Don’t waste your one-on-one time with your people enforcing rules.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. When employees buy-in to safety, you don’t need to police them anymore. Where you once spent a great deal of time on enforcement, you can now replace with coaching and mentoring. Trust me when I say, coaching and mentoring is infinitely more satisfying.
Focus on the plan to improve the things you're not already doing. Not the goal.
Once upon a time, in the mid-90’s, I was working in a sales job. At the start of each month, our sales manager would assemble all the sales reps in a room and ask each of us for our specific sales goal for the month. He wasn't asking us what our plan was to make more sales. He was asking for a number.
What if your "one thing" was to make a difference?
There are no such things as priorities. You can have a priority; one. But you can’t have more than one priority. Besides, it’s not a priority if it competes for attention with other priorities. You can have a lot of things that are important, or urgent or critical. But there is room for only one priority. It is that one priority that you can build a company, an ideal or a movement around.
A safety system by itself doesn't make the organization any safer.
Driving instructors have a system for teaching people to drive. Sports coaches have a system for improving player performance. Almost everything in this world has a system. There’s even a system for generating your paycheck. But, the system doesn't pay out unless someone tells it to.
To improve employee participation in the safety program, clear communications are key.
If you are going to communicate something in safety, what do you want to have happen? How exactly do you want your people to participate?
Informing people isn’t enough anymore. Your people are already bombarded with, on average, four thousand marketing messages each day. Everywhere they look, they are getting access to another message – competing with your safety message - even as recently as this morning.
But let's say that you are above-average in compelling and engaging your people’s attention during a morning safety meeting, as soon as they leave the meeting, they are faced with hundreds more messages that all compete for attention. So, to combat this, you have to be clear.
If you want people to care about safety, you have to first care about them.
I was working with a group of minesite supervisors and we were discussing the needs of employees and how a supervisor can make sure that employee needs were being met. I asked this question: how can you show your employees that, as supervisors, you care?
Here are some of the responses:
Give good communication
Improve your listening skills
Be respectful of their needs
Engage them in problem-solving
Recognize employees for their good work
Take a time-out with employees
Help employees to re-focus
Show support for your people especially when they need it.
All good answers. In fact, a lot of necessary answers. But the answer that wasn’t mentioned was, perhaps, too obvious. It is the one thing that supervisors, managers, safety people, executives, and even fellow workers must do to show their fellow employees that they care.
Are you meeting the needs of your people in safety meetings?
How many times have you seen presenters, with 10 minutes of solid information, stretch it into a 90-minute presentation? How does that happen? Here’s how. The person organizing the safety meeting is trying to fill blocks of time instead of developing content that will make a difference to their people.
If you want to change safety performance, you have to change the approach and the conversation.
In safety, there are no trade secrets. The same set of rules apply to every company within an industry. Construction safety applies to all builders. Mining safety is the same for every mine. Electrical safety is the same for every electrician. Whatever your industry, your competitors don’t get a leg up because they have different rules to play by. Everyone has the same rules and the same code.
If you want your people to care, do and say the things that matter to them.
Why won't people just follow the safety rules? Why don't they speak up at meetings or take the paperwork seriously? Tough questions to ask if you’re a supervisor or safety person trying to get their people to care about safety. But, here's the good news: you can make people care about safety.