Health insurer HBF and miner BHP Billiton are turning away from a singular focus on annual performance reviews in favour of more regular and personal engagement with staff.
HBF managing director Rob Bransby and BHP Billiton Iron Ore general manager of Mining Area C Johnny Velloza told a Networking WA event held in Perth today the shift was taking place, in part, to reduce worker stress.
It’s understood neither company has plans to abolish key performance indicators or formal reviews, but both are investigating ways to improve communication and address people’s mental wellbeing through more frequent interactions between bosses and their teams.
“Australia loses three days per year per employee because of work-related stress, which is caused by poor leadership and is really quite sad,” Mr Bransby said.
He said HBF had moved to a system where managers were expected to promote and measure staff engagement with their work and colleagues, as well as take stock of their own leadership style and how it affected others.
“We manage our organisation on engagement scores ... we take that so seriously it’s the first thing we talk about in meetings and it’s the reason why you may not stay in an organisation,” Mr Bransby said
“More importantly it highlights ... how if you’re not a great leader, if you’re not an engaging leader you won’t survive in our environment.
“The next evolution of that for us is to get away from this annual performance review structure, which is stressful in itself and it doesn’t promote good, honest, robust discussion regularly.”
Mr Velloza said BHP was also introducing personal discussions that relied on more frequent interactions and a less formal attitude to appraisals at work.
He said as part of changes to BHP’s global leadership training programs more emphasis had been put on empowering managers to deftly deal with conflict between staff members and stress through regular one-on-one conversations.
He said BHP had also started putting a greater focus on hiring candidates with character and leadership capabilities, in addition to seeking experience and skills.
As part of ongoing work to improve mental health for fly-in, fly-out employees, Mr Velloza said BHP was planning what is believed to be the first gathering place of its kind at a mine.
“We’re in the final throes of putting together (the) first Men’s Shed on a mine site in Australia,” he said.
BHP has been working with the not for profit Australian Men’s Shed Association to install a ‘shed’ at an as-yet unnamed mine site in Western Australia.
“We have a couple of committed people on site who have said that this is a really good idea and they’re actually driving this program so we can give a group of like-minded individuals an opportunity to spend time together after hours and share ideas and do stuff around the camp,” Mr Velloza said.
Mr Bransby said while initiatives aimed at improving mental health were often derogatively referred to as “fluffy”, companies were increasingly realising their value as studies had shown corporate wellness programs can return $6 for every $1 invested.
“We have a big challenge ahead of us in corporate Australia and that is we go through economic cycles and (in a low) the first thing we drop off is people issues...people refer to it as the fluffy stuff,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be described like that anymore, it’s a cost of doing business now to have happy, healthy people.”