I mentioned in the last article that leadership must be on board and actively driving a safety culture before it can take hold and reach a sustainable level. So far we’ve covered activities menus for front-line employees and their supervisors. But what about senior facility leadership, like Plant Managers, Area Mangers, Directors and even VPs?
These are positions that can make or break the safety culture. If they aren’t actively participating in the culture with their own level-appropriate activities, it can derail the effort. Here are some activities we recommend for those levels.
Communicate the Vision
Leaders at this level need to communicate the safety-culture vision as often as they can, and in as many different ways as they can. Calling attention to it during facility-wide meetings, staff meetings, leadership walkthroughs, and casual conversation are just a few examples of venues that can be used to communicate the vision.
Bear in mind that it must be communicated with authenticity and passion, and employees must see it internalized in their leaders. Where there are practices or policies that appear to be at odds with the safety-culture vision, leaders need to acknowledge it and explain to employees the present rationale behind it and what they are doing to remedy it for the long term.
Additionally, leaders at upper levels must communicate the level-specific expectations around the safety-culture vision (the “activities menus” for each level). Likewise, they must be emphatic that embracing the culture is expected of all employees at all levels, and is not optional for anyone. They must explain that it’s the new way of doing things, and that they expect everyone to be on board.
Leaders at upper levels must pay close attention to levels of employee engagement in their managers, staff personnel and supervisors. In short, they must ensure that anyone with direct reports is exhibiting the desired leadership behaviors around a safety culture. How are supervisors messaging the culture? How are they coaching and developing leadership capability in their own direct reports to lead that culture? And if they find that a supervisor is fostering a counter culture that is at odds with the safety-culture vision, they must have the resolve to stop it, correct it, and even remove that supervisor if needed.
Monitor the Culture / Reinforce or Adjust as Needed
Leaders at top levels in the facility have to keep their collective finger on the pulse of the culture. Unfortunately, they can’t be everywhere at once. That means they must check in with their managers and supervisors to keep on top of the culture. The EHS function can play a significant role in this, as well as any safety-culture steering team that may be have been set up. In short, leaders must partner with others who can act as their eyes and ears on the floor. Reviewing the progress of the safety culture on a monthly basis (in a meeting with those “eyes” and ears”) and making adjustments where needed is also a good practice.
Address Pockets of Resistance
Finally, top leadership must identify and quell any remaining or emerging pockets of resistance. The monthly meetings suggested in the previous point is an ideal venue for identifying ongoing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. If you know how to do a SWAT analysis, then you can use that as a tool during these monthly meetings to identify any remaining “threats” to the culture, including late adopters. (Those unfamiliar with how to do a SWAT analysis can simply google it to find more information on it). Have a disciplinary policy in place for those who just refuse to get on board, and be sure they understand that termination is one of the possible consequences.
There’s one more category of employee that we need to include in our “activities menu,” and that’s the EHS function. But we’ll save that category for another article. That’s all for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.