There are 4 levels of safety buy-in you must progress through before safety becomes a personal value.
Like most people in the safety industry, I came to safety from somewhere else. Twenty years ago I was selling photocopiers and fax machines. But, I preferred the idea of training salespeople more than the idea of being one.
My boss practiced the process of selling. I understood the science of selling.
The process of selling involved numbers, procedures and time. On average:
- 100 cold-calls would net 8 proposals, of which 4 would be willing to evaluate a machine, resulting in 1 sale.
- Salespeople could make about 20 cold-calls per day.
- The time-frame required from cold-call to sale was around 45 days.
Understanding the science of selling can shorten the sales cycle and reduce the numbers of cold-calls. The science of selling involves why people buy, their motivation and how buying a product or service helps or fixes a problem. In the sales process, there are four levels to overcome before there's a sale:
- Buy-in that a problem exists
- Buy-in to the actual salesperson as a provider of solution to the problem
- Buy-in to the salesperson’s proposal of solutions (a plan to fix the problem)
- Buy-in to invest either financially or ideologically (commitment)
Safety buy-in works the same way. The science is the same. To help people buy-in to a safety system requires more than just an explanation of the process - following the rules. It requires an understanding of the science of selling.
There are 4 levels of safety buy-in you must progress through before safety becomes a personal value:
1Level 1 - Buy-in to safety training. If an employee won't buy-in to training in basic safety skills, you will never get them to buy-in to safety as a personal value later. They have to be willing to be trained to a level of competence in safety. Safety training must be combined with job training. Without commitment to safety training, you can expect low levels of engagement in all things involved with the job. The saying, “how you do one thing is how you do everything” is accurate here. If they resist safety training, you might as well let them go. Resistance and opposition to safety will only become greater later.
2Level 2 - Buy-in to the safety leader. Once upon a time, people in supervisory positions were followed because of their title. Now, managers and supervisors must earn trust and respect from employees. This is an issue for overseeing and supervising safe production and performance. If the employee doesn’t buy-in to the supervisor, there's a chance the supervisor will be undermined later. People who don’t respect their supervisor won’t always follow the directives of their supervisor. Supervisors have to do more than bark orders. They have to become coaches who inspire their crews to become exceptional at safety. They have to show that they care about each employee’s safety.
3Level 3 - Buy-in to the safety program. At this level, it is not unusual for employees to accept that the safety program is there to protect them. At this level, employees can still buy-in to the safety program enough to support, comply and participate in it. Supervisors may be still be forced to chase them and enforce rules, processes and procedures. Employees may still need to be reminded to wear their PPE or to review simple safety procedures as refreshers. Safety supervisors will still need to be part cop and part coach. But overall, employees agree the safety program is not there to hinder their work but to keep them safe.
4Level 4 - Buy-in to safety as a personal value and making safety a guiding principle in all decisions in life - not just at work. Once people buy-in to safety as a lifestyle choice, every decision they make in life will have safety at the center of it. The performance of the employee in workplace safety is certainly benefited. Once an employee buys-in to safety at the values level, the need to enforce compliance disappears. The antagonistic nature of employee-vs-supervisor disappears. All decisions are based on personal values of doing the right thing in safety.
Now, assess where your safety program is. What level of buy-in have you achieved? What do you need to do to get to Level 4? Take your safety program beyond enforcement. Buy-in makes the tiresome need for enforcement disappear.
Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker and author of "The Perfect Safety Meeting." He delivers engaging and entertaining keynote safety presentations for everyone: from front-line staff to senior management. He helps people see the light when it comes to buying-in to the safety program.