People, Power, Progress: Thinking Outside the Box

January 27, 2015

In order to reduce the communication gap and help Safety Culture grow, your organisation must think outside the box and redesign the manner in which the safety message is communicated. This essential shift has the power to move the individual from seeing safety as external to viewing it as an internal mechanism.

Driving home the safety message through traditional, compliance-driven, box-ticking communication methods cannot possibly be effective in the long term. It is not to say that compliance is not required because it certainly is, but compliance alone is insufficient and does nothing to create a sustainable safety culture.

Communication must actively involve people around processes, give operators real local ownership, define realistic expectations, and be a two-way street where authentic feedback is reciprocally transferred. Local risks (operational & behavioural) need to be prioritised and a people-based system installed to win hearts and minds over the long term.

A Common Pinch Point: Frontline Management

Such innovative thinking, along with the systems and tools to support it, are embraced by operators on the ground, who finally feel valued and prepared, and that they can trust authentic feedback. In theory and practice, senior leadership tend to recognise this as best practice also and will endorse such an approach; however, the critical pinch point occurs at the frontline management level.

Frontline managers will often claim they ‘don’t have the time’ or ‘can’t offer the proximity and engagement required’. Organisations need to invest in solving this pinch point through focused training, not just on the ‘what’ or ‘how’ but on ‘why’ this approach is critically important to the organisation. Once there is a proactive, leading-edge communication flow between senior management, frontline management and operators, the gap is reduced and the safety culture will begin to grow.

Sustaining World-Class Results

Because safety and security are intrinsic to the human psyche and priorities for most organisations, when people begin to trust the safety message and feel like a valued part of the whole, all boats rise. Organisations report increased staff morale, decreased absenteeism, and increased productivity and quality.

The most important resource any organisation has is its people, and world-class systems can tap into this resource and motivate based on autonomy rather than obligation. This is when results become sustainable and a safety culture is allowed to flourish.

“We understand that you can’t transform people who don’t have internal drive and desire to create. But we also know it doesn’t work to urge people to think outside the box without giving them the tools to climb out.”

– Laurie Dunnavant

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