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.
While process is still important, there’s a new era of safety that focuses on people-work over paperwork. It requires that front-line supervisors have skills in coaching, mentoring and inspiring employees. After all, supervisors are the first point of contact between the safety program and the majority of those who get hurt.
The relationship between front-line supervisor and front-line employee is where safety culture is created. Acceptable conduct is enforced by front-line supervisors and managers. Underskilled supervisors can turn over staff. New staff means a new risk of incident. Senior management can try to initiate culture change. But, it is at the front-line where it will either be accepted or eaten for lunch by the old culture.
So, where does safety need to go?
Safety needs to become more personal. It has to attach itself to both corporate and employee values. Companies have got to become as committed to safety as they are to profitability.
Here are 3 strategies to improve the corporate safety program:
1Safety unlocks leadership. Safety is the delivery vehicle that connects employee values with corporate objectives. Safety is an excellent conversation starter. No employee wants to see a co-worker get hurt. Employees already agree with the concept of safety. So use safety as the gateway that unlocks the conversations about personal leadership capacity.
It is impossible to have a discussion about accountability without discussing personal choices. Ask your people to demonstrate their personal leadership capacity. Get them to take pride in their work and choices. Safety is how you bring it out of them. If employees won't take pride in their work, they won't commit to safely doing the work. You can't have a full commitment to safety without a real commitment to personal accountability.
2Conviction for safety from senior management. Senior managers must have a level of conviction for safety before they can sell the safety program to employees. Larry Winget once said, “When you stand on stage (when eyes are on you), people won’t care what you have to say. In fact, most even believe what you have to say. But they will be checking you out to see if you believe what you have to say.”
When senior management commits to safety, they commit to removing the barriers to safety success. Front-line safety supervisors and managers will need to develop better management skills. The better the front-line management and coaching skills are the better the safety performance. Good safety performance means fewer work stoppages. Stoppages are the fastest way to eat away at profits. You can keep profits high by investing in skills development for front-line supervisors and managers. (For more on this, download my e-book Running With Scissors)
3Find the employee pay-off. What's in it for employees? Why should they choose safety? By the way, the payoff never includes the word don't (don't get hurt, don't lose your job, don't do what I did, etc...) Don’t is not a payoff nor a benefit. And each employee’s payoff is likely going to be different. This where management and coaching skills will be beneficial to be able to uncover each person’s payoff. Supervisor's and front-line manager's skill set can help employees remove the barriers to safety buy-in. When employees are out of excuses for not embracing safety, they have no choice but to buy-in.
When you commit to the safety of employees, you commit to the empowerment of employees. You commit to unlocking their personal leadership capacity. That’s more than just putting money into the safety program. To improve safety, companies must first improve their people. After all, business gets better when the people in that business get better. Safety gets better when the people at the front-line get better.
Align your safety program with personal leadership skills and management skills development. Build more safety leaders. Employees receive safety training before they go into the field. Ensure that your supervisors get solid management skills training before they go into the field. Safety is how you start the conversation about shifting the corporate culture.
Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker and author of "The Perfect Safety Meeting" and his newest #1 Amazon Health & Safety Bestseller, "Running With Scissors - 10 Reasons To Invest in Safety In Slow Times." He is an expert in how to get through to people - how to talk with them so they hear and understand. Kevin's presentation "Trust The Process - Instill A Safety Attitude To Build An Engaged Culture Of Safety" will help your organization reach the following goals: better engagement and buy-in to safety, increased teamwork, better communication, lower turnover resulting in increased profits from production. Click here for more information and to discuss your needs with Kevin.
(c) Can Stock Photo