To improve employee participation in the safety program, clear communications are key.
If you are going to communicate something in safety, what do you want to have happen? How exactly do you want your people to participate?
Informing people isn’t enough anymore. Your people are already bombarded with, on average, four thousand marketing messages each day. Everywhere they look, they are getting access to another message – competing with your safety message - even as recently as this morning.
But let's say that you are above-average in compelling and engaging your people’s attention during a morning safety meeting, as soon as they leave the meeting, they are faced with hundreds more messages that all compete for attention. So, to combat this, you have to be clear.
If you want people to care about safety, you have to first care about them.
I was working with a group of minesite supervisors and we were discussing the needs of employees and how a supervisor can make sure that employee needs were being met. I asked this question: how can you show your employees that, as supervisors, you care?
Here are some of the responses:
Give good communication
Improve your listening skills
Be respectful of their needs
Engage them in problem-solving
Recognize employees for their good work
Take a time-out with employees
Help employees to re-focus
Show support for your people especially when they need it.
All good answers. In fact, a lot of necessary answers. But the answer that wasn’t mentioned was, perhaps, too obvious. It is the one thing that supervisors, managers, safety people, executives, and even fellow workers must do to show their fellow employees that they care.
Ever thought about how to make mission, vision and purpose statements more powerful and to help improve safety doing it? Even more powerful than a corporate mission statement is a crew mission statement. Kind of like a team purpose or plan that galvanizes the crew members.
Safety leadership is about putting leadership skills into the hands of the people who are responsible for safety.
What’s that got to do with me? That is one of the first questions you ask yourself before you commit to doing something, or volunteering for something. You want to see the direct benefit back to you. Even in charitable giving you get a win. That’s why you do it.
Employees respond better to those things in their work where they can see the benefit of their own full participation. Show the employee his or her win and you will get their engagement. Safety is included in that.
Cut through the clutter
Everyone is busy. There are more than enough people asking for your attention and making demands on you each day. You have to be picky about the things that you give your attention to. You do not have an unlimited amount of energy or time. That’s why books and videos and articles and videos on safety get your attention. You have responsibilities in safety. You want resources that help you perform better at safety. Easy peasy. You pick the resources that speak directly to what you’re trying to do. There’s a win for you.
Without management’s public endorsement of safety you can still build a strong safety culture.
It doesn’t happen often. But occasionally, I get a call to help out in convincing a few key members of the senior management team of safety’s importance. The first question I ask is whether the senior managers are actively preventing employees from buying-in to the safety program or purposely undermining the safety program in any way? No is always the answer.
And so, we discuss options to improve teamwork in safety at the front-line, build a more robust safety culture at the front-line and make the safety program more attractive for senior managers to want to be part of it.
Senior management does not need to be gushing about their undying support of safety in order for safety to become more prominent. Don't worry that senior management does not appear to be supporting safety. Without management’s public endorsement of safety you can still build a strong safety culture. Oh, sure, it might be easier to get buy-in from employees if management is on-board. But it’s not impossible. It’s just going to take a little more work.
Why aren’t production and safety working out of the same office yet? Start with the common ground between safety and production.
Companies associate the success of operations with efficiency, productivity and profits. And it's easy to measure. In safety, success is determined by a complex formula ending in TRIR rates and with the prevention of occupational injury and illness. How do you make these two necessary parts of a company work together if they are not even measuring the same things?
Production and safety blame the other for either slowing work down. Safety gets compromised when there is a push on for greater production. Operations blame safety for slowing down production. Neither wants to be wrong. Both want to be right.
(Note: if you still believe that safety holds up production, you are probably in the wrong job.)
Why aren’t production and safety measuring success the same way let alone working out of the same office? And whose bright idea was it to let the two coexist separately? In order for production/operations and safety to work better together, they have to first establish the common ground. Neither side wants to see anyone get hurt and both sides want the company to have success. That is the common ground.
Every employee has responsibilities in safety. The biggest of which is to ensure that you protect yourself.
There is a lot of talk of safety leadership, complacency, accountability and responsibility on the job these days. At the same time, there is less discussion about compliance measures, rules, regulation, etc. And although there is still much work to be done in safety, we’re starting to change the conversation. Workplaces that are becoming more people-focused is good news.
Effectiveness in safety is about how little effort it takes to inspire people to do the right things.
As a safety person, manager or front-line supervisor, you already know that your work can be thankless. But you still have a responsibility (see last week’s post) to drive down the best practices and advice onto those employees at the front-line. That’s where the greatest number of your people are. That’s where the greatest amount of activity is. That’s where the greatest risk of incident exists. What you know about safety needs to get to the front-line.
Data is not how you build a safety culture. Leadership is.
Safety is about preparedness - yet most times even the safety meeting does not meet that standard. How many times have you seen your own safety meetings get thrown together at the last minute? This does not inspire confidence from employees. If the organizer is not engaged in delivering an engaging safety meeting, attendees won't engage either. Why would they?
Employees take their cues, not so much from what you say in meetings, but from what you do with them and your level of conviction about safety. As motivational speaker, Larry Winget, once said: "When you stand in front of a group of people, they won't care what you have to say. In fact most won't even believe what you have to say. But they'll be checking you out to see if you believe what you have to say."
In other words, you need conviction when it comes to organizing and executing the safety program - especially the meetings. If you don't have convictions about both the value of the program outside of the rules (the content and discussion points) and the purpose (the outcome - what you want them to do with the information), you will have a hard time getting employees to engage.
If you want to engage employees to participate in the safety program and to own safety as one of their guiding principles, you have to give them what they want.
To be a safety leader, you have to be better at the job than the others.
The best organizations give world-class safety performance. They don't do it with a mediocre effort, mediocre standards or mediocre supervisors and safety people. They do it by surpassing industry average targets, a focused engagement with employees and with safety people and supervisors on top of their game. Those companies search out and employ supervisors and managers who set a higher standard for themselves. They seek out those who want to inspire their own crews to be better, to reach farther, to achieve at a higher level.
You don’t build championship teams by shooting for the middle of industry averages. You don’t instill a positive safety culture by settling for average performance. To lead, you have to do not just what others are not doing, but by doing what they’re not even prepared to do.
World-class safety is driven by wanting higher standards. Higher standards drive greater effort. Greater effort is driven by higher-performing safety people and supervisors. World-class safety is not achieved by a mediocre effort, standards or people who don’t seek to be exceptional. Without exceptional people and standards, you're shooting for mediocrity. You will become world-class by luck.
Here's the problem. Not every safety person is a high-performer. Like every other industry and profession, there are below-average and average performers. Then, there’s the top echelon; the elite - the leaders. Which of those sounds like you? How about a short self-assessment?
In PeopleWork, Kevin Burns presents his M4 Method of people-centered management for safety. Practical, how-to steps that frontline supervisors and safety people can master to promote a relationship-based culture focused on mentoring, coaching, and inspiring teams.