Asking people to think safety doesn’t help; it makes the frustration feel worse.
What part of safety do you want to fix? You will have a problem answering that question specifically. It will frustrate you that you cannot seem to articulate the exact part of safety that you want to fix. And if you feel some frustration, you will better understand why your people have a difficult time also fixing safety, or even rallying around it.
By implementing an internal marketing strategy for safety, employees are treated as critical stakeholders who must be convinced of a company's safety vision.
To get employees to buy-in to safety, you need a consistent and compelling message that resonates with your people. And, to be clear, a compelling message is not some safety slogan you downloaded from the Internet. Don’t just take something you think is clever that someone else came up with and turn it into posters all over your workplace. You’ve got to understand what resonates with your team.
You need the right message, at the right time, to the right people so that every employee is working toward common goals in safety.
You’re planning a safety stand-down, safety event, safety day, whatever you want to call it. I’ll stick with stand-down. So, you’ve set aside your dates, got a budget from your senior managers and you’re busy making plans for what you are going to do for your stand-down. Now, before you plan any further, I want to pass along some advice that will make your stand-down be much more effective.
What if your "one thing" was to make a difference?
There are no such things as priorities. You can have a priority; one. But you can’t have more than one priority. Besides, it’s not a priority if it competes for attention with other priorities. You can have a lot of things that are important, or urgent or critical. But there is room for only one priority. It is that one priority that you can build a company, an ideal or a movement around.
Are you meeting the needs of your people in safety meetings?
How many times have you seen presenters, with 10 minutes of solid information, stretch it into a 90-minute presentation? How does that happen? Here’s how. The person organizing the safety meeting is trying to fill blocks of time instead of developing content that will make a difference to their people.
Asking which traits make a good safety leader is like asking which auto parts make the best car.
A question was posed by a safety person asking what are the traits that make up safety leaders? Asking which traits make a good safety leader is like asking which auto parts make the best car. Is it parts that make a customer choose BMW over a Mercedes or a Dodge Ram over a Chevy Silverado? Nope. Not parts. It’s the whole package.
A car is tangible. You can see it, touch it, smell it, hear it and drive it. It is a thing you control when you are behind the wheel. Leadership, of the safety variety, is much the same except you can’t see it, touch it, smell it or hear it. But you can drive it.
Having a collection of car parts on your front lawn is useless. Having those parts assembled by a skilled technician is what makes it a car. Leadership traits mean nothing unless assembled by a skilled technician. Then, the collection of parts must be driven by a proficient driver.
Leadership is not a position. It is an attitude. Management is the position. One has nothing to do with the other. Safety too is an attitude. It is a state of mind and a way of living your life.
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.
Great safety performance doesn't happen by accident (pardon the pun). Well, it can happen for a little while by accident but it cannot sustain. There needs to be a wholistic approach taken to safety. Ensuring that front line supervisors get decent management and supervisory skills can create better performance. Add solid, interactive safety meetings, and safety messaging that builds a positive reinforcement of safety and you build better motivation for employees to want to be involved.
But, where does buy-in start? It starts in the relationship between employee and direct supervisor or safety person. In almost every instance, once an employee buys-in to their immediate boss, they are more likely to buy-in to what their boss is saying. When an employee has developed respect for their immediate boss, they are more willing to be influenced by that person. We allow ourselves to be influenced by the voices of those people we respect.
Supervisors without trust and respect are neither trusted nor respected. It's tough to convince people that safety is good for them if you don't have the employee's trust and respect. You have no influence without trust and respect. You may have authority but that doesn't translate into influence.
Group meetings called to address and fix individual behaviors is dangerous. That's like trying to address one person's time management skills by forcing the entire staff into a time management course. It punishes those who are doing it right, it demotivates the rest of the staff and it makes people want to hate safety.
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.
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.