Some of the questions I am often asked by leaders trying to make safety culture improvements are, What should employees be doing differently? What safety-culture activities should we as a company be promoting? And How do we measure the effectiveness of those activities?
Those are great questions to ask, because if safety culture is more than mere compliance (it is), then it follows that adhering to safety rules and wearing all required PPE can no longer act as the bottom-line safety-performance standard. We must up the game and make leading safety the goal. So here are a few suggestions for what employees should be doing differently. [content_protector password=”slam” identifier=”slam”]
Where to Start
A good place to start is to create level-specific “menus” of expected safety-leadership activities. That’s a mouthful, I know, but we’ll break it down as we go. If you’ve followed past articles I’ve written on this, then you’ve already considered creating a safety-culture infrastructure by changing some HR policies to include a safety-culture dynamic. Foremost among those (at least for our purposes here) is to add a safety-culture (or safety-leadership) competency to the annual performance review. If a “safety” competency already exists, modify it to include safety leadership. If it doesn’t yet exist, create it and set performance expectations that employees will be measured against. Be sure to make it clear that advancement, promotion, pay increases, bonuses, and other rewards and opportunities will be based on consideration of that competency. Reread past articles for more details about safety-culture infrastructure.
Assuming all that is in place, we can now begin defining activities. Employees who are told that their active involvement in a safety culture will be measured and used in performance evaluations will immediately have questions about the kinds of things you’ll be looking for. A safety-leadership activity menu can help guide that conversation.
Safety-Leadership Activity Menu
A safety-leadership activity menu is simply a list of things an employee could be doing to satisfy the requirements of the safety-culture competency. Obviously, these activities will need to vary from level to level, and from work group to work group. For instance, a front-line employee will be expected to engage in a different set of activities than, say, supervisors, plant managers, directors, or safety leads/professionals.
Similarly, an hourly employee in the plant (say, an operator) may have a different menu of activities than an individual contributor in the back office of the plant (say, an accountant). We won’t be able to cover every kind of employee or work group in this series, but hopefully what we do cover will be enough to start the process and give you some insight into other measures you may need to take on your own.
It’s also important to note that no employee should be expected to perform all activities on any given menu. The menu is there to provide options. For instance, a line employee may have choices like serving on a safety committee, leading safety talks, conducting safety observations, etc. They should be given the freedom to choose which activities—and how many activities!—they want to do, so long as they are involved. Your more-engaged employees will likely choose more activities than your less-engaged employees, but that’s okay. As long as they understand that those choices will be considered in an annual performance review, and that associated pay increases, bonuses, promotions and other opportunities will be tied to those choices, they should be given the freedom to decide on their own.
Remember, part of the goal here is to give them enough room to take charge of their own future and placement with the company, and to let them live with the benefits and consequences of their decisions. Your role is to communicate the vision and provide opportunities to operate within that vision, and their role is to adjust to the direction of the organization at a reasonable pace.
We’ll begin looking at sample activity menus next time. But that’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until then.