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Delivering the Safe at heart transformation plan for the Stations Team

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Safe at heart represents HS2’s health, safety and wellbeing brand, philosophy and strategic framework for delivering the goal: to create a railway designed, built and operated to the highest health, safety and security standards.

Following a refresh of the branding in early 2020 the ‘I care, You count, We matter’ strapline was launched at the March 2020 Safe at heart Conference to develop a positive health, safety and wellbeing culture across the programme.

Safety teams embedded within the project teams were responsible for rolling out the brand refresh to their teams. This paper describes the approach taken by the Stations Safety Team to engage and communicate the ‘I care, You count, We matter’ message across the 110 colleagues in the Stations Team. A programme of 35 workshops including 6-10 people each facilitated engaging conversations, resulting in a series of actions and discussion points. In the recent employee engagement survey 100% of people in the Stations Team reported understanding what Safe at heart means to them.

Lessons learned are shared on the importance of allowing adequate time to facilitate the delivery of the update, leadership, and administrative support in ensuring successful delivery, and some activities that ensured the message became engrained in regular business activities. Any future construction / engineering project looking to mature its health, safety and wellbeing culture could benefit from reading this paper. This paper will also be relevant to other industries who are also looking to mature their culture.

Background and industry content

Safe at heart is HS2’s pan-project health, safety and wellbeing brand and philosophy [1]. It represents the HS2 goal: to create a railway designed, built, and operated to the highest health, safety, and security standards.

Safe at heart was created with input from industry associations representing the supply chain and launched in 2015. Five years later as the Project moved from enabling works into main works it was recognised that the time was right to refresh the brand to reconnect with people across the HS2 family. HS2 leadership saw health and safety, through the transformation of Safe at heart, as a driver of delivery excellence, not just in the early stages of the programme, but through its entire lifecycle.

A refresh of the brand was launched in Spring 2020. The aim was to mobilise the Safe at heart approach to build HS2 safely, facilitating all tiers of the supply chain to be construction ready and improve H&S performance across HS2 and the supply chain, whilst also recognising the impact of HS2 on neighbours and communities.

Figure 1 shows the strapline which resulted from the Safe at heart refresh exercise.

Picture of Safe at heart strapline I care, You count, We matter
Figure 1: The refreshed Safe at heart strapline – I care, You count, We matter

This refreshed Safe at heart strapline was rolled out initially to all HS2 Ltd staff (the Client body). This is being followed by further workshops with the wider HS2 supply chain which are still ongoing.

This paper sets out how that programme was put into action by the Stations teams within HS2 Ltd.

Approach – Delivering Safe at heart to the Stations Team

The Stations Team 

The corporate Safety and Assurance team developed the programme-wide safe at heart approach and collateral to support the delivery to the teams. Locally, safety colleagues embedded in the teams facilitated its delivery to their teams.

The HS2 Stations Team consists of approximately 120 colleagues from a matrix style organisation covering many disciplines. Hence, delivery of the Safe at heart transformation messages was challenging. Effective engagement with colleagues was made more complicated due to the timing which occurred during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The HS2 Stations safety team is a small team of three, hence good planning was key to allow individuals to facilitate the workshops, and administrative support was also identified as being required to assist with organisation of meetings and attendees.

Engaging Leadership

A key task was to engage with the Stations Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and gain their understanding of the transformation plan and agree a delivery process that was both achievable and effective that they could support in driving through to the rest of the Stations Team. The Corporate Safety and Assurance Team produced initial awareness/introductory information which was used to brief the SLT and gain their support for the proposed approach – a series of workshops requiring their commitment and attendance.


Delivery of the transformation plan was originally considered for a rapid roll-out across Summer of 2020. It soon became clear this was not achievable due to other pressures in the business, so with agreement from the Corporate Safety and Assurance Team, the Stations Safety Team determined a more gradual approach covering 3 phases – ‘I care’, summer 2020; ‘You count’, autumn & winter 2020; ‘We matter’, spring & summer 2021. Extending the time period in this way facilitated three benefits:

  1. It allowed the workshops to be better planned, including time to prepare and trial run presentations, a longer period to engage with the team, and a time to review post each workshop and post each series
  2. The Stations Team colleagues had longer to absorb the messages provided, for the language of the transformation to be heard over a period of time and help it embed in the team
  3. It took pressure off everyone involved to allow the workshops to be approached with professionalism and enthusiasm and not as a performance target.

