Last year, I was talking to the safety manager at an equipment hire company that has 300 staff Australia wide. He had launched a new safety campaign with his senior manager to promote the new annual safety goal.
Beautiful brochures were created and were launched with much fanfare at sites across the country. To the horror of management, employees were cynical and distrusted the messages. Showing their lack of faith by throwing the expensive brochures into the bin.
A year later the company wanted to launch another new safety goal after having to abandon the previous one. They wanted a quote on getting some communication materials made.
But here's the thing. Pretty brochures, elaborate videos and launch parties cannot make up for any serious cultural issues that need to be worked on first. Many leaders think they can generate change by inspiring pep talks. That they can rally support with a few words, a couple of times a year. But there is so much more to it than that. To move people, you need to inspire them with a shared vision. A vision that has meaning and that is achievable. This is done through connecting with people in your workplace, going out and talking to them and linking how their personal goals match the goals of the organisation. But first of all, you need to dig deeper and find out why people don't believe that change can occur. Once you have worked on that, then you can introduce new plans.
Senior management just didn't get how serious it was that the workforce didn't believe them. Like all companies that rate for low effectiveness when it comes to workplace communication, they were focused on the cost of communication production, rather than behavioural change. If you contrast this to high effectiveness organisation who focus on behaviour change rather than costs, they see improvement around 3 times that of low effectiveness organisations.
In the book Execution, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charam, they mention the need for companies to have leaders who get things done. Leaders who commit to a new plan and ensure follow through occurs. This means ensuring that communication works at all levels throughout the company, behaviours change, processes are improved and results are achieved. Basically, leaders who are authentic avoid empty and baseless rhetoric and have the talent to create communication that is deeper and more meaningful than just a one-off brochure. Oh yes, and employees trust them that they mean what they say.
Sadly, this organisation is not alone in having a safety communication campaign that bombed.
Most organisations fail miserably at their latest communication launches, including safety. A study by Towers Watson found that only 55% of communication initiatives succeed initially with only one in four being successful (25%) in changing behaviour long term.
What this firm got so wrong was that they let their safety goals die. They abandoned it because they thought it was unworkable. There was nothing wrong with the safety plan. There was just something really wrong with leadership who couldn't quite connect that their inability to lead a culture of execution wasn't just going to affect safety, but infiltrate at all levels throughout the company. When leadership can't transform a company, it sends a ripple effect of consequences throughout the organisation. In this case, it means any new initiative in any other department will also most likely fail. Over time, costs keep increasing over a range of areas.
The Cost of the Status Quo
Aside from wasting time, money and resources on creating their safety goal, this company increased increasing costs from remaining in the status quo. In other words, from not changing.
Over the course of the year, the safety injuries increased not only increasing safety costs, but also productivity decreased and so did staff morale due to a stressful work environment.
When you have problems that don't get fixed, it gets more and more expensive. Repeated employee hassles cost employees 40% of their time. This figure is high because one problem is not just one person's problem. Others have to be brought in to deal with the glitch as well. These employees were dealing with daily issues of repeated injuries and stuff ups with daily processes.
If we look into the future a year or two years from now, that company will be unable to innovate (because that company is stuck and unable to move forward), create a cohesive and healthy workplace, attract great talent and ensure their customers are happy. It's also unlikely that either of those managers will keep their jobs due to non-performance. Unless, of course, they learn from their mistakes.
Sadly, both the safety manager and his boss were totally oblivious to the fact that they had lost credibility. That the launch failure was a personal indictment of their inability to execute.
Instead, they only counted the brochure creation as the only amount of money that had been wasted. But high effective companies know that when it comes to safety communication, the aim is to create a return on investment of between 1.5 -3%. So if you spend say $5000 on printing brochures, another $3,000 on graphic design and $2,000 on your time to get it made that $10,000 needs to see a return to the business of between $11,500 - $13,000.
To realise this return, you need to measure the success of your communication campaign. And it has to be focused on changing behaviours. This means you have to be strategic in your safety communication. You have to create a strategy that is centred on behaviour change and getting results.
Yet, too often I see communication strategies that fail because they are full of holes and don't cover all of the bases. Organisations just implement a band aid approach which is just launch a new initiative without questioning how successfully it can integrated into the company. Done correctly, a strategic communication approach facilitates change and promotes continuous improvements in business operations.
Right from the start, any safety communication strategy needs the leadership team to ask these questions honestly:
- Will our employees accept this new safety goal? If not, why not?
- In what departments, will this new safety goal get stuck and not passed on? What can we do do get department heads on board?
