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.
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.
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.
Stop discussing the negatives of not being safe. Instead, focus on the positives of buying-in to safety.
Ask employees about how they perceive the safety program and they will most likely answer that it's dull, boring, repetitive, mind-numbing, disengaging, and it tries to scare you into compliance. That's because safety has been focused on following rules and avoiding injury or accidents. But like everything else in life, safety evolves.
Sure, there is still an expectation of meeting the minimum standards of safety. But, that's the least that the law will allow you to do. If the focus is to achieve the minimum standard, you are chasing compliance - the standard that you are not allowed to fall below. And when safety programs are focused only on achieving the minimum, that's where the organization will live.
As organizations are becoming more people-centric, they are integrating people-development programs. You cannot develop your people without including safety. The best-managed companies and employers-of-choice still value a profit but not at the expense of their good people. They are organizations that attract the best employees and hang onto them. As I say regularly, the best place to work is always the safest place to work.
The best employees are attracted to workplaces that focus on achieving positives, more than just avoiding negatives. The best workplaces have a plan to make the experience of working there a positive one.
Here are the four most important ways to focus your safety program on positives:
The one thing that will connect continuous-cash-flow, long-term investments and legacy, is safety. Without safety, everything is at risk.
The safety department complains that it’s difficult to get workers to buy-in to safety. Employees resist buying-in to a program of checks, forms and paperwork. Especially the paperwork.
Safety meetings, rewards, recognition and paperwork are important. Indeed. Each plays a role in the safety culture-building plan. But to build a successful safety program requires a foundation of employee buy-in. Without it, you will be feeding the monster (spending large amounts of money) and never achieve the desired success.
To change that, go to Leadership 101; basic values-based conversations with employees. Coach employees to see that their own long-term goals and the company’s long-term goals are the same. The values are the same. Then, show them how safety is the tool that gets them from where they are (in the present) to where they want to be (in the future). Safety is the insurance to protect the future.
Here are three compelling conversations for supervisors and safety people to have with their crews one-on-one. The purpose of these conversations is to influence better buy-in to safety:
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.
Selling is about solving a problem or uncovering a benefit of safety in a way that makes people want to buy-in.
Safety shouldn’t have to be sold. That comment is typical right across the varying types of safety personnel. People get hung up on the word selling as though selling is a bad thing, a manipulative thing.
Truthfully, what now seems like a lifetime ago, I used to sell photocopiers. But, my clients would never buy the photocopier. They bought what it could do. And more importantly, what it could do for them. Prior to photocopier sales, I sold radio advertising. Again, people weren’t buying commercial time. They were buying the foot traffic to their business that the commercial time created - what it could do for them.
You must sell safety the same way too. It’s not about shoving safety down the throats of your people. It’s about helping them see that safety improves their lives in a way that they are probably not seeing it. As a supervisor or safety person, you have to help employees see what safety does and can do for them.
Selling anything takes a communications skill-set and trust. Rarely are the best salespeople the newest salespeople. The best salespeople are the experienced veterans who always keep the interests of the client at the forefront. They know that the product or service they are selling will help to eliminate a client’s pain-point. And the client knows it, too. No one buys anything that doesn’t make their lives better in some way. It’s why we buy homes, vehicles, vacations, education, insurance and investments. Those things make our lives better, more comfortable, less uncertain. So, why wouldn’t we buy-in to safety too?
Anything that makes lives better, creates more success and more freedom is easy to sell.
Safety, for it to be done effectively, needs to be viewed as a marketing strategy - not a compliance program. Forcing people to comply against their will creates a disconnect - a sense of disengagement. And, when people are no longer engaged in their work, it's safe to say that they are no longer engaged in safely doing the work. How you present safety will either help or hinder your people in deciding whether to buy-in to safety for themselves.
The job of safety supervisors and managers is to remove the mental barriers of buying-in to safety. And to get employees to choose safety for themselves - both at work and at home.
You know well enough that safety isn't just a thing that people do at work - at least not to be successful. Removing the mental obstacles creates opportunities for employees to buy-in to safety. Help them to embrace it as one of their personal values. People who cut the lawn in sandals, drive with broken tail lights and cracked windshields don't buy-in to safety. Those who speed and forget their seat belts don't buy-in to safety - even though they seemingly work safely. They tolerate safety rules. That's very different than buying-in and owning safety as a personal value.
Look at it this way, you cannot buy that which is not for sale. So in order for there to be a buyer, there has to first be a seller. Don't be afraid of the idea of selling safety. It's easier than you think.
Here are three things you need to know about helping others buy-in to your safety program:
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.