Wates - leadership development helping to build a Zero Harm safety culture

The Wates Group, established in 1897, is one of the leading construction, development and property services companies in the UK. It is a family run business and employs c.4,000 people, working with clients across the public and private sectors.

The on-going programmes remain pivotal in embedding the right behaviours, at every level throughout Wates, so that our people have the confidence to challenge; to stop works when things don’t look or feel right; to innovate; and to seek the solutions to put things right.

Paul Rowan, Group HR Director at Wates

Putting safety first

In 2016, Wates announced an ambitious long-term strategy: to achieve a sustainable Zero Harm working environment by 2020. Wates, already in the top 10 for health and safety in the UK’s construction industry was eager to become better. It aimed to change the mindset and culture of the business by eliminating the ethos that accidents are inevitable to a viewpoint that accidents should never happen.

The Solution

  • Creating a culture change

    Wates created a comprehensive strategy and an accompanying visual identity to kick off the campaign. It then appointed Lane4 and together, they designed and delivered a bespoke change management programme.

    The objective was Zero Harm and the campaign created was called, ‘We’re Safer Together’. It was rolled-out via a business-wide communications plan, eye-catching visuals, safety prompts via a specifically designed app and workshops designed to shift behaviours and mindset.

    A leadership programme was launched called “We’re Safer Together – Lead the Change!” It demanded a huge step change in the perception of responsibility for safety.

    “We’ve invited our whole population of Wates’ leaders to help us shift the culture from safety being ‘not my problem’ to being everyone’s opportunity.” John Dunne, Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Director.

    Following the success of the leadership programme a second programme for managers was created: “We’re Safer Together – Drive the Change!” It aimed to equip managers with the skills and tools needed to engage their teams and change the culture.

    Together, Wates and Lane4, designed and delivered two bespoke change management programmes called, ‘We’re Safer Together- Lead the Change!’ aimed at leaders and “We’re Safer Together – Drive the Change!” aimed at managers. This was combined with a business-wide communications plan, featuring eye-catching visuals, safety prompts via a specifically designed Stop/Go app and workshops designed to shift behaviours and mindset.

    The leadership programme includes a powerful two-day workshop that over 560 leaders have attended so far. It is a fusion of leadership development and behavioural safety training to challenge leaders to think differently about safety without being safety experts.

    During the management programme delegates attend an impactful one-day programme that 350 managers have so far completed. The programme, co-facilitated by the internal Safety, Health & Environment (SHE) leaders gives managers the opportunity to hear real-life examples making the programme as relevant as possible.

  • Why the programme was successful


    All of Wates’ senior leaders were committed to the programme and role modelled the key behaviours necessary to shape the culture throughout the organisation.


    The forward-thinking programme consolidates leadership and behavioural safety training into one holistic campaign, which is unique within the industry. The development of a “STOP GO” app improved the speed of on-site observations.


    Central to the programme’s success was the partnership between Wates and Lane4 and an open mindset to try new ways of working to create the best programme.

The success:

  • Since launching We’re Safer Together in 2016, Wates’ workplaces are significantly safer, with the chances of suffering a lost time accident reduced by 70% (end of year 2015 – end of year 2018).
  • Impressively, the 2020 goal of a LTIR (lost time injury rate) of below 0.100 was achieved 2 years early.
    Since 2016 the “STOP GO” app has monitored an outstanding 250,000 safety observations from sites and offices.
  • Wates was awarded Investor in People Gold re-accreditation and the assessors noted, “Zero Harm has been successfully promoted and embedded within the culture”.
  • The programmes were well received both attracting 9/10 in feedback from delegates.


This programme has won numerous awards:
London Construction Awards – Best Health & Safety Solution 2019
Personnel Today – Excellence in Managing Change finalist 2019
Brandon Hall HR Excellence Gold award 2018
Construction News Investing in Talent finalist 2018

  • 70% is the reduction in suffering a lost time accident at Wates after implementing programmes to build a Zero Harm safety culture.
  • 9/10 in feedback from delegates making the programmes well received.

Related Case Studies

Ready to work with us?

Whatever your goals, let’s discuss how we can help get you there