- Which supervisors do we need to consult with first to find out their thoughts on the new initiative?
- How do we tie in this new initiative to the rewards system?
- What sort of feedback system can we introduce to track how employees are responding to the new initiative?
In the book, The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes and Posner, they say each management decision and action is a moment of truth. If management say that something needs to occur, but they're not committed to seeing it through, what does the workforce see? Leaders who aren't committed to change. Leadership isn't about charisma, it's all about behaviour. If you want your workforce to work safely, then model the way.
Bottom line, never agree to help with any organisational launch unless you're 100% fully committed to seeing it completed. This means course correcting on a daily basis, ensuring employees understand what is expected of them and that any issues with it are rectified, so that it's on track to get results.
If you're serious about having the skills to improve your safety communcation the book, Transform Your Safety Communication can get you up and running fast with easy to use templates, while for those who want to be true agents of change, the workshop Fast Track your Safety Communcation Results can teach you how to create actionable safety messages and be a visionary leader.
A Towers Watson study titled Change and Communication ROI, claims that the most important goal of an effective communication program is to motivate both employees and management to act upon, and achieve, the goals set by the organisation.
Yet, most organisations fail miserably at their latest communication launches, including safety. With only 55% of communication initiatives succeeding initially and only one in four being successful (25%) in changing behaviour long term.
Harnessing Frontline Management
When it comes to effectively communicating company information to employees, managers or supervisors can be the catalyst behind supporting a new safety initiatives. Given that they have frequent contact with employees and are seen as a credible, it's quite remarkable that few organisations leverage this powerful resource.
Often, companies will create a new safety campaign, but fail to get input and feedback from supervisors or managers before launching. The result is that supervisors get their noses out of joint and refuse to support the initiative (either outrightly or agree to promote it, but "forget" to mention it to anyone).
A few years ago, we created manual handling training for an organisation that was having staff issues. Due to two competitive companies merging, employees were suddenly working with their "enemies." This meant that staff didn't trust each other or senior management. When our team went to film training vision on site, it was pretty easy to pick up that the workforce was a very unhappy one. So it was no surprise to us when we saw they were on strike six months later.
Launching a new manual handling training program can be a way to get employees to believe that management care about them and to start re-building trust issues. But it has to be done right. Unfortunately, this organisation sent the Executive General Manager to launch the new initiative across various sites around Australia and New Zealand. The welcome was frosty, to say the least. At no stage, had the launch team considered getting supervisors involved with the benefits of the new initiative. Supervisors should have been consulted before we even started to create the training, in order to get their feedback and advice on what needed to be taught and how it should have been promoted. If senior management had shown a more collaborative approach and realised the value supervisors have in getting buy-in, they would have been able to build bridges with supervisors and subsequently frontline staff. Instead, this wonderful opportunity was wasted.
The same Towers Watson study found that high effectiveness firms involve their managers early in the process and give them the information they need to manage the change. With effective support, frontline leaders can be important in channelling communication throughout the organisation.
But it doesn't just magically happen on its own. Companies that are world-class with their internal communication provide their supervisors and managers with the skills to promote new initiatives and hold them accountable for successful delivery.
Yet, even those companies that do provide their staff with training, only one in four companies (25%) are investing in effective training that actually gets results.
Encouraging Effective Health and Safety Communication
Where a lot of safety professionals get it wrong is that they believe all they need to do is run a toolbox talk and show a couple of videos. This isn't enough. Safety communication must be strategic in design and cover the following three areas:
1. Engagement - this is when you have employees emotionally invested in a new goal or procedure and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. High performing companies with their communication are more than 4.5 times likely to report high employee engagement than other organisations. When it comes to improving safety, engagement is key. A study found that engaged employees are 5 times less likely to have safety incident versus disengaged employees and 7 times less likely to have a lost time injury. And when a disengaged employee gets hurt, they get hurt the most costing the employer $392 per injury versus $63 for the engaged employee. It's important that supervisors and managers have engaging communication to promote and have the skills to paint a picture of what the goals are trying to achieve.
2. Communicating the vision - Where a lot of communication initiatives fail to change behaviours is that they do a poor job at clearly communicating the vision and goals. The Towers Watson Study found that companies that are highly effective with their communication do a better job of creating "line of sight" for employees. This means that they understand their big picture and can see how their actions can help the organisation attain its goals. Yet, few leaders are very good at translating goals into tangible information that people feel passionate about. That's why safety professionals and managers needs to be taught this ability. Otherwise, leaders will revert to terms that aren't engaging such as "reducing lost time injuries" and improving our blah-blah-blah ratio (which is what the average employee hears). Boring. What does that mean to the average employee?
