Over the past three years, OceanaGold has placed huge emphasis on building constructive culture and ensuring its workplaces are psychologically safe. From bolstering its leadership programs, to establishing more inclusive workplace facilities and gaining direct insights from employees, the company is focused on safeguarding – and strengthening – its unique culture.
There has been a stark shift in focus across the mining sector in recent years to place just as much emphasis on the psychological safety and broader health and wellbeing of employees, and not just their physical safety in the workplace.
Psychological safety at work refers to the notion that employees will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, and mistakes. Instead, it nurtures and welcomes experiences, opinions, and beliefs that contribute to a more inclusive workplace.
Inclusive workplaces also drive greater innovation, productivity, performance and ultimately shareholder value.
Executive Vice President and Chief Officer People, Culture and Technology, Graham Almond, said in simple terms, a psychologically safe workplace meant employees could bring their whole selves to work and in turn, help to shape OceanaGold as a work destination of choice.
“Our focus is establishing a sense of belonging, where our people bring out the best in each other, in an environment that fosters diversity, inclusion and creativity, and a culture that encourages people to speak up about behaviour that does not align with our values. This is the commencement of a journey, but we are already seeing the positive impacts of the work done to date,” Mr Almond said.
OceanaGold’s journey to an inclusive culture began in 2019, with its approach cemented in the People & Culture Strategy 2020-2024. The strategy outlines the company’s culture target which aims to ensure that all employees, globally, feel a genuine sense of belonging to a workplace that is built on all the cornerstones of constructive culture: collaboration, cooperation, personal growth, development, curiosity, achievement of goals and alignment of purpose.
As part of this strategy, the company established inclusive culture training, which will be completed by every employee across its global operations. The company also developed a bespoke eLearning module, with real world examples, to build knowledge and skills for all employees in understanding what inclusive culture means, the behaviours that contribute and do not contribute to an inclusive culture, and why speaking up is so important.
Leadership is also a huge focus for the company, with current and future leaders participating in a variety of training centred around what it means to be a values-based, constructive, and capable leader.
“This includes contemporary tools and techniques that enable a constructive culture. For example, the latest module includes a chapter about creating psychological safety for their teams,” Mr Almond said.
To help the company understand if they are on the right track, OceanaGold obtains formal feedback from employees every six months through Culture Pulse surveys, which asks for feedback on the six most impactful casual factors that drive constructive culture for the company, which in turn, promote inclusion:
- Teamwork: the extent to which leaders encourage working as a team, and being supportive and cooperative
- Completing tasks: the extent to which leaders help their team members to solve problems
- Goals: the extent to which leaders set clear expectations
- Consideration: the extent to which leaders are personally supportive and considerate
- Downward communication the effectiveness with which corporate information is communicated by leaders to employees
- Upward communication: the effectiveness of how leaders respond and handle the information they receive from their teams.
These pulse surveys, taken since July 2020, demonstrate continued and marked improvement in OceanaGold’s culture. The greatest improvements have been in consideration by leaders and both downward and upward communication with leaders (e.g., employees’ feeling safe to speak up).
“Leadership is our biggest leaver in driving cultural change. While we’re pleased by progress to date, we know there is still plenty of work to be done,” Mr Almond said.”
OceanaGold also has a company-wide Fair Employment Committee which addresses topics such diversity, equity and inclusion. The Committee is tasked with identifying a series of strategic challenges each year to ensure the company is always working toward being an employment destination of choice. In 2021, the Committee focused on creating opportunities to improve diversity and inclusion and the focus for 2022 is ensuring a psychologically safe work environment.
Mr Almond, who chairs the committee, said it was made up of 12 people from across the company.
“Committee members are empowered to look into their work location, assess the strategic questions and make recommendations to the Executive Leadership Team. Approved scopes of work then fall into the next year’s People and Culture Workplan and diversity, equity and inclusion objectives,” he said.
It’s hands on, but I love the passion of the Committee living our values and desire to make a difference.”