Compass Group Canada: what a potential H + S culture award winner looks like

Aug 06, 2015

award winnerEvery year, as senior management and hundreds of others look on at Compass Group Canada's annual conference, one person from among the company's 29,000 employees will receive the Crystal Award for outstanding contribution to health and food safety. It's an essential moment in the organization's ongoing commitment to enrich its health and safety culture.

Compass Group Canada, a leading foodservice and support services company, is itself hopeful of receiving an award two months from now. The company is putting its best foot forward to receive the inaugural Canada's Best Health + Safety Culture Award (for more on the company, see "About Compass Group Canada," below).

Part of the prestigious annual Canada's Safest Employers Awards program, this new category recognizes organizational culture's essential role in health and safety. Sponsored by Levitt Safety, the award is one of three initiatives of Ontario's CEO Health + Safety Leadership Network.

WSPS Network News recently spoke with Dagmar Wilhelm, the senior director of risk management for Compass Group Canada, about its journey towards a sustainable health and safety culture, and why it chose to apply for Canada's Best Health + Safety Culture Award.

How the commitment began

The company's corporate commitment to creating a health and safety culture was initially based on the recognition that, from a number of perspectives, injuries are just bad for business. When Wilhelm joined Compass Group Canada's Canadian operations in 2003, a food safety culture already existed in Quality Assurance. Her role was to create a similar culture in health and safety/return to work throughout the organization.

At the time, the health and safety program at Compass Group Canada was not as well defined. That's changed, especially under the direction of CEO Saajid Khan. The number one guiding principle for Compass Group worldwide is now "Safety, Health, and Environment first, never to compromise the health and safety of our customers or our people, and to manage responsibly the impact our business has on the environment." Accompanying the principle, says Wilhelm, is "a whole system of reporting tools" that help to operationalize health and safety in all aspects of the business.

The principle is quoted in presentations, training, proposals, contracts with vendors, etc. "It's helpful and powerful in many ways," says Wilhelm.

How Compass Group Canada began living the commitment

"The process started with a gap analysis of what we needed and what we didn't have," says Wilhelm. One outcome from the gap analysis was new health and safety training tools that ensure employees have the knowledge and skills to perform their jobs in a consistently safe manner. "You can't expect a change in a behaviour or a process until you teach someone how to do it," says Wilhelm.

Other outcomes include the following:

  • a living health and safety policy that sets out specific roles and responsibilities for associates, and managers and supervisors. "We took a position a few years ago where we said, 'Let's be very specific here. What do we expect?' On the first page of our policy it's laid out there, who does what."
  • policies and procedures that create a safe environment for raising health and safety concerns - and possible solutions.
  • using leading indicators to identify prevention opportunities early.
  • more corporate health and safety professionals for specific sites and for field support.
  • more corporate associates, including return to work managers, to facilitate the return to work process, as part of broader injury prevention initiatives.
  • a claims management process in which in-house claims team share information from accident investigation reports with health and safety team members.
  • unit visits by health and safety managers, both announced and unannounced. "I go out myself on a regular basis to units to find out how we are doing and which tools work well and which don't. It's a good reality check."
  • third party audits that provide objective and informed assessments. Third party audits are conducted against prescribed standards in quality assurance, health and safety, and environmental management. The auditors visit a representative sample of operating units to measure unit performance against a preset questionnaire of company standards, and report the results to senior leadership.

Some units initially perceived the visits and audits as negative, says Wilhelm. But as the health and safety culture grew, the perception changed. "For 99% of our units, I think the health and safety managers are appreciated and considered colleagues. On site visits managers and associates feel comfortable asking questions and receiving feedback."

According to Wilhelm, one of the strongest drivers of Compass Group Canada's health and safety culture is recognition, "just bringing to everyone's attention when someone has done a great job in a safe manner and demonstrated safe behaviour." Recognition reinforces expectations that people will work safely and report unsafe conditions. It also visibly demonstrates the company's commitment to its guiding principle. The annual crystal award may be the pinnacle of recognition, but Wilhelm places just as much value on "just saying thank you to an associate in your unit who is mindful about doing something safely."

Why Compass Group Canada decided to apply for Canada's Best Health + Safety Culture award

"We felt ready for it," says Wilhelm. "We have moved from a reactive health and safety model to a more proactive model. For instance, we're seeing our units contacting us for input instead of waiting for us to contact them, and our leadership taking a more active role on a day-to-day basis. They're approaching associates and asking, 'How are you doing today, is there anything you'd like to change to make your job safer?'"

What will Compass Group Canada do with the outcome of the competition, whether the company wins or not?

"For me, the first win was to get support from management to apply for it, and then complete the questionnaire… We have nothing to lose. We can only win from going through the exercise of researching our response to each question."

"If we don't win, then perhaps we can network with and learn from the winner. Maybe it's a company we already work with, or a business partner."

Asked what advice she would offer others, and Wilhelm responds without hesitating. "First, have patience. It takes time to change a culture, to see and feel it. Second, prepare solid business cases. Over the years, my team was able to grow because of the business cases we made. You need metrics, metrics, metrics. Analyze and formulate them in a way executives can understand, appreciate and incorporate into the larger corporate strategy."

About Compass Group Canada

Compass Group Canada is the nation's leading foodservice and support services company, with 2300 locations across the country. The organization is one of Mediacorp Canada Inc.'s Top 100 Employer, an honour also achieved in 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

Its operating companies and markets served include:

  • Canteen Vending Services (vending services)
  • Compass Leisure & Entertainment (sports, cultural, entertainment dining and catering)
  • Eurest Dining, Gourmet Cuisine, Restaurant Associates (business and industry dining)
  • Chartwells (K-12, colleges and universities)
  • Marquise Hospitality, Morrison (healthcare, hospitals, acute care)
  • Crothall (healthcare facilities management)
  • ESS Support Services (mining, remote camps, offshore operations)
  • Foodbuy (purchasing)
  • Levy (sports and entertainment)
  • Eurest Services (business and industry support services and facilities management).

Compass Group Canada is a part of U.K.-based Compass Group PLC, which employs more than 500,000 people in around 50 countries.