Hawaiian Cement Effective Communication

Many years ago Hawaiian Cement employees designated four main values their organization would uphold: Trust, Excellence, Aloha and Adaptability. Today the organization is using Caterpillar’s effective communication tools, Speak Up!, Listen Up! and Recognize It!, to fortify each of its core values by building a proactive safety culture.

Setting the Tone

“SULU-R“ is the name Hawaiian Cement employees use to expeditiously refer to the programs that are transforming the company’s safety culture. Short for Speak Up!, Listen Up! and Recognize It!, SULU-R has helped set the rules for engagement about safety in a culture where open communication doesn’t always come naturally.

“As a cultural norm, we in Hawaii have a group mentality perspective, so speaking up about something focuses on the individual and is uncomfortable for many of us,“ said John DeLong, Hawaiian Cement president. “We needed a tool to help us overcome that cultural tendency, so employees have the skills to feel comfortable sharing what’s on their mind when they see a fellow worker doing something that isn’t as safe as it could be.“

In a one-week period, all 250 employees participated in SULU-R training. The programs are also used as part of new employee onboarding and in annual refresher training for all employees in the vertically integrated construction materials company which supplies cement, aggregate and ready-mix concrete.

Through brief videos that demonstrate a variety of job site scenarios in which discussion about safety may be challenging, employees learn why traditional approaches to safety conversations often fail and how Caterpillar’s simple formula for engagement is more effective.

Mastering the Message

Speak Up! and Listen Up! prepare both parties, the messenger and the receiver, to handle feedback in a way that demonstrates care and concern, not criticism. Recognize It! builds on foundational communication skills by adding an element critical to sustaining cultural improvement: Positive recognition for good performance.

All together, the programs empower employees to speak up when they see something that isn’t right, receive safety-related feedback in a mature fashion and create a culture that recognizes people for what they do right, rather than focusing on what goes wrong.

To shore up the cultural shift and ensure the new skills would stick, Hawaiian Cement spent three months following up on its initial training in weekly departmental meetings with role play scenarios that reinforced Speak Up! and Listen Up! methodologies.

“We picked some real live experiences that people run into and they really got into it,“ DeLong said. “Our biggest challenge was keeping the sessions to a reasonable amount of time because it was so fun they wanted to keep going.“

Hawaiian Cement’s own employees were coached by a Caterpillar Safety Services consultant to deliver the full training going forward and to integrate components of the programs in regular departmental meetings.

Changing the Culture

The programs focus on safety topics, but the skills learned can be applied to any area of business. When employees see that their safety feedback results in positive action, they become more likely to share ideas for improving production, quality and customer service. The result is a culture of involvement that optimizes interaction, welcomes diversity and seizes every opportunity for improvement.

“SULU-R will help us way beyond safety,“ DeLong said. “Our hope is that we’ve created an environment in which employees are never hesitant to ask questions and provide feedback, no matter the issue.“

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