Be positive about your safety program and the way it helps to protect and value your good people.
Promote. A scary word for safety people and supervisors. For the ones who don’t understand what it means, it feels disingenuous. But to promote something is to advance a cause or a program; to support it or to actively encourage. So when you tell your people to be safe, you are promoting safety. When you erect posters as safety reminders, you are promoting safety. When you hold a safety meeting, you are promoting safety. When you recognize good behaviors, you are promoting safety. And in order to build a solid safety culture, we cannot do it without promoting safety.
But how do you ensure that you are doing it positively in a way that doesn't undermine the safety program? Here are four key areas to promote your safety program and employee safety in a positive way:
1Connect in a meaningful way. If you want to improve employee commitment to safety and increase employee engagement, I am going to suggest something radical. Look up from your phone and come out from behind your desk. Make eye contact and ask an employee directly about how they are doing today. Radical idea isn’t it? Yes, we all have much work to do. But the moment that you take with an employee sends a positive message of caring and value. When you engage employees one-on-one on a personal level, they feel like you care about them, and value their contributions. When that happens, employee commitment and engagement increases. So do it. Do it on purpose. Do it intentionally. Connect with your people. Ask the energetic and engaged employees to help you solve an issue or find a new solution to a recurring problem. If you want them to be great team members, connect with them, include them and engage them. Engaged employees perform better, especially in safety.
2Empathize with them. How do you get to the point where you articulate safety in a way that aligns and resonates with employees? You put yourself in their shoes. Pay attention to the things that you respond to positively. Pay attention to those things that annoy you or those things that feel burdensome. Notice them all. Make a mental note each time. Then think about how employees, your good people, probably feel the same way. If you can’t empathize with your people, you will have a hard time connecting with them. Feel what they feel. Notice what they notice. Hear what they hear. Adjust your management or supervisory style to connect better. Before people will buy-in to the safety program, they will first buy-in to the safety person. People want to feel that you “get” them and can relate to their issues. Once done, they will let you help them.
3Sell the benefits of safety. When you do safety well, there are benefits that employees experience. Better teamwork. Lower stress. Feeling more productive. More job satisfaction. Opportunities to advance. Personal value. Self-respect. A sense of accomplishment. Shared success. Positive morale. Motivation to do better. A feeling that the work matters. These are all benefits to the employee. These are what separate their current workplace from the lousy workplaces they may have had in the past. When companies go looking for new employees, they don’t promote rules and procedures, or paperwork and LTI’s. They sell the benefits of working here. A great workplace attracts great employees. A great safety program delivers benefits for the participants. Focus on the benefits of doing safety well as the end result. Use rules, process, procedure, paperwork and reporting as a way to get great results and achieve the benefits.
4Keep it positive. Employees want to feel proud of where they work. And they want their employer to feel proud of the contribution employees make. So, be positive about your people. Be positive about your safety program and the way it helps to protect and value the good people you have chosen to be a part of this organization. Keep the discussions focused on moving things forward. Find a win and build on it. Rally your team around getting more safety wins instead of avoiding losses. (Sports teams know that there’s a different mindset between playing to win and playing to avoid a loss). Engage your people to find positive ways to celebrate their safety successes. Keep them focused on achieving success. Voices of dissent cannot find an audience in a positive workplace. Keep building positive momentum.
What does safety do for me? It’s a question you should be asking yourself constantly. It helps you to view safety from the eyes of employees; the very people that you want to have safe days at work. When employees understand safety’s value and what they get from doing it right, they are more apt to buy-in. That shifts your culture in a positive way. Connect. Empathize. Sell the benefits. And, keep it positive.
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/RTimages