As HSE people, we normally have very little position power when improving safety culture. That is, we usually do not have managerial authority over those who will be the implementers of the changes that we are looking to introduce. It is critical, then, that we understand the best tactics and techniques to use to influence these stakeholders so that they are (or more readily become) supportive of our plans. [content_protector password=”stakeholder” identifier=”stakeholder”]
Too often we think that the value of something such as improving safety culture is so self-evident that no persuading should be necessary. And intellectually, this is true; no one would ever want an unsafe work environment. But there are many priorities competing for stakeholders’ time and attention, and our “initiatives” may be seen as a lesser priority than others.
Levels of Support for Improving Safety Culture
The chart positioned here is designed to help us decide where stakeholders are initially in terms of how much they support what we are planning. This chart also takes into consideration the political nature of organizations by looking at the amount of influence a stakeholder has in getting others to adopt your planned changes for improving safety culture.
Think of the stakeholders you may need to influence, and just where they currently are in terms of (1) how much they support what you are trying to do, and (2) how much influence they have in the organization. Then place each one in the appropriate quadrant based on your analysis.
Those you placed in the lower left quadrant are people who have very little support for your plan, but also very little influence on how your plan for improving safety culture will be received. These may be managers or staff that will be affected very little, if at all, by your implementation. Your tactic for this group is to keep them informed of events and progress through emails and updates, as further down the implementation path they may become more heavily involved.
The stakeholders in the lower right quadrant will be in favor of your plans, but they will have low influence. Your tactic for this group will be to get them as much information as you can (in terms of benefits and impact) so that they can fully understand what you are trying to do and can begin to act as marketing agents for you in their interactions with others.
The people in the top left quadrant are very influential, but they will not be supportive of your plan for improving safety culture. The key here is to understand the source of their resistance. Perhaps they need more information, especially concerning the personal benefits to them and how you plan to minimize negative impacts. Maybe they need help in understanding their roles in the change, or how it will fit in with other operational or corporate priorities. It is unlikely that the same source of resistance will be true for each of these stakeholders, so spend time figuring out just what you need to do to win them over.
The top right quadrant is comprised of people we all want to have on our side during change planning. The goal here is to figure out how to leverage their support. Can some of them help launch your program or associated training sessions? Can others in this quadrant publicly endorse your plans? Co-sign emails? Bring you in to pitch your ideas in manager or leadership meetings? Think through how you can best leverage the efforts of these influential stakeholders.
Stakeholder analysis and planning are critical parts of change planning and implementation when taking needed steps for improving safety culture. Understanding at the start where stakeholders are and where they will need to be—and taking steps to help them get there—will go a long way toward minimizing surprises along the way.