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.
Here are four strategies safety people and supervisors can do today to start improving the buy-in to safety from their people:
1Peoplework over paperwork. Don't misunderstand my point, paperwork is important. It is even a legal requirement. But given the choice to be doing paperwork or engaging employees, your time would be better spent with your people. Employees have a few things they want from their job and if you're not delivering them, you won't get engagement from your people in return. Without engagement, there's is no buy-in to safely doing the job. Most of what employees want from their work can be accomplished by engaging with your people. Appreciate their contribution. Value them. Isn't it funny how job satisfaction can be directly connected to how much the employee is valued and appreciated? It's tough to find job satisfaction in a place that neither values nor appreciates you. Look after your people on their time. Get paperwork done on your time.
2Build a strong one-on-one relationship with each employee. Mutual trust and respect grows the better the relationship becomes. If you don't have a good relationship with an employee, you can't be sure of how the employee will react given a situation. People who have built solid workplace relationship can depend on each other to keep their word and their commitments. People don't just blindly follow authority. Don't assume that your position will give you influence. It will not. Influence is earned. And for the people who commit to building solid relationships with their team and co-workers will be given influence. There is little influence without a relationship.
3Involve your people in helping advance safety. When your safety meetings seem like a lecture, you're going to have difficulty getting buy-in. Who wants to buy-in to a program of constantly feeling like their voices don't matter? Who wants to be a part of always being told what to do? When the team starts solving problems together, you build teamwork. You build trust and respect among the members of the team. You show people that their opinions and ideas matter. And really, is there anyone better suited to solve the problems at the front-line that happen daily at the front-line. You may discover that your safety procedures need to be revamped. And that is good news. Let your people help you to improve safety by allowing them to participate.
4Care. OK, I can't tell you how to care. But I can tell you that you had better care: about your work, your level of influence, their contribution, their value, and their safety. People are more willing to accept a new standard for safety when they first know how much you care about them. If you don't care about them (or appear to care more about your own job, your authority, or whether or not your are revered), you are going to face opposition. It may seem like you are always having to chase people to follow safety rules. If that happens, they are simply tolerating you. They won't care about you or your success. The bosses who truly care, get cared about. They are the one who are liked and respected.
If it hasn't been made completely clear yet, the people most capable of influencing buy-in to safety are the supervisors and safety people who care about other people. People who care about other people involve those people. They engage them. The relationship they have with their people matters to them.
The best people to work with are the ones who worry about their people. The thought of one of their people being hurt keeps them awake at night. Simply put, people are precious. We should hurt when they get hurt. It's the people who care that have the greatest influence.
When you have influence, you don't need authority. The real job of safety managers and supervisors is to influence employees to buy into safety in the first place. Build your influence through caring and leadership.
Kevin Burns helps safety departments, safety committees, management and front-line supervisors to accelerate safety programs. Through consulting services to create a personalized plan to accelerate safety teamwork, or a safety meeting speaking presentation to rally your employees around safety, Kevin helps improve engagement and teamwork in safety.
Kevin Burns is a management consultant, speaker and author of “PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety.” He believes that the best place to work is always the safest place to work. www.KevBurns.com© Can Stock Photo