The Difference Between Mediocre And Vital Safety People

Not all safety people are vital to an organization’s success.

whateverittakesI received an email this week from a young safety professional. It was his intention to finish up a series of safety certifications he was working on. Then, he would embark on getting some solid management skills training. He wanted to ensure that, even at his young age, he would vault himself into a position of becoming “vital” to his employer. He knew that management skills are crucial to becoming a leader. Good leaders are vital.

Also this week, I read a few posts from other safety people. Some are finding it difficult to either find new work or to escape the chopping block. As expected, some blame their employers or former employers. Some blame the job market. Some blame declining safety buy-in from upper management. Of course, this is all out of earshot of their employers.

Not All Safety People Are Equal

What science knows is that not every person is vital to every company. Every company has a few top performers, but they also have many more mediocre performers. Safety people included. Not every safety person is a top performer. Not every person certified in safety is equal. Not every person in a management position is equal. Every organization will have its top twenty percent and its bottom eighty percent of employees.

The Pareto Principle was invented by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto came up with a mathematical formula that determined that 20% of the people owned 80% of the land in Italy. Quality Management pioneer, Dr. Joseph Juran, took Pareto’s principle and expanded it. Juran recognized a universal principle he called the "vital few and trivial many" and reduced it to writing. In it, he explained that twenty percent of employees were vital to an organization and eighty percent were not vital.

The 80/20 Rule Applies To Safety

For safety people, this extends to them as well. Twenty percent of the safety people are vital to the success of a company’s safety performance. Eighty percent are not vital. A great deal of self-reflection and honesty are needed to accurately determine which side of the equation you are on. Delusion needs to be set aside. 

Not all safety people are vital to an organization’s success. That is to say that most safety people, like every other employee, can be replaced. Only a few would be sorely missed. They are the vital few. The young safety professional earlier wanted to become vital to his or any organization. To raise his value, he is willing to do the heavy lifting. He's willing to get the training and skills that make him vital to his employer - whoever that ends up being in future.

The Difference Between Vital And Mediocre

There’s a difference between vital safety people and everyone else. The major difference is this: 

  • vital safety people add value to the company 
  • mediocre safety people rely on rules enforcement as their primary objective.

Now before the argument gets thrown out that rules enforcement adds value, let’s be clear. Rules enforcement is the bare minimum of the job. Yes it is required but it doesn’t add value over the bare minimum.

Great safety cultures are not built solely on rules enforcement. Teamwork and watching each others’ backs are not built on rules enforcement. Coaching, mentoring and leadership are not built on rules enforcement. Trust, respect and courtesy are not built on rules enforcement.

Honestly Answer 3 Questions

Suppose you were applying for a safety position with a company. Suppose you were up against at least twenty other similarly certified candidates. Answer these three questions:

  1. What skill set do you bring to the table that no one else brings? 
  2. How does the company benefit from having you in the position instead of anyone else? 
  3. Can you make a solid business case of how hiring you would benefit HR, Finance and Marketing departments?

If you don’t understand how your safety position impacts other departments, you are operating in a silo. People working in silos are not vital. If you can prove yourself vital to the company, you will always be able to find work and will have the ear of senior management. If you don’t have the ear of senior management, it may be because they don’t consider you vital to their success.

So while you ponder your uncertain future, consider making yourself vital to the company. And if not your company, then someone else’s company. Develop a skill set that would surely be missed if you were to leave for another company.

What Companies Want

Companies want to be profitable and productive. They want their employees to be engaged, loyal, proud and motivated. They want to be on-side on safety. They want to reduce insurance costs. They want counsel from their safety people in the same way they get counsel from lawyers and accountants.

10 Crucial Questions for Safety Managers Safety, or rather the vital safety person, can deliver all of that. It is up to the safety people to develop themselves to be able to accomplish these things. Deliver happy, healthy, motivated workers who make excellent safety decisions resulting in improved performance and better profits ... and you become vital.

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 here for more information and to discuss your needs with Kevin.

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Topics: safety leadership, safety manager, safety supervisor