Safety meetings have the tendency to be a one-room schoolhouse: too many subjects all at once.
I have been the featured keynote speaker at a lot of safety meetings over my twenty years in safety management consulting. I have witnessed some meetings that created incredible focus for attendees and other meetings that were attention-deficit disasters. In safety meetings, it’s not uncommon to see 18 year-old first-time workers sitting alongside 3-more-months-until-retirement seasoned veterans - very similar to the one-room schoolhouses of old. Children of all ages would gathered under one roof to be taught by one teacher across all learning levels.
But if there were twenty students in the class and only one was at the 4th grade level, then only five percent of what was taught in that schoolhouse would be for the benefit of that single fourth-grader. Ninety-five percent would not be applicable. While one student was working on multiplication tables, others were concentrating on geography or science lessons or grammar. And don’t forget the hickory switch that was kept close by in case consequences needed to be doled out.
Safety meetings have the tendency to be a one-room schoolhouse: too many subjects all at once. There might be a lot of learning in the air but not everyone will grasp everything that is being presented.
Here are four strategies to getting out of the one-room schoolhouse in your safety meetings:
1One Meeting, One Focus: meetings need a theme before they can have an agenda. You must pick a topic or outcome that you would like to wrap your meeting around. Like a mathematics class doesn’t study sentence structure, your safety meeting can not possibly cover everything in one meeting. Don’t even try. The purpose of any safety meeting is to make the organization better - not just better-informed. Every idea should advance that. Without a theme, you unknowingly encourage your presenters to engage in an information dump; throwing out random facts, figures, charts, graphs, research, unrelated videos, stories that have nothing to do with the theme and then asking your people to make sense of it all. What one thing do you want your people to do differently as a result of this safety meeting? Answer that question and then point everything in the meeting at that (tweet this).
2Announce The Meeting Theme and Agenda Weeks In Advance: The agenda for the meeting tells attendees what they can expect and allows them to prepare their mindset while presenters prepare relevant presentations to the theme. Your people really only want to know why you’ve called the meeting, what they are about to learn and then what you want them to do with the information. That can be announced in the agenda - and then stick to it. No wandering.
3Offer Many Different Views On A Single Theme: Not everyone thinks the same, learns the same or even embraces safety the same way. Not everyone has the same level of experience or exposure to past safety ideas. Not everyone reads at or thinks at the same level. So don’t expect that they will all “get” it with one reference to the issue. By offering your attendees multiple ways of looking at an issue, they each get more chances to internalize the information in their own way. Saying something once and expecting every single person in the room to fully comprehend it in exactly the same way is a dangerous assumption.
4Make Them Do Something With What They Just Learned: Create a call-to-action. Are you expecting your attendees to be participants or spectators? Are you asking them to contribute? Are you asking them to find solutions to workplace problems after each session? Are you challenging them uncover what they see wrong or missing from workplace safety? If not, you’re running a compliance meeting that is not open to conversation, discussion or exploration of new ideas. You don’t have to assemble them in a room to talk at them, you can do that by sending a video or writing a memo. But if you’re going to meet, then make it a meeting - not a lecture.
So think about your safety meeting. Are you running a one-room schoolhouse? Or are you running a university of higher learning using each learning session to advance your people to becoming outstanding safety performers by sticking to one subject at a time?
People are more likely to embrace safety as a personal value the better they get at it. Then you can put away the hickory switch.
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 below for more information and to discuss your needs with Kevin.