Experts Interview – Frederic Mauron of LafargeHolcim

VirtueSpark Interview - FredericMauron of LafargeHolcim

For resilience, you have to love your people

Frederic Mauron, Head of Health & Safety Systems at LafargeHolcim, speaks in the Experts Interview about the parallels in military and enterprise risk management and his approach on resilience.

VS: Frederic, you are Head of Health & Safety Systems and Processes at LafargeHolcim, and will soon move internally to a Security position. But you also look back on a long career in the French Navy. How is the Military doing, regarding risk and safety management?

In the Military the essence of the job is preparing to fight an enemy that you either know or sometimes don’t know at all. So it is always a balance between the foreseen capability of the enemy and your forces and weaknesses. You have a very clear mission with a truly dedicated team that understands and accepts the risks. Everyone works hard to achieve the mission.

Each time we conducted a mission we had to make sure we would achieve the final effect we wanted to achieve. For that, first thing, a sound mission statement was essential. We had to translate the mission statement into tangible actions that would be executable and that everyone would understand. Then we analyzed the best way to achieve the mission. In this analysis, we used to imagine all potential ways the enemy could oppose our action and use our weaknesses. Here, we identified the risks and decided on the calculated risks we would eventually accept. Even for simple exercises, we were balancing risks and rewards. You simply can’t afford not to have your risks assessed because the lives of your team are always at stake.

The military has a strong risk culture. Since day one in your career you learn to identify and balance risks.

It is also probably much easier to assess risks in the military simply because it is the essence of the job, as opposed to business where a dedicated organization is required for that, possibly creating silos… so one must ensure a very good communication between them. In business, it is a very different paradigm, with, as an example, potentially a high employee turnover: if an employee is unhappy about the situation or his career, he will simply leave the company on short notice.

VS: When you look at the risk, resilience and continuity landscape today, what are your thoughts on where we need to improve?

In many companies there are very nice risk organizations, risk management systems, emergency plans, business resilience and continuity plans in place. The huge risk is that it is nice on paper but remains in the file cabinet (or drive!). Nobody read it, nobody understood it, and when something happens people will be back to firefighting because nothing has been implemented – step by step, with good training, drills and exercises, on a regular basis. So the company or the BU has just passed the audit, fine. But will that give them the expected resilience when the big crisis is coming? Probably not. It reminds me of the famous quote that no plan survives contact with the enemy. If you don’t train your people and make them competent, you can have the best continuity plan on paper, but it won’t work. Implementation is the key.

At LafargeHolcim, BUs are fully aware of that and, thanks to the leadership and full commitment to Health & Safety & Security, they’re shaping their local organisations so that the preparedness is effective and continuously improving.

In the private sector there are important functions dedicated to health and safety, security and compliance, to name a few. But there are many and sometimes heavy, so one needs experts for that. On the other hand, operational managers are very busy and rely a lot on these functions. Risk management has to be applied in business. People in the front line, not only managers, need to be competent in their subject matters, as well as in risk management, so that they can hold their risk ownership, just being supported by function experts. It’s a mindset. That’s our daily endeavor at LafargeHolcim!

 VS: Is then safety management sufficiently recognized in enterprise risk management?

Well, I believe the key for enterprise risk management is to get the right information from the different functions. It is true that it is very much focused on finance. But let’s remember that from an ethical (and legal) perspective it is paramount to protect your people. In addition, safety is also about process safety. In a professional environment major catastrophes can occur if process safety is not properly addressed. Process safety then feeds into reputational and other risks. So it’s not enough to prioritise a risk area, one also needs to consider it as a piece of  the full picture of risks… this is why health & safety should always be the core value for any company: this is clearly the case for us, at LafargeHolcim.

VS: We have seen your speech at this year’s Risk-!n conference, where you said that one key ingredient to resilience is to LOVE your people. What do you mean by that?

It is actually a quote from Hubert Lyautey, a French marshal in the nineteenth century, who was upset that his officers knew the names of their horses better than the names of their soldiers. He was convinced that management must love their people not only for the social aspect but because it is a critical factor for the success of your mission.

Of course, love is not to be taken literally like love between husband and wife. It is more like a father who loves his family. To make your people dedicated to the company you have to look after them and make sure that they come home safely in the evening. But it is also about keeping them happy.

According to Herzberg’s motivation theory, there are the hygiene factors and the motivational factors. Hygiene factors are for example salary, job security, the air conditioner in the office, etc. There are many companies where inexperienced managers just rely on the hygiene factors and believe it is enough. But you will not keep your people by just applying hygiene factors making them satisfied. You only keep your people if they are motivated. And you can only achieve that if they are recognized and fully part of the team. For this, you have to share information, give honest positive feedback, trust, and apply subsidiarity instead of micromanagement. To help your employees in their personal growth is what makes the motivational factors. 

If you don’t give the keys to your people to understand the bigger picture and to feel like an important part of your organization, you will never achieve resilience. They will not ask questions, report foreseeable risks nor make valuable suggestions.

VS: How do you apply it to your own daily business?

For example, in health & safety, we try to implement the “what if” mindset. We want our people to look at their work with a critical eye and to question their own activities against usefulness, complexity and robustness and to come up with suggestions for improvement, in particular to stay safe; we’re collecting those best practices with a user friendly dedicated tool for the entire LafargeHolcim group.

We’re also trying to address the right audience with the right message: as a result, we now have our health & safety standards distributed in cartoon format to facilitate better communication alongside with official documents . This is based on suggestions from our people who pointed out that no one in the field would read extensive technical documents.

Personally, I take time to genuinely ask my team about their problems. I want them to know that I care and that I am interested in them and their issues. These might be any kind of work-related and personal problems. If possible I try to help. But of course I am not superman. The key is to listen, to have a good dialogue and to explain why for example a situation cannot be changed. If a problem cannot be solved immediately but on long term instead, we might jointly develop a proposal for improvement.

A few years ago at LafargeHolcim in Mexico we introduced a program called “more boots, less pants”. The lost time injury frequency rate was on a plateau and would not decrease. The new program implemented required managers to join their workers in the field for two hours and talk with them, first thing in the morning, instead of going straight to their office to sit at their desks and read emails. After a few years, the result was a tremendous zero lost time injury per year. This was achieved by building trust and introducing a positive safety culture. This is now a great example for all BUs across the LafargeHolcim Group.