In our 2016 Silver Leaf Awards profile series we’re sharing insights from the Calgary communicators behind the winning submissions. This week Shauna Lowry from Suncor shares her perspective, including details of the winning project.
Q: Tell us about your project and its objective.
A: In 2014, Suncor was shaken by the tragic loss of three employees and two contractors at its oil sands operations north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. In response, a Safety Step Change Task Force was created to address the cultural changes required to improve safety performance.
Through extensive research, it became apparent employees required timely, transparent and two-way communications with their supervisors. It also became apparent that leaders felt they could improve their skills and confidence to engage in effective two-way dialogue.
To respond to this concern, we created Leadership Communication: Meaningful Conversations.
Suncor’s award winning communications
Q: What did you feel most proud of in this project?
A: There are many things to be proud of. I think four defining moments for me included:
- The passion and commitment from the project team who came together across multiple functions to collaborate and build a solution. So many talented people worked on this project and shared in its success.
- The commitment from senior leadership to dedicate time and resources for all supervisors to participate and engage in the training. This really showed the value of safety and communications across Suncor.
- Feedback we received from leaders who participated in the program. One participant indicated on their feedback form, “This is the best course I have ever taken. I wish I had this information sooner and I really hope this is the direction Suncor is taking, overall, to change behaviours and shift our culture”.
- The step change we saw in our safety performance. In 2015, Oil Sands recorded the lowest recordable injury frequency for employees since 2008. Our total injury frequency for 2015 was 22 per cent lower than the same period in 2014.
Q: What was a key challenge you faced?
A: First of all, we were building a training program for all frontline supervisors during an economic downturn. We needed to think creatively to develop a program that was cost-effective and delivered tangible results.
It was also challenging to manage the complexities of logistics for training over 500 supervisors on competing shifts. However, it was the support of senior leadership and feedback from peers who participated in the program that ensured all supervisors participated in the training.
We were also conscious of the opportunity to provide this training throughout the organization in the future. After completing training for the identified audience, the training is now available for frontline leaders company-wide.
Shauna Lowry, Manager, Employee & Sustainability Communications Relations, Suncor
Q: Was there anything particularly creative or innovative you can share?
A: Our goal from the beginning was to do something different with our training to ensure participants could apply what they learned back on the job.
In our program development, we:
- Ensured there was more time for practicing and applying the skills they were learning throughout the training
- Ensured there was a mandatory half day follow-up session, six weeks after the first day of training, to reinforce the behaviours and assess how supervisors were applying what they learned, and
- Ensured the scenarios incorporated into the training were relevant for frontline supervisors in an operating environment.
One of the most innovative components of the program was the mandatory participation of managers as mentors for their supervisors. We required managers of participants to complete a webinar that outlined their role in supporting their direct report before they attended the program.
The webinar outlined the material of the course, the key concepts and what the manager was required to do pre, during and post training to support their direct report—the participant. Managers of participants were expected to become mentors of the course and models of the required behaviours. This provided additional support and guidance for participants to apply what they had learned and build their skill sets. The managers also have access to the tools provided in the program to use with their own communications.
Q: If you had to use one word to describe this project what would it be?
Is that cheating since it is part of the name of the training program? IABC/Calgary – no Shauna, not at all!
Q: Why is winning a Silver Leaf Award significant for your communications career?
A: As a team, we are proud to win a Silver Leaf. It recognizes the accomplishments of our communications program and provides a platform for sharing best practices with other communicators. As a peer-reviewed process, it is also wonderful to be recognized by colleagues within the profession.
Thank you Shauna Lowry and the team at Suncor for their time responding to our questions!
Silver Leaf is IABC Canada’s premiere professional awards program celebrating excellence in business communication. It’s a chance for communicators working in all disciplines to receive national industry recognition for outstanding work in the field of communications.
“Congratulations to all 2016 Silver Leaf Award winners,” says Tracy Fox, IABC Silver Leaf Co-Chair. “The quality of work our members produce is excellent and really demonstrates the quality of communications professionals in Canada.”
To learn more about the Silver Leaf Awards click here.