Developing Nuclear Professional

Client Profile:


Asociacion Nuclear Asco-Vandellos II A.I.E.


Energy – Nuclear Power


Ascó, Catalonia, Spain

Developing Nuclear Professional

A significant nuclear safety event occurred at ANAV’s Vandellós plant in 2004 and another at Ascó in the same year. ANAV conducted a comprehensive root cause analysis into the nuclear safety culture due to the level and risk associated with these events. The root cause analysis identified a number of contributing factors including: operational processes, staffing levels, job skills, a lack of business acumen, and the underlying organizational culture.

Upon completion of the root cause analysis the organization then conducted additional analysis of the general culture and nuclear safety culture. The organization utilized employee interviews, focus groups, observations, and cultural surveys to conduct this analysis. The resulting data was analyzed using several highly specialized diagnostic tools including an Open Systems model, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operation’s (INPO) Organizational Effectiveness Principles, Objectives and Criteria and Principles for a Strong Nuclear Safety Culture, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publication Attributes of a Strong Nuclear Safety Culture. The analysis indicated that the behavioral norms regarding both the general and nuclear safety culture were a leading factor to the events, and that their current culture was not supportive of maintaining long-term, safe performance.

In addition to the necessary corrective actions required to address the causal factors of these nuclear safety events, ANAV was confronting two pervasive, and specific, human resource challenges within the organization. The first challenge for ANAV was the turnover of an aging workforce, a systemic dilemma within nuclear power plants around the world. The second challenge was an initiative to dramatically reduce the overall corporate dependency on contract labor and increase the number of ANAV staff members. Collectively these challenges presented ANAV with the following cultural concerns to focus on: • Shift the general culture from a predominantly passive/defensive, reactive culture to a more constructive, proactive cultural style • Strengthen the nuclear safety culture through greater comprehension of the definition of nuclear professionalism and commitment to the required behaviors • Develop effective working relationships across generational lines; thereby, facilitating the transfer of native knowledge from the experienced workers to the new workers while increasing the levels of teamwork throughout the organization • Challenge on-boarding a large number of new employees into the workforce; gaining their understanding and commitment to behaviors supportive of a strong nuclear safety culture

The initial actions of ANAV were to design and implement corrective action plans to address the deficiencies of operational processes and staffing levels. Once these efforts were underway, ANAV contacted Ephektiv to assist in assessing the general culture, defining a concrete picture of the desired culture, and designing and executing a plan to shift the general culture of the organization. Ephektiv was also asked to develop a plan to engage and strengthen employees’ alignment to the principles for operational nuclear safety, strengthen teamwork across departments, and to assist in the facilitation of the workforce transition and integration of new employees.


Ephektiv uses a proven approach to addressing culture change. This process begins with steps to understand the concerns of the client and their current culture. In order to do this, Ephektiv proposed to conduct a behavioral-based assessment of the current culture and develop a picture of the ideal culture. This assessment consisted of administering two surveys and conducting interviews, observations, and focus groups across all levels of the organization. One survey measured the expected behaviors of the current culture and the second survey asked employees to describe the behaviors that would be required to create a strong constructive nuclear safety culture. Finally, interviews, observations, and focus groups were used to identify concrete examples of behaviors that represented the current culture.

This assessment provided a clear definition of ANAV’s current culture, which showed high expectations for passive/defensive, reactive behaviors where employees avoided responsibility and shifted blame to others. To identify the ideal culture a second survey was given to a cross section of 50 ANAV employees, including directors, managers, and frontline workers.

The data generated from the current culture survey, interviews, observations, and focus groups was used to craft a culture change strategy that included activities to align leaders behavior, process, and other levers for change, including goal setting and vertical communication. In addition, it was determined that engaging the frontline workers in the culture change and enhancing their understanding and commitment to behaviors consistent with a strong nuclear safety culture was critical to improve organizational performance.

Ephektiv assisted ANAV’s leaders to develop a clear picture of the ideal culture for the organization; using the results from the ideal survey and the 24 behaviors, that a recent study completed by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, has correlated to long-term, high performance within nuclear plants.

Initially, our team designed and facilitated a workshop targeted to leaders at all levels throughout the organization. As well as creating alignment to the desired culture, this workshop sought to strengthen teamwork across the organization while building the skills of the leaders to successfully foster a constructive work environment and engage frontline employees.

After completion of the leadership development program, Ephektiv tailored the same highly experiential workshop to address the specific needs of the individual contributors and the frontline workers. The purpose of this workshop, DPN, was to strengthen commitment to ANAV’s Vision and nuclear safety behaviors, build interpersonal relationships across generations, improve teamwork, and personal responsibility. In order to successfully shift a culture, one of the key factors is to attain a critical mass of employees adopting the desired behaviors. Given the need to shift behaviors, enhance teamwork, and build relationships that would foster knowledge transfer, this experiential workshop engaged all members of the organization and was determined to be the most effective approach toward cultural alignment.

The DPN sessions were two-days in duration and had an average class size of 27 employees. The sessions consisted of developmental experiences targeting personal beliefs and behavior, teamwork, vision building, relationship building, and enhancement of employees’ understanding of the risks associated with the unique characteristics of nuclear power. Awareness of behavioral patterns was facilitated through the use of surveys that helped the employees see how their behavior either aligned or did not align to the behaviors of the desired culture. The survey provided employees with personal strengths and areas for improvement, as well as a deeper understanding of how they individually aligned to the ideal culture, which resulted in personal action plans being developed by all participants.

