Still More General Axioms About Safety Culture Change

Still More General Axioms About Safety Culture ChangeLast issue we looked at some guiding principles for leading safety culture change–things that must be in place before it can succeed. There we saw it requires active safety leadership at all levels, as well as consistent application over several years. But there are at least three more things we’ll need to have in place to drive that success, and we’ll take a look at those below.  We’ll also tie these to some other ideas for building and leading a sustainable safety culture as we move through this series. [content_protector password=”axioms2″ identifier=”axioms2″]

Communicate it Early and Often

You can’t sneak a culture change through the back door of an organization and expect people to become fans of it.  They’ll feel as though they were excluded from the process, and that in turn will result in a sense of disenfranchisement and resentment.

So, include them in the process. Start by taking some sort of safety-culture survey that gives front-line employees the opportunity to voice their opinions about the existing safety culture and how well it’s being led by organizational leadership.10 Things You Absolutely MUST KNOW About Reinforcing Your Safety Culture By Building EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

Then point back to the results of this survey when it comes time to communicate the new vision, and be sure to tie those results to the plan going forward.  They need to see a direct connection between the change initiative you’re announcing and what they said needs to happen with the safety culture.

Let employees know what’s coming early in the process, and talk about it openly and often.  It should become a regular point of conversation in plant meetings, toolbox meetings, one-on-one conversations with employees, newsletter contributions, and any other venue that might be available to you.

Set expectations for safety culture early in the process and let those expectations sink in well before the “official” start of the change.  By the time the change begins, much of the normal resistance will have dissipated.

Identify and Enlist Champions

No matter how good you may be, you can’t lead a safety culture on your own.  It requires distributed leadership.  And although safety-culture change is targeted to everyone in the organization, it has to start somewhere and with someone.

Begin with your star players–the most highly engaged employees in the organization and on your team.  They are looking for opportunities to lead and to make a difference.

Leverage that natural desire and enlist their help to lead the change.  They’ll operate with enthusiasm and energy, and that will become contagious.  Once your other employees see their top-tier peers model the behaviors you’re looking for in a safety culture, they’ll begin to come around and want in on that process too.

Market and Celebrate Successes

fctc-online-bannerNever underestimate the importance of “marketing” your successes.  Take note of any small wins early in the process and voice them loudly in every venue you can think of.  Let everyone know what happened and why it’s a win for the safety culture.  And recognize those who helped achieve that win.

We’ll continue with more thoughts about building and leading a sustainable safety culture in our next issue.  But that’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.



About the Author

Eric Svendsen
Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.