integrate messaging and accountabilities into as many corporate channels and initiatives as possible: training, inductions, performance objectives, events, publications, handbooks, awards schemes.
- At the same time, guard the integrity of the brand and don’t allow it be diluted by enthusiasm to apply it to anything other than health and safety.
- Brand engagement: tactical thinking
- Find or create a major platform to launch your refreshed brand and make leadership engagement, at the highest level, a top priority.
- Co-create resources with stakeholders and test them with specialist groups such as the EDI team and staff networks to ensure accessibility and wide-ranging relevance.
- Find your advocates and champions and nurture them to support roll-out and embedding.
- Invest as much time as you can in engaging with your key stakeholders and do so time and time again.
- Recognise that true embedding will take time – more time than you think – but keep going.
- Bring the messaging to life through real examples of the brand being experienced and lived.
- Don’t get complacent. Keep asking questions of your stakeholders, keep going, keep evolving, fine tuning and finding surprising and inventive ways putting the brand into action and bringing it to life.
Vic El Bast, Head of Brand and Creative at HS2 and the Creative Services team for developing the refreshed Safe at heart brand messaging and framework.
- Rosamund Seal, Head of Health, Safety and Environment for Stations, Construction Directorate for leading the way in engaging HS2 teams with Safe at heart.
- Paul Ingram, QHSSE Compliance Manager Interchange Station, for helping to co-create Safe at heart engagement materials
- Maria Grazia Zedda, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager HS2, for advising on accessibility of engagement materials.
- Oakervee Review February 2020 Douglas Oakervee CBE, FREng December 2019
- Safe at heart delivery framework
- CEO personal commitments to health and safety
- Safe at heart messaging/areas of accountability
- I care conference video; You count conference video; We matter conference video
- HS2 leadership shared commitment to Safe at heart
- Post-conference leadership facilitation pack
- I care conversation pack; You count conversation pack ; We matter conversation pack
- Safe at heart conference event closer
- Delivering the Safe at heart transformation plan for the Stations Team