3. Change Behaviours - Providing people with information is not enough. What you want is action. All communication is about cause and effect. Many companies end up forgetting what it is they want their staff to do and create communication that is not clear on what behaviour is required and when.
Even the most brilliant and creative safety communications strategy can fail, if you cannot inspire your managers and supervisors to promote the new initiative in a motivating manner.
A few months ago, I was speaking to a company with 6,000 employees Australia wide. Although, they were investing heavily in high quality internal safety communication, their strategy was heavily flawed.
While their recent safety campaign rated highly for getting attention, it failed miserably with action. Out of 6,000 staff members not one changed their behaviour because of the communication. Not one. Nada. Zip. The organisation had created an expensive communication campaign without embedding what action they expected from their workforce.
Successful employee communication is all about engaging employees, in order to drive behaviour change that achieves business results. When you spend tens of thousands of dollars communicating a new safety process and it fails, it costs more than just money and time. This is because it's also an opportunity to get a return on investment (ROI), where you actually improve a range of measurements such as productivity and safety costs. A rule of thumb is an ROI between 1.5 to 3%. So it's no surprise that employee communication programs that drive behavioural change have the strongest correlation to financial performance. These organisations actually perform better from their internal communication and actually get a return on investment rather than a big, fat loss. Highly effective organisations work towards improving productivity, engagement, staff retention and their safety record.
What You Can Do
Improving the communication skills of managers and supervisors is an untapped resource that can drive culture change and promote the right workplace behaviours. Successful organisations build a culture of execution. This means managers know how to get things done through their communication.
If you want to create action, in your workplace, then it's time to change how you do things. This means training safety professionals and managers to teach them how to engage on safety. In other words, how to get things done. For example, a course dedicated to improving safety communication launches includes the Fast Track your Safety Communication Results workshop or if you'd prefer the book Transform Your Safety Communication has templates to get you up and running fast.
Companies that outperform their competitors with high profit levels, productivity, staff retention and a great safety record - all have one thing in common - they know how to engage their workforce on their vision and goals, including safety.
If you want to see how your team performs on safety engagement, try the free assessment tool - Do you know how to Engage on Safety?
Image credit: Taoty, Freedigitalphotos
According to a study by Siemens Enterprise Communications, a business with 100 employees spends an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communication
This translates to an annual cost of $528,443 (even higher for larger companies).
Where there are communication barriers, due to people misunderstanding information, there are also productivity losses. The same study found that the cumulative cost per worker per year is $26,041 just from communication barriers alone.
Being a clear communicator is crucial to being a highly effective safety leader. But it's not just about being clear. It's also about engaging others with your safety communication.
In fact, the number one Return-on-Investment (ROI) for internal communication is engagement.
Poor engagement levels have a crippling effect on safety performance in organisations. Research by Towers Watson found that companies who rate highly for effectiveness were 4.5 times more likely to report high employee engagement than other firms.
Engaged employees are:
- five times less likely to have a safety incident, and
- seven times less likely to a have a lost-time incident.
And safety costs just keep adding up. $63 is the average cost of a safety incident
for an engaged employee versus $392 for a disengaged employee
Molson Coors, a beer manufacturing company, saved $1,721,760 in safety costs in one year alone just through strengthening employee engagement levels.
Safety managers are critical to influencing the workplace to be engaged on safety. You could call them an untapped resource that can create the culture and drive the behaviours needed to keep the workplace safe. How managers talk, share information and teach on safety affects your organisation's safety performance. However, they need to be effectively trained and informed about company goals (see Fast Track Your Safety Communication Results
training program). While at the same time, the quality of internal safety communication also influences the ability to engage employees on safety.The Cost of Poor Workplace Communication
It's not just employees that suffer from poor safety communication.
A study by the US Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation reported the primary root cause of inadvertent patient harm was communication failure in over 70% of cases
Workplace health and safety accidents and stress related illnesses cost institutions and taxpayers billions of dollars each year. All major industrial accidents such as the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, the Fukushima nuclear breakdown, King's Cross station fire and various large commercial airplane crashes have all been attributable to communication issues.
Crystal clear communication that gets everyone on the same page is integral for companies to improve their safety record, staff engagement, productivity levels, as well as improving staff and customer retention.
