With the expanding global workforce, companies are faced with several barriers to any standardization or centralization plans. Challenges like language difference, local differences, interdependencies, size and maturity and mode of operation can create strong barriers to an effective rollout of a standard or a centralized process.

In 1998, United Safety started operation in Angola with a Canadian workforce. The strategy and intention was to nationalize as fast as possible to sustain a long term presence in the country and to operate effectively. For the first few years, the company had to go through a steep learning curve, getting educated on the differences between the cultures, the challenges of language and the various behaviour safety styles in terms of expectations, tolerance of risk and other safety factors observed by the local workforce.

In addition to the numerous practical challenges, establishment of a HSE culture and practices needs to take into account the culturally different ways of dealing with authority, risks, and individual responsibility, amongst a number of other factors. A lack of cultural competence can in itself lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings, which in turn can cause dangerous situations and accidents.

As the company core business is to provide safety solutions to its customers, it is critical to ensure that the company standards or work practices are persevered and applied irrespective of differences.

Through a rigorous process of recruiting, competency assessment, training, coaching and most importantly cultural understanding and exchange, the company managed to ramp up on their national workforce replacing all expatriate rig personnel in five years and replacing all their coordinators, quality control and office staff including the first General Manager in the next five years.

This case study discusses a successful implementation of standards and centralized processes in Angola to a national workforce, displacing progressively an expatriate community and getting them accepted by the customers. This paper also attempts to share those lessons and discusses failures, consequences and rewards.

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