A team-based simulation was used to replicate a real life, organizational situation, which allowed the participants to witness how their assumptions and behavior patterns contribute to or detract from the collaborative efforts of the overall system. The learning from this module fed the personal action plans developed by all participants and strengthened the sense of urgency for change.

Another key factor to successful cultural change is to accelerate the process of letting go of the past experiences that drive current dysfunctional behaviors. To accomplish this, Ephektiv designed a module that helped participants reflect and see how past organizational events and treatment by superiors had given way to personal behaviors that were detrimental to nuclear safety. The insights gained from this experience motivated employees to let go of these behaviors and pursue more safe and productive behaviors at the personal and professional level.

In order for a culture change to be successful, it is imperative to create a common understanding and alignment to the desired culture, as well as to engage employees in developing practical methods to achieve it. Ephektiv designed a module in the workshop to allow employees the opportunity to collaboratively create a common picture of the future of the organization, and to define the specific behaviors and steps to achieve this.

Finally, the overall workshop design included highly interactive, team-based work that promoted the development of working relationships—especially in regards to working across generational boundaries. The workshop reinforced the contribution and value of the experienced workers, challenged them to become role models of a nuclear safety culture, mentors to new workers, and it engaged the new workers to become more open to learning from the more seasoned employees.


The effectiveness of training workshops can be established using a model known as Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation (Kirkpatrick), developed by Donald Kirkpatrick in 1994. This assessment of training effectiveness follows a pyramidal structure; the lower level must be achieved and then built upon for overall success: Level One, Reactions to the learning experience; Level Two, Learning gained from the experience; Level Three, Transfer of learning to the workplace; and Level Four, Results achieved.i

Participants were given course evaluations at the end of each workshop. This corresponds to Kirkpatrick’s first level and measures the initial reaction of the participants to the quality and delivery of the content through a five-point rating system as well as providing an opportunity to comment and offer improvement suggestions. The results from the post workshop survey achieved an overall average rating of 4.5 for the DPN workshops. While qualitative feedback is always sought by Ephektiv to better our workshops, the information that was depicted offered more of the intended results of the program, such as: “…gained more cohesion as a group;” “I met people that I did not know before;” “…I was glad to know that other people had similar thoughts;” and “I feel that we can accomplish our goals and change the organization.”

Some of the most revealing aspects of the evaluations were pronounced commitments from legacy employees to share their experiences and skills with the younger generations, while the latter expressed their commitments to learn and absorb from the senior generation. Participants commented that they now believe they have more control over their behaviors. They reported a stronger understanding of the direction being taken by the company and have an increased desire to participate in the required improvements. They committed to support each other, regardless of departmental barriers that may be unnecessarily imposed upon them.

Measuring the knowledge gained and transferred to the workplace was assessed through the use of individual interviews conducted by ANAV’s change advocates charged, with supporting the culture change efforts within the business units. Results from the interviews, conducted three weeks after the workshops, indicated that the employees had retained the desired knowledge regarding nuclear safety and provided specific behaviors they had changed in the course of conducting their daily tasks. They also cited many examples of teamwork across departments where little had previously existed.

Normally it takes two to three years to see a substantial culture change, key performance indicators suggest most departments have made gains in lowering human performance errors and industrial safety accidents. Another round of the current culture survey was completed and the results showed a statistically significant shift in the culture away from the passive/defensive style towards a more constructive style. More importantly, the organization made statistically significant improvement in the 24 behaviors associated with long-term, high performance within nuclear plants.


Many nuclear power plants face some or all of the challenges confronting ANAV. These plants are in the midst of a turnover in the workforce and must pass on native knowledge gained over the years while at the same time strengthening employees’ understanding and commitment to a strong nuclear safety culture. No other industry faces the same risks to the business, employees, and the public. This transfer and attention to enhancing nuclear safety cannot be left to chance. The differences between generational workers are sometimes hidden, but many times they are evident, especially when viewed in the daily interaction and communication between them. Without open, engaging work relationships, the transfer of knowledge will be inadequate and the opportunity to complete a full transfer will be diminished or lost entirely. Further, the leaders must ensure that only the safest approaches and behaviors are being modeled and transferred from one generation to another. By bringing together cross generational employees in DPN workshops, ANAV garnered excellent insight as to how and why the employees had behaved in such a divisive mode and had exhibited unsafe behaviors. Moreover, the workshops gave the employees a unique opportunity to listen to each other about their personal goals and aspirations for the future of ANAV. These two, dissimilar factions separated by the numerous barriers that both age and experience offer, have realized they are not diametrically opposed and may perhaps be each others best supporters for accomplishing the daunting task of a corporate culture change and securing a prosperous future of the company. The ability to look at an organization or at one’s self with the clarity needed to make changes to aspects of a culture that are unnecessary, undermining performance, or outdated is indeed a challenge for many. Ephektiv spends much of our working hours assisting clients to see their company with different eyes. Providing experiences that demonstrate the ineffective behavioral patterns within an institutional culture, offers the opportunity for organizations to see the causes and consequences of company policies and standards while analyzing specific leadership approaches toward management and the negative impacts they have in attaining a strong nuclear safety culture. Bringing employees together to define the future culture and needed behaviors assures deeper understanding and commitment to these behaviors. It is indeed challenging work to shift a culture and at the same time manage a workforce transition; however, it presents the leaders with a great opportunity to consciously shape and launch the organization into its next cycle of performance. It is imperative that this opportunity be utilized to strengthen nuclear safety and capture the tremendous experience departing and future talent arriving into the organization.

I Winfrey, E.C. “Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation.” Encyclopedia of Educational Technology. 1999. 12 Sept. 2007. Web.