HSE Knowledge

Awareness through workplace coaching at MSD

One of the activities that the people at iBanx HSE are involved in is workplace coaching. For example, a new work permit process was developed for the pharmaceutical company MSD in Oss (formerly Organon), based on best practices. In the new process, the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved have changed. It’s just one good reason why it makes sense to use iBanx for your workplace coaching. Ed Hustinx explains all about it.

The fact that it is a good idea to support people in the implementation of new processes is nothing new, but far too often, it doesn't happen. Hustinx: “I often wonder why not. Companies neglect to take the time for it or people think that it is not necessary: it all seems so straightforward that people believe they can find their own solutions. But in practice, there are always aspects that people find difficult to understand, or users encounter problems that they cannot solve. Workplace coaching can prevent that.”
The MSD work permit process was designed based on industry best practices. Hustinx: “We provide support in implementation based on our knowledge about the key principles of how processes work. We start by training the users and then we support people in their actual work.” Contrary to what users sometimes think, workplace coaching is not intended to identify people's errors, but to provide support, for example in correctly completing permits. Hustinx: “Where necessary, we provide support on site and conduct discussions with the various parties involved in the work permit process. We bring together permit requesters and issuers, helping to improve the process.” According to Hustinx, workplace coaching is all about understanding the user and offering support in solving problems in order to ensure that people can get on with their work. “You often see that the initial resistance soon disappears.”

As in the whole of the pharmaceutical industry, safety plays a vital role at MSD. In order to improve safety performance, iBanx was approached to conduct an audit. This revealed that responsibilities were unclear and fragmented. Forms were also not being used in a standardized way, so it was clearly time to introduce a new system. Hustinx: “The ultimate objective for any client that starts working with work permits is to increase safety and improve efficiency. This involves effective communication about the tasks that have to be performed in the installation. MSD was already using work permits, but the responsibilities have been redefined and the forms have been changed.”

Hustinx explains that the new working method was not the only reason why workplace coaching was called for at MSD. Another key reason was to demonstrate the management's commitment to people on the work floor. “It is always useful to provide support when there are changes to processes, but it is also an effective way of showing that management invests in its people. This ensures that users start working according to the proper procedures from the outset. You are on hand to intervene and tackle resistance and any problems that may arise and people no longer have to deal with issues that they may have been struggling with for years. People are often unaware of their own automatic behaviour and a different way of working can result in enormous benefits in terms of efficiency and safer working conditions.”

In answer to the question about how iBanx differs from other software suppliers, Hustinx replies that this primarily comes down to its focus on results. “The process needs to be a success and to offer benefits to end users. In the companies we visit, we often hear that new systems are simply rushed in, with no thought for the end user. By offering workplace support, we initiate the process of awareness-raising in which we ask questions of the people involved in the process to find out where the risks are. This prevents people from simply doing nothing or adopting their own approach, which can threaten efficiency and safety. This is an important success factor. Whenever we make an offer to our clients, they are free to make adjustments to fit their own specific situation, but workplace coaching is something we always provide since it is essential for the success of the process of change. A training course may enable you to try out all kinds of interesting hypothetical situations, but the real problems are only encountered in the workplace itself. You can tackle these during workplace coaching.”

Ron Brachten, safety expert at MSD, on his experiences of the workplace coaching provided by iBanx HSE

The role played by iBanx in workplace coaching at MSD involved a process lasting around fifteen months. About 5,000 internal and 1,000 external staff work at the largest location in the Netherlands, and all of these are involved with work permits to some extent. We have identified 550 people who play a role in the work permit system, so it is an enormous job coaching all these people. We have two locations in Oss and two more in Apeldoorn and Schaik, which will make it a time-consuming process. We provide personal coaching to a number of people and then use the Train the Trainer principle. In the departments, we have appointed certain staff to be responsible for transferring knowledge and these are trained by iBanx. They then provide support to the people in the departments. There are already sixty people within the company fulfilling his role.

What benefits does workplace coaching bring to MSD?
With workplace coaching, experienced coaches provide support to employees in their own situation. We have involved iBanx because they understand the instrument and can introduce it to the employees. We could have done it internally, but it would have taken a lot of time to prepare. We do have experience with coaching, but not with this system.
The ultimate benefit, and indeed the idea behind the whole project, is that work can be carried out more safely. This can be accomplished more quickly with effective coaching. We aim to achieve a higher quality level in the work that we do. If the work is done more safely, this also results in an increase in quality over the longer term. We also aim to use this project to raise our employees’ safety awareness.

The users react positively to the support provided because our employees realize that they are working with people who understand the material and can help them to solve the issues they face in their everyday work. Every day, I see the benefits of what the people from IBanx are achieving for us and I am very happy with their contribution. I also see the way they approach things and deal with the findings that emerge from the coaching discussions. Identifying the issue is one thing, but taking the appropriate follow-up action is something quite different. They excel in that. I also like the way in which they contribute ideas. I am personally involved with the new system and also encounter issues that are not directly associated with coaching. iBanx is therefore the perfect partner.  

What changes have you seen since the introduction of workplace coaching?
We have seen an increase in the quality of the work permits and more discussion of risks within the departments. Risks are identified and evaluated. People are forced to consider the issues and we have also noticed in certain areas that people are taking a more active role in the work permits process. The workplace approach encourages departments and people to adopt an active approach to the material. If departments actively work to solve issues, they often identify solutions that enjoy wider support than they would if they came from a consultant. It is much easier to implement solutions if you have developed them yourself. 

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