When you tweak job performance in small chunks, little by little, safety performance improves.
Back in a former lifetime (20 years ago), I made my living as a radio announcer. Radio is a cut-throat game that depends on ratings. Take a tumble in the ratings and you can start looking for another job. To stay on top in the ratings requires constant monitoring, adjustment and improvement. That means weekly airchecks.
Airchecks are not currency. They are one-on-one meetings with the program director - the announcer’s boss - to “check” the announcer’s “on-air” performance. Hence the name aircheck.
What you probably don’t know is that every time that an announcer turns on the microphone, a recording takes place. Everything that announcer says is recorded. Once a week the program director picks one hour of on-air time and tears it apart looking for stumbles, segues, how long the announcer spoke, relevance, making sure the basics (time, temperature, station identifications) were covered in each break, weather, traffic, etc. In addition, what the announcer has done right is also assessed and discussed in the weekly aircheck meetings.
I received a performance review every single week. I never hated it. I never dreaded it. It was part of the job. This is how radio is done - performance reviews (airchecks) always. In the airchecking sessions, things that needed work would be pointed out. Things that I was doing well would be praised. I never feared the weekly “performance appraisal,” after all, if I did well, I would be rewarded and praised for my efforts.
The purpose of weekly airchecks is to keep the announcers sharp, to keep them improving and not allowing them to develop any bad habits that can become deeply ingrained. If an announcer is improving, they are attracting more listeners which means, ultimately, more revenue to the radio station and, of course, the announcer stands a good chance of getting raises. Airchecks are simply coaching sessions.
If you were to compare it to baseball, it would be like coaching a player into moving from a .227 batting average to a .230 in a week - and then up another few points the next week. What does going from a .227 to a .230 mean? Well, that could be four extra runs a year. Four extra runs could mean two more wins. But if every player moved up three points, the team would move up the standings quickly.
When you tweak performance in small chunks, little by little, performance improves. It works exactly the same way in safety too. There is no need to overhaul the entire corporate safety culture to get a positive change in safety performance. Concentrate on the individual pieces before you try to finish the jigsaw puzzle. Adjust the small, incremental performances first. Culture shifts eventually.
So why are safety personnel only talking to workers when they want to address a performance issue? Why aren’t managers willing to talk to staff weekly about their performance? Why does it seem like feedback only comes once a year - unless they're doing something wrong?
Even as a pro, Tiger Woods gets more than one golf lesson a year. Basketball, baseball, hockey, football players all get constant coaching. Every pro athlete gets performance tweaks daily.
Supervisors should be doing 50 performance reviews a year. Once a week it could be an informal break just talking; tweaking, fine-tuning, adjusting, praising, instructing and mentoring. At the end of the year you wouldn’t even have to have the annual performance review meeting with your employee because there would be no areas of concern that weren't already covered as minor adjustments along the way.
When you create regular communication, you reduce turnover. The reason people quit their jobs is because they don’t get any feedback, accolades or improvement strategies. People will improve if you help them get better every day.
In addition, when you give feedback and communicate on at least a weekly basis, you create conversation, which creates a level of trust. The more trust you build, the more open to feedback employees become. When you create than openness to feedback, a level of trust and consistent conversation, you affect people at a values level. That builds a stronger connection to safety.
In safety, you should always be helping your people to improve. Always be improving in safety.
What most people may not know is that I still do my airchecks today - even though I’m not in radio. I regularly record my presentations to either audio or video which ensures that my clients get the very best presentations I can offer.
How are you improving as a safety professional? Are you getting better at how your organize and execute safety meetings? If you want to get better at safety meetings, download my free e-book, The Perfect Safety Meeting, below.