What employees want from the job can change your culture.
In my last post (When Employees Don't Give You Safety Performance), I presented an overview of what employees want from their supervisors and immediate managers. This time around, we are going to take a look at what employees want from their jobs. Because if they don’t get what they want from their job, why would you expect them to give their best effort, especially in safety?
Effective workplaces are those places where employees feel valued, cared for and protected.
Without getting into long descriptions, good workplace safety culture is the result of attitudes and personal and corporate values aligning. If apathy in the workplace exists, little care will be given to safety. When the quality of the work is “good enough,” apathy in safety exists. If employees think it's a lousy place to work, then safety will take a back seat. Poor safety attitudes will impede becoming a top performer. That reflects in both safety and financial performance. A broken safety culture will have an impact on overall corporate performance.
What if instead of guilt and fear and manipulation tactics, you simply cared?
When you really think about it, there are only two main ways to get people to join in your safety program and for them to buy-in to the idea of safety: you can either manipulate or inspire. Either you pull on the heartstrings to try to guilt them into following rules, or you help them flip that internal switch that kicks-in their motivation and fires up their personal leadership capacity. Before you decide, know this: manipulation does not create leaders.
Focus on the plan to improve the things you're not already doing. Not the goal.
Once upon a time, in the mid-90’s, I was working in a sales job. At the start of each month, our sales manager would assemble all the sales reps in a room and ask each of us for our specific sales goal for the month. He wasn't asking us what our plan was to make more sales. He was asking for a number.
A safety system by itself doesn't make the organization any safer.
Driving instructors have a system for teaching people to drive. Sports coaches have a system for improving player performance. Almost everything in this world has a system. There’s even a system for generating your paycheck. But, the system doesn't pay out unless someone tells it to.
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.
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.
“Sending people home safe” has become an all too familiar phrase. It has become that thing people say when they used to say "safety first." It's a phrase that rolls off your tongue in an effort to prove that you have a commitment to safety. But there's a problem with it.
Sending people home safely is actually the least you can do. It’s what employees expect you to do. They show up at work expecting to go home safely. But truthfully, anyone simply enforcing rules can get people home safely.
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.
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.