So if you are a safety professional, how do you know if you have the right skills to clearly communicate new safety initiatives? Well, the best place to start it to test your abilities on our Workplace Safety Assessment Quiz
. After answering 10 questions, you'll get a score that will tell you what areas you need to improve. Answers are from the book, Transform Your Safety Communication
, which you can refer to for more information.
Organisations who wish to remain competitive need to improve their communication style. After all, the Change and Communication ROI Study Report for 2013-2014,
found that companies with high effectiveness in change management and communications are 3 and a half times (3.5x) more likely to significantly outperform their industry peers
than firms that are not effective in these areas.
In today's world, ignoring the importance of safety communication only puts companies at risk.
Image Credit: Vlado, freedigitalphotos.net
Well, it's only been a little over six months and Air New Zealand has decided it's time to change their onboard safety video.
I wasn't a fan of the last one (Safety in Paradise - Can Air New Zealand make Safety Sexy?), but I love the new The Most Epic Safety Video Ever. It's a cross promotion of both The Hobbit and New Zealand tourism that seamlessly merges together with safety. It follows on from the safety training video that was made two years ago (An Unexpected Briefing) that was also inspired by The Hobbit movie (which is actually my favourite out of all of them).
The movie starts with two real-life Hobbit Fans rushing to board their plane and then freaking out once boarded, when they realise they are sitting near The Hobbit actor Elijah Wood. They then start watching the onboard flight video and are quickly transposed to the The Hobbit set that really features the beauty of New Zealand.
We are then guided through the safety process by an Air New Zealand flight attendant in complete Hobbit style apparel including pointy ears and using Hobbit language ("cease your rabble-rousing"). It turns the whole concept of a training video on it's head being more movie trailer interspersed with safety information.
To test the efficacy of the safety video, I thought it best to assess it based on our 4 Step Safety Communication Blueprint. This has been designed to work with how the brain processes information to make decisions, in order to change behaviours. Let's see how the new onflight video measures up.
- Attention - Getting people's attention is like a spark plug that ignites fuel to start an engine. It starts the motor of the brain and it's the first step in changing behaviour. This video is definitely attention-grabbing. It uses an array of focusing techniques such as using humour, the power of surprise and clever flight safety analogies to The Hobbit world (my favourite being a bag of gold being stored under the seat). While it also uses a complex assortment of eye-popping visuals from highlighting the beautiful New Zealand scenery that is the backdrop for The Hobbit set, famous actor appearances and hundreds of performers in eye-catching costumes. 10 out of 10.
- Understand - In terms of getting viewers to understand the message, the language is very simple and easy to understand. Clear analogies are made. I do like showing flying on a bird and how to do the brace position. Most of the time, viewers are explained the purpose as to why the safety process is required. For example, "no smoking is allowed because it's dangerous. " Unfortunately, many companies omit this important explanation which results in a poor compliance rate. All processes are clearly shown, so there is no doubt how to use the safety belt or use a life jacket. 9 out of 10 (1 point deduction for omitting the purpose for every process).
- Remember - Next, we look at what techniques they have used to put safety information top of mind. The high impact visuals works at making information easy to recall and understand which are one of the keys to getting information into memory. What I like to say is "fuzzy in, fuzzy out." If things are unclear, you won't be able to get people to remember correctly. In this safety video, it's all very clear. The repetition of messages is also important, so combined with a demonstration and hand-out, it has been repeated 3 times for suitable efficacy. 9 out of 10.
- Action - Every communication we make is to elicit action of some type. Yet, we often forget this and don't clearly ask for what action we desire. I was recently speaking to a company with 6000 staff and while they managed to get attention on a recent safety campaign, they failed to encourage any action. This is a total failure. What's the point of communicating if people aren't listening and being influenced to change their behaviour? In this safety training video, there are a range of actions that those watching are encouraged to make including a clear call to action at the end to summmarise the whole point of the safety processes (by Director Peter Jackson). 9 out of 10.
Overall, this is a pleasing result of 47 out of 50. I'm not a fan of The Hobbit Franchise and I've never been able to watch the whole movie. Despite this, I did appreciate the safety video, even to the point of looking at flights on Air New Zealand for my next business trip (and I think I just felt a smile on the marketing manager's face at Air New Zealand).
Of course, not everyone has the marketing and training budget to create a 4.5 minute training video that is equal to the GDP of a small country, but it's nice to know that a safety training video can be used to also effectively brand a company.
Well done, Air New Zealand!
If you want to test your safety communication skills, have a go at our safety communication assessment. And if you want to learn more about the 4 Step AURA Communication Blueