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“It’s not safety first, it’s safety always”


Empowering safety leadership and culture at Umicore with ”Coaching for Safety”

At Umicore, safety is more than a priority; it's a way of thinking. With ‘Zero Harm’ as a pillar of our Let’s Go for Zero ambitions, we aim to minimize the impact of our operations on the environment and society, as well as ensuring the wellbeing and safety of our people.

Our Coaching for Safety training program embodies our commitment to creating a zero-harm workplace, with an innovative approach designed to deeply embed safety into our working culture and leadership.

Launched in late 2022, the program aims to reach approximately 2,500 people leaders – nearly 20% of Umicore’s workforce. So far, nearly 50% of our operational managers, spanning various departments and regions, have enrolled in the program, totaling approximately 1,100 participants.

Luiz Montenegro, Umicore’s Group Director Safety & EHS Operational Excellence, describes how the program came about: “I firmly believe that traditional training methods aren’t always effective when it comes to engaging employees in safety. There’s a saying, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ I wanted to capture that approach in the way we embed safety into our culture at Umicore, making it a fully engaging experience that not only improves safety but also helps people improve their leadership skills.’’

“There’s a saying, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ I wanted to capture that approach in the way we embed safety into our culture at Umicore...”

Luiz Montenegro, Umicore’s Group Director Safety & EHS Operational Excellence

Umicore worked with Performance Consultants International to tailor its successful “Coaching for Performance” course into the new “Coaching for Safety” program for Umicore. As Luiz explains: “Tackling cultural change in terms of safety is the only way to create a sustainable safe work environment. This program helps us to develop, embed and sustain coaching mindsets and behaviors among our leaders, who play a crucial role in creating a caring safety and wellbeing culture throughout our organization. The goal for Umicore is to support the global adoption of a common language around safety and wellbeing within the company.’’

Immersive journey

The immersive format of Coaching for Safety reflects the depth of the learning approach and participants are often surprised at the scope and ambition of Coaching for Safety. Luiz explains: “Whenever I attend one of the workshops, I start by saying: ‘If you came here expecting a typical safety training, you'll be surprised.’ The topic of discussion in the workshop is safety, but at its core, this program is about coaching leadership. It recognizes that high performance and safety go hand in hand, as it’s clear that a team cannot be high performing without also having a high-performance safety record.’’

The training aims to shift the perspective from blindly following rules about safety, to understanding why those rules are crucial. For this reason, he explains that all levels of leadership participate in the program; from production to laboratories, logistics to EHS, and even the Management Board. This signals clear support to develop a strong and caring safety culture from the top down.

Measuring Impact

Quantifying the precise impact of Coaching for Safety can be challenging, but Luiz explains that a notable cultural change and increased commitment to safety is evident across different units and levels within the company. Immediate feedback from course participants consistently yields high net promoter scores (NPS) averaging +37 on a scale from -100 to +100. Luiz explains: “We’re delighted with the positive feedback from participants during the workshops and immediately afterwards. We’re also measuring the impact perceived by participants one year after the workshop. By that time, we expect people managers to have a clear understanding of the impact of the program on their role as safety leaders.”

Personal satisfaction

Halfway through the three-year process, Luiz reflects on the success of the program so far and where to go next: “When I first got involved in Coaching for Safety, it was still just an idea and hadn’t been fully developed. Now that we’re ahead of our target of training 2,500 people, roughly 20% of our workforce, within three years, it’s very satisfying to see the impact it’s having across the company, weaving safety as a core value into the fabric of Umicore. I also want to thank the strong support from Umicore’s leadership for this bold and immersive approach to safety training – this is a deep-level approach that requires a lot of investment and long-term commitment. It says a lot about our belief in safety as a critical enabler of performance, culture and leadership.’’