It seems like your people don't care about safety, but they do. Yes, your people do care about safety. They just don't care the way you care about it, because they see safety differently than you do.
Everyone cares about something. However, what's appealing and motivating to you is not always appealing and motivating to someone else. Your goals for safety improvement may be important to you, but your people need to have a benefit in working harder to reach those goals.
If safety meetings are not fun or engaging for attendees, they won’t remember what was discussed. So streamline your meetings in 2018.
Part of the overall strategy for safety communication and meetings should be a requirement to avoid mind-numbing and boring your people whenever possible. Maybe that idea a lone could be your personal mission for 2018. Look, we know it's tough especially when the subject-matter or presenters are boring. So the idea is to find ways to step outside the 'boring and predicatble" safety meeting.
Make it a plan for employees to engage and stay sharp. That means getting rid of boring statistics, figures, graphs and performance chart that you can lay your hands on at them in one meeting. Put it this way, if your safety meeting presentation includes charts and graphs, you're out of ideas. And more importantly, out of touch.
Once upon a time, you attended a boring safety meeting. But that doesn't give you license to do the same to your crews. PowerPoint is the seventh pit of hell. It's Corporate Karaoke – the word-for-word, sing-along regurgitation of every thought in a presenter’s head posted on a slide in tiny font type. Your people disengage from the safety meeting the moment you put up a slide with seven lines of type with some boring blue background.
You've got to make safety engaging. If it’s not fun or engaging for attendees, they won’t remember it. When people engage, they remember. That's a key learning nugget for you to take into the New Year and to help you plan better safety meetings.
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.
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.
Safety meetings are not supposed to be boring. People, more specifically presenters, make them that way.
Talks from the TED conferences are engaging. If you are not familiar with TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), they are a global set of conferences that bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less.
Eighteen minutes or less.
Some of the world’s greatest thinkers will change the world with their ideas in under 18 minutes. So the question becomes, if world-class thinkers and thought leaders are only given eighteen minutes to make their point, have the learning stick and ultimately change the world, why are mediocre safety presenters given 60-90 minutes to make a point or two about safety? If issues like fighting world hunger and jumpstarting world economies can be addressed in 18 minutes, why are safety meetings running longer than that?
Safety complacency is a big problem today but never moreso than safety meeting complacency: the lack of focused engagement in preparing engaging safety meetings. The problems outlined below identify the real reasons safety meetings are traditionally so boring and what to do next.
Safety people and supervisors get concerned when their employees won't buy-in to safety. They also complain about employees' lack of engagement and a lack of accountability in the safety program. But what if the safety messaging is aimed below the intellect of the same people you're trying to reach? What if you've dumbed it down too far? What if you've underestimated your own people?
Communications that miss the target can undermine your efforts in safety. Generic slogans and feeble safety campaigns downloaded from the Internet do not resonate with most people (Hint: there's a reason they're free for the taking on the Internet). And people do not connect with anything that doesn't resonate with them. A slogan for a slogan’s sake can do more harm than good.
Generic safety messages are like an ill-fitting suit. Buy a suit off the rack and it looks like a cheap attempt to dress-up. But go to a tailor and have one built specifically for youy and you are willing to wear it proudly. The same too with a safety message. It has to fit perfectly, or your people won't wear it.
Safety leadership has little to do with position or title.
Safety leadership has little to do with position or title. One needs not be in a management or in a supervisory position to be a leader. In fact, some of the best leaders are ordinary employees. They just happen tzo possess certain traits that cause others to ask their advice or input. They tend to stand a little taller than some of their fellow employees. And it’s not because they are more experienced or have greater tenure. Mostly, leadership is about the person you are and the way you carry yourself.
In this series of safety leadership posts, we are exploring personal traits. Leadership goes beyond experience and technical expertise. To become a leader requires more than years on the job or seniority in a company. Leadership is a lifelong commitment to self-improvement. Leadership is about being outward-focused; concerned about the well-being of others.
As was outlined in the first post, this is not the definitive and exhaustive list of leadership traits. There will be many. And with each post, I will offer up three traits so that you will hopefully take the time to do an honest self-assessment on each of the traits. So with that being said, let’s explore the next three traits of safety leadership:
When you tweak job performance in small chunks, little by little, safety performance improves.
What do safety supervisors have in common with radio disc-jockeys? More than is obvious. Turn on the radio any time and listen to the radio announcers. Really study what they do.
Radio is a cut-throat game that depends on ratings. Take a tumble in the ratings and a DJ can start looking for another job. To stay on top of the ratings requires constant monitoring and improvement. That means weekly airchecks.
Airchecks are one-on-one meetings with the program director; the announcer’s supervisor. The supervisor “checks” the recordings from the announcer’s “on-air” performance. Hence the name... aircheck.
When you commit to the safety of employees, you commit to the empowerment of employees. You commit to unlocking their personal leadership capacity.
Compliance safety leveled the playing field and ensured some basic minimum standards for workers to remain safe on the job. It meant getting employees to follow protocols even if they didn't mesh with the employee's own personal values. Compliance safety did what it was supposed to do. It was good while it lasted. But the days of a corporate culture built around compliance-based safety are numbered.
Today, there are a lot of discussions on safety; most of it on the process-side. Never before in history have we had better processes and procedures in safety. Never before in history have there been more certified safety professionals. So why isn’t the industry at Zero? Because safety is not a process problem. It is a people problem. The processes work - but only when people use them.
Not all safety people are vital to an organization’s success.
I received an email this week from a young safety professional. It was his intention to finish up a series of safety certifications he was working on. Then, he would embark on getting some solid management skills training. He wanted to ensure that, even at his young age, he would vault himself into a position of becoming “vital” to his employer. He knew that management skills are crucial to becoming a leader. Good leaders are vital.
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.