You may cover the check-boxes but you need to ensure employees are going to give safety their attention and focus.
Is yours a check-box safety culture? Or a check-in safety culture? What’s the difference? A check-box safety culture is just what the name implies. You go through the checklists and check off the items that you have completed.
Don’t waste your one-on-one time with your people enforcing rules.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. When employees buy-in to safety, you don’t need to police them anymore. Where you once spent a great deal of time on enforcement, you can now replace with coaching and mentoring. Trust me when I say, coaching and mentoring is infinitely more satisfying.
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.
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.
If you want your people to care, do and say the things that matter to them.
Why won't people just follow the safety rules? Why don't they speak up at meetings or take the paperwork seriously? Tough questions to ask if you’re a supervisor or safety person trying to get their people to care about safety. But, here's the good news: you can make people care about safety.
The supervisor is the first line of defense when it comes to complacency.
You probably take great pride and talk proudly of your people, competent teams who do excellent work. But, from time to time little issues are starting to show up in the form of small mistakes, and memory and judgment lapses. That’s complacency-creep.
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.
Safety leaders know that the safety performance is more than a reflection of the leader. It is a team effort of commitment to a common goal.
It’s called safety management for a reason. It is made up of two parts: safety and management. The best safety processes and procedures can still fail in the absence of good management. You may know processes and procedures like the back of your hand. But now, you must get more familiar in driving better team safety performance.
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.
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.
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.