Presentation Packs

For each element of the transformation message the Stations Safety Team tailored the Presentation packs [2] generated by the HS2 Corporate Safety and Assurance Team to maximise how the Stations Team could relate to the content. This was led by one colleague but then reviewed the other members of the Team who each added to the refinement of the presentation so that the finished article benefitted from having group input and all members of the Team had a connection to and familiarity with the content.


From May 2020 through to July 2021 the Stations Safety Team ran 35 workshops in 3 phases covering each topic – I care, You count, and We matter. Each workshop contained a small group (6-10 people) to facilitate engaging conversations, so everybody felt included. For every workshop there was SLT attendance and support to demonstrate their commitment and also that Safe at heart is about everyone at HS2. The Stations team continue to talk about I care, You count, We matter and are seeing the culture desired starting to emerge.

The workshops were organised with administrative support from the Stations Team Administrator who assisted with identifying dates, invites to the SLT, and all members of the team, and in tracking attendance so new colleagues and those who had missed original sessions could be identified and brought into a further workshop. During each workshop the Stations Safety Team agreed that one person would lead, and a second would principally record notes. This allowed the lead to relax and speak naturally knowing that a colleague was capturing all the key discussion points for review later.

As agreed during the initial planning, each workshop was supported by a SLT member to demonstrate their support for the message. During the workshops the message was introduced by the Stations Safety Team but the SLT member led the conversation and all colleagues given the opportunity to speak up and voice their opinions and ideas. It was important for the conversations to be respectful but open to understand colleagues’ real feelings. This helped with the quality of the conversations and made a real connection to the Team which has been key in ensuring the messages have been embedded and become part of our daily approach. Whilst ideas and discussion supporting actions were encouraged, these were not the primary output of the workshops. The most important goal was to simply start the conversation, to introduce the new language and approach of the transformation plan to the team.

Post Workshop Review – Discussion Points and Actions

Following each workshop, a short review was held by the Stations Safety Team, to compare notes from which a short set of key discussion points and actions were recorded as well as a word cloud created to reflect the session. A follow up email was issued to all colleagues who attended with a confirmation of what had been discussed, demonstrated by the actions agreed to be taken forward and the word cloud. This initial feedback was shared with 24 hours of the workshop, helping to demonstrate the importance of this conversation. Feedback was also requested and a simple online for link used to share with all attendees allowing individuals to reflect back on the conversation and share any additional views.

Word clouds were created to capture the discussion. An example Word Cloud following a ‘We matter’ workshop is shown in Figure 2 below.

Words  from attendees captured in a word cloud reflecting a discussion from a We matter workshop
Figure 2: Example word cloud from a ‘We matter’ workshop

In considering the actions identified during the workshops, the following approach was applied:

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – sense check the action isn’t already in existence and/or being worked on elsewhere – Some suggestions were already in place however communication challenges meant they weren’t understood by the team
  • Be realistic about what you can deliver as a team and also engage with other parts of the business where the action clearly sits with them
  • Quickly address the quick wins and celebrate those with the team
  • Ensure what is decided is well communicated back to the team with explanations to advise why some suggestions were not taken forward.

The actions recorded were collated to a single list which was then reviewed and refined with the SLT. The actions were categorised into 3 variants –

  1. Quick win short term actions we could easily implement
  2. Medium to long term actions we could implement with planning
  3. Actions that needed support or ownership from other parts of the business

The actions and a general review of each phase of the transformation completed were shared with the whole Team as part of the repeat communication to help embed and engrain the message.

Outside of the workshops both the Stations Safety Team and SLT continued to talk and reflect upon the workshops, the actions, and the underlying messages of ‘I care, You count, and We matter’.


Statistically, regular surveys completed across the Project by the Corporate Safety and Assurance Team show that understanding of the Safe at heart message is higher amongst the Stations team than other parts of the business with a 100% positive response to the relevant question in the HS2 Employee Engagement Survey in January 2021.

Extract from HS2 Employee Engagement Survey – January 2021 is shown in Figure

Extract from employee engagement survey showing percentage on staff understanding the Safe at heart message
Figure 3: Extract from HS2 Employee Engagement Survey – January 2021

Anecdotally, the success of the Stations Team delivery of the Safe at heart transformation can be shown by the thoughts of some of the workshop participants:

Lead Architect – Midlands Stations

“I’ve been so inspired by the unstinting dedication and energy that has gone into the ‘I Care, You Count, We Matter’ initiative.
Be it through the online learning modules, internal communications or the interactive workshops the clear message that is conveyed by those six simple words goes straight to the heart of what we should all care about, our humanity and our environment!
I feel privileged to be part of a transformational legacy that will in the future be looked upon as having been seminal!”

Stations Operations and Commercial Graduate

“I thought the session allowed a positive open discussion to develop, for all corners of the team to feel listened to and to have genuine input. For me that was key. To both learn from other’s experiences in the sessions and to stimulate ideas was fabulous.
I hope this work continues as I feel collective reflection does us as individuals and as a company that wants to look after its workforce the world of good, leaving that positive legacy, keeping everyone safe, well and able to enjoy their work.”

A noticeable change has also been seen in language being used across the Stations Team with colleagues often referring to the ‘I care, You count, We matter’ messaging and applying them to meeting conversations and decisions. There have been many Values Moments (short messages at the start of regular meetings) based on the Safe at heart messaging and I care, You count, We matter has featured regularly in the nominations of colleagues for the Project Values Awards in which Stations colleagues have featured regularly and successfully.

Lessons learned and successes

Senior Support was key to driving the message and commitment: The implementation of any message needs full backing by the leaders of the team. The Stations Senior Leadership Team consistently supported the messages being shared with the wider Stations Team. This demonstrated their own commitment and supported the importance of the messages. The HS2 organisational structure was suited to the delivery of a cascaded message with Directors leading conversations with Senior Managers who in turn were able to support these messages to the wider Team. The HS2 Stations Team are also building a “Team of Teams” approach where all colleagues are encouraged to speak freely in workshops and share ideas across the team.

Tailoring the message: The main presentation packs were created by the Corporate Safety and Assurance Team. Although these were developed with consultation of the Stations Team, they were deliberately given a general feeling to allow teams to pick and mix and insert any relevant local information. This allowed the Stations Safety Team to tailor the message with examples that the Stations Team had an existing connection to whilst maintaining a consistent corporate message throughout.

Multiple messaging counted: It was important to play back the conversations and repeat the message to the team in different formats. In advance and following the workshops the team meetings and Station newsletter were used to share the refreshed branding. This helped a regular flow of messages to the team and the different format helped keep the messaging fresh and engaging. Similarly references back to I care, You count, We matter in Values moments and team conversations were regularly used so the team became familiar with the revised branding.[3],[4],[5],[6]

Workshops aimed to start conversations not to target a tangible output: The primary aim of the workshops was to start a conversation. It was acknowledged that each session was different and that was ok, and whilst notes and actions were being taken these were a product of the conversations and not the primary aim. Workshops like this may be perceived by some as not having tangible outputs, so it was especially important to acknowledge that actually starting the conversation was the primary output we wanted to achieve. For us it was also creating a safe environment where people are comfortable talking about how they are feeling and ideas and thoughts they wanted to share.

Preparation and practice supported smooth running:. From previous experience it was identified that thorough preparation would be an important factor in supporting successful outcomes. In the planning, additional time was factored in for preparation and review of the presentations and a practice dry run was held within the team to help iron out timing issues and help the presentation of the workshop flow better. Time was also allowed after each workshop to collate notes from the facilitators and draft quick feedback to attendees. This allowed quick delivery of ongoing actions and results with the SLT. Time was also set time aside at the end of the series of workshops to look back and identify key learnings, opportunities and ideas that could be taken forward in a single presentation pack. This meant the delivery of the whole series of workshops took longer than had initially been considered, however the robustness of the outputs supports the importance of thoroughness over speed.

Administrative support required was significant: For successful delivery of any workshop / series of workshops, administrative support is an easily overlooked factor. The Safe at heart workshops were organised to provide a variety of times and days to meet the personal needs of the wider team, especially important in a climate of lockdown restrictions and blended ways of working. Administrative support in facilitating the workshops and identifying the right people and times to attend was key. During every session support for facilitation was essential as it would have been difficult to lead a good quality conversation and make good quality notes at the same time. Having the right support present, with individuals knowing their roles, helped the delivery of the workshops and improved the experience of the attendees.

Mixing up groups achieved better discussion: One value of the workshops was that they brought together people who didn’t necessarily work closely on a daily basis and encouraged them to have open conversations. Consciously mixing the groups created interesting dynamics and helped avoid sub-cultures and group think. Patience and honesty were important and by mixing up the groups different views were expressed which enriched the conversations. Note, however, that not all people are used to, or comfortable with, mixing of groups and the facilitator had to be aware not to make individuals feel uncomfortable or “on the spot”; the active facilitation during the workshop becomes important to maintain integrity and respect in the workshop should differences of opinion and views create tension.

Post workshop wash-ups are important: These sessions allowed the facilitators to pull out the key discussion points and actions, and also refine the presentation if needed. Once all workshops were completed all of the actions were pulled together in a presentation and grouped them under themes as described above short term, medium to long term and those for others to drive and support. Specific time was dedicated to enable the SLT to review the actions. Using the wash-up to set parameters around this review assisted the SLT in conducting an effective review and supported the quality of the messaging back to the wider team.

Do not be too action output focused: Setting an expectation or requirement for outputs may stifle conversation by focusing people’s thoughts on actions rather than just thinking about the context of the conversation. Through facilitation and conversation, it is possible to generate actions in an incidental way. The notes taken during the workshops identified ideas for actions that were discussed in the last part of each session – this helped the attendees review how the message had developed through their conversations. The actions were then taken forward for further review with the SLT and repeated back to the wider Team as part of the ongoing messaging and demonstration that individuals’ ideas were being acted upon.


Whilst the HS2 Stations delivery of the Safe at heart transformation plan was a specific element of HS2’s cultural development there are general recommendations that are applicable to other projects and programmes including:

  • Develop a plan to determine what success will look like – this will assist in successful delivery of the messages you want to land. For the Safe at heart transformation this was gaining SLT support, completion of workshops, engagement with the whole team, communication of agreed actions and ongoing conversations with all colleagues.
  • Spend time and give good thought to your stakeholders and the team you’ll need to support successful delivery; ensure there is adequate understanding and support in all key areas. Our messages and communications were tailored to the team, using examples they could connect to, and repeating the messages across several platforms from different levels within the team so that the language of the transformation has become familiar to the team.
  • Create a realistic time-frame giving enough time to prepare and land the message and then repeat the message in other settings. Give people time to get used to the branding and language. This also allows for the consideration of what other tasks people are involved with and their availability to attend / support the activity.
  • Include time to review the actions and maintain communication back to the team as to how the plan is progressing. We found that playing back the discussion points / actions and the visualisation of the conversation using a word cloud shared with the attendees within 24 hours of the workshop demonstrated to them that this was important and long-term, not a tick box exercise.
  • Consider the possible needs of all your team – everyone is different and individual, and the value of the workshops was to create a conversation for everyone to feel that they could participate in directly. The offer of ongoing email and feedback allowed individuals to reflect back and share additional thoughts.
  • Consider those who have joined the culture journey mid-journey – new starters, internal changes etc; it’s important to give everyone the opportunity to participate in the same conversations that other members of the team have had previously. Additional sessions need to be considered and scheduled.


  • HS2 Stations Health and Safety Team
  • HS2 Stations Senior Leadership Team
  • HS2 Stations Team Administrator
  • HS2 Corporate Safety and Assurance Team


[1] Langmead S (2021) Building and sustaining a health and safety brand that connects everyone to being Safe at heart

[2] I care, You count, We matter presentation packs

[3] I care, You count action presentation pack

[4] January 2021 Back to work pack

[5] Interchange article

[6] Stations newsletters