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Embedding core values through the Exception Performance Awards

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Team Old Oak are passionate about embedding the HS2 core values (Integrity, Leadership, Respect and Safety). To reinforce the importance of the values as a primary enabler of success, the Team Old Oak Exceptional Performance Awards were introduced.

This peer recognition scheme works because it allows colleagues to recognise and celebrate each other’s successes, while striving towards achieving similar recognition through their own endeavours. This not only reinforces the importance of operating according to the HS2 Core Values but demonstrates, and rewards, working in a way that exemplifies them.

These values underpin the collaborative working that is needed to successfully deliver the new Old Oak Common Station. While integrity, leadership and respect are not overtly related to safety, each of these values form the foundations of good workforce engagement, which drives safety performance. Therefore, by promoting all the HS2 values through this initiative, it is ensured that the new station is delivered in a caring and safe manner.

Background and industry context

Old Oak Common Station construction project is part of the High Speed Two (HS2) phase one works, being delivered by the OOC Integrated Project Team (IPT) – Team Old Oak – including Balfour Beatty Vinci Systra joint venture (BBVS JV) and WSP.

At Team Old Oak, a huge amount of effort has gone into installing a culture of collaboration. Rather than it being disparate organisations, consisting of client, contractor, sub-contractor and supply chain, an Integrated Project Team (IPT) was introduced. This situates all employees as part of the same team and seeks to reinforce the idea of all working together towards the same objectives, and in line with the same core values.

The HS2 core values provide the basis for how the IPT operates, and the values are embedded into all project activities. The Team Old Oak Exceptional Performance Awards were introduced as a way of identifying and rewarding behaviour that is in line with these values.

Anyone within the IPT can nominate a fellow employee whose behaviour exemplifies one or more of the HS2 core values for an award. Rather than the traditional top down approach to employee recognition, peer recognition enables wider participation and greater inclusivity by rewarding day-to-day behaviours that aren’t always apparent to management. This helps to foster a collaborative workforce who all feel engaged and included in the decision-making process. It also enhances engagement and reinforces and rewards best practice. This is perhaps most significant in the context of safety.

Reinforcing and celebrating safe practices ensures that safety is kept top of mind and fosters a culture of safe working that protects employees, contractors, stakeholders, and the wider community.

How it works

Each month, members of the IPT are asked to nominate colleagues who they think have made an outstanding contribution to the HS2 core values. To encourage participation, reminders are sent to the entire OOC IPT, including HS2, Network Rail, BBVS and the supply chain, encouraging them to nominate individuals who they think represent the HS2 core values. Figure 1 shows the call for nominations poster that is emailed to all IPT employees.

Picture of email calling for Team Old Oak Nominations
Figure 1: Call for nominations email and link, sent to all employees in IPT

At Old Oak Common Station, it is essential to work as one joined-up team, and opening these awards to everyone who is involved on the project, exemplifies this spirit of collaborative working. This also helps to communicate the HS2 core values throughout the wider team, as well as celebrating success and sharing examples of best practice.

To ensure there is no favouritism or bias in the judging process, nominations are reviewed by a rotating panel of judges from within the senior management team and a guest judge from within the IPT.

Award winners are announced at the last Team Old Oak Town Hall Meeting of each month. Held every Thursday at 4pm, the weekly townhalls are an opportunity for the whole OOC IPT to come together to hear important project news, work progress updates and meet new starters. This increases engagement within the wider project team and provides an opportunity to communicate important project news and deliverables with the entire workforce. During the last townhall of every month, the list of nominees for the Team Old Oak Award are announced, followed by the winner announcement and a short description of why the winner was selected. Announcing winners publicly showcases examples of best practice. It also adds prestige and ensures that successes can be shared and celebrated by the wider team.

The quarterly newsletter also lists all the employees who have taken home an award during the three months prior to publication.

Screen shot of Teams monthly live employee Town Hall
Figure 2: Guest judge announces winners at the end of each month during a live employee Town Hall

Each winner also receives a £100 Amazon gift card, which allows them to choose their own reward from the safety of their own homes.

Picture of award certificates presented to staff
Figure 3: Safety related Exceptional Performance Awards (from employee Town Hall presentations)

Lessons learned and successes

Since the award programme was launched in April 2020, 110 nominations have been received and 18 awards presented. Almost 1/3 of these have been safety related.

This has helped ensure that safe behaviour is celebrated and rewarded throughout the IPT. It has provided figureheads for safety that come from all levels of the organisation, from apprentices to senior management. This shows all employees that, no matter who they are, their behaviour can make a difference and be held up as an example of success within the business. The awards encourage direct feedback to senior leadership and show that the contributions of individuals and teams is heard, and their feedback is recognised.

Initially the awards were only open to BBVS. However, because of the size of the Old Oak Common Station Project, and the diversity of people and organisations working on its construction, it was soon realised that a more collaborative approach needed to be instilled. Opening up the awards to the wider IPT helped to achieve this in a number of ways:

  1. It reinforced that this was one Integrated Project Team working towards the same collective goals and objectives.
  2. It gave all members of the IPT an opportunity to highlight successes from within their operating environments and instilled a sense of belonging and recognition for all.
  3. It reinforced the collective values and provided demonstrable examples of working in line with them.

When the awards were launched, the judging panel consisted of members of the BBVS senior management team and each month winners were announced by the Stakeholder Manager. However, to foster a stronger sense of ownership throughout the IPT, there is now a rotating panel of judges, with a different guest judge announcing winners at the end of each month. A permanent panel member has been retained to brief the guest judge and ensure consistent high-standards are maintained.


It is well understood that rewarding and recognising employee achievements enhances organisational performance and job satisfaction. However, more effort is often given to pointing out poor performance, rather than celebrating successes. Formal evaluations or assessments, and traditional rewards schemes are often managed by senior leadership and can exclude people on-the-ground. A peer recognition scheme overcomes that and provides total inclusivity.

It is important to create a sense of ownership for an employee awards scheme, similar to that achieved through the Team Old Oak Exceptional Performance Awards. This type of scheme ensures that all employees feel included and able to receive recognition. The key elements to focus on are:

  1. Peer recognition: all employees can nominate colleagues for an award. These awards are made possible as a result of input from employees at all levels of the organisation, and all their views and suggestions are considered.
  2. Inclusion: moving away from having a judging panel that consists of the same members of the senior management team each month. Having a rotating panel enhances ownership and reduces impressions of managerial bias or favouritism.
  3. Reward: as well as the affirmation that comes from being the recipient of an award, monetary rewards or prizes reiterate the value of the achievement and provide further incentive for employees to receive an award.
  4. Celebrating success: announcing award winners publicly, in front of the entire IPT, reinforces the fact that an individual’s achievement is worthy of celebration and acclaim. This motivates others to follow suit, instils a sense of pride and promotes participation.
  5. Promote the awards: publicly announcing winners also provides an opportunity to promote the HS2 values and demonstrate what they look like in practice to the entire IPT on a regular, monthly basis.

In construction, safety is often viewed in terms of the consequences of un-safe behaviour. By promoting safe working practices and rewarding safe behaviours through the awards, it keeps safety top-of-mind and ensures that people aren’t only concerned with what not to do, but actively look for ways to enhance and improve safety in the workplace.


Simon Worraker, BBVS HR and Admin Manager