Interview: John Chrosniak

What specific operational and risk management training might Algeria benefit from?

JOHN CHROSNIAK: Operational excellence includes four pillars without which industrial performance cannot be optimised: technical optimisation of industrial processes, managing all risks present in industrial operations, ensuring asset effectiveness (extracting the maximum value from already-existing equipment and facilities), and health, safety and environmental (HSE) discipline. We have observed time and time again, around the world, that this approach helps transform a company’s ability to improve its performance on a sustained basis. Algeria is not an exception. Operational excellence is the key to transforming Algerian companies into world-class enterprises.

Practicing risk management starts from the diagnostic phase of the whole process and includes both a technical and staff behaviour point of view. The first step is to eliminate human error because, in most cases, it is not only a technology problem but also because there are employees who do not follow the safety instructions. Sometimes management does not pay enough attention to certain points, focusing more on profitability and less on the equipment used. A manager usually thinks in terms of maintenance but not necessarily prevention. To eliminate these problems, everyone in a company must have the same culture and principles in this respect.

How can professional training be improved?

CHROSNIAK: There needs to be an ongoing discussion on this topic at the national level with media coverage that ensures broad participation from all parts of civil society. We can envision a specific partnership between the state and the private sector – a sort of permanent task force with periodic reporting – to show the progress of the nexus between training and job creation. You can develop different professional training programmes, but if they are not tied to specific business objectives in the private sector, they will create certified but jobless individuals. You can develop business plans for new projects, but if you do not have new workers with the right skills, you cannot implement your plans. Professional training has to be tied to current specific business needs in the market in order to be effective and create rewarding jobs.

Do you see any gaps in the workforce structure?

CHROSNIAK: The key is to create internship programmes that generate new positions in growing businesses, not only replacements of current personnel. The internships need to be tied to business plans that project the need to expand the workforce due to new business activities. We see Algeria as a growth market where we can contribute to creating new jobs in different industrial sectors from hydrocarbons to agriculture, and also to the learning and development for both management and workforce.

What are the common challenges to enforcing HSE regulations in emerging markets?

CHROSNIAK: During times of economic challenge, there is often a temptation to address the most pressing issues of reducing costs and slowing development of new projects. This is often a negative for HSE activities, which can be seen as non-critical. Even in good times the pursuit of profitability can induce managers to see HSE as an optional expense rather than an investment. On the contrary, we have seen and measured over and over the benefits to profitability coming from a sound HSE foundation in an enterprise. When there is security in the workplace, the operations run smoother and faster, and maximum productivity is reached. Productivity cannot be maximised without safety in the workplace. As long as foreign investors insist on running their Algerian operations according to the principles of operational excellence, Algeria will benefit from that model both economically and in terms of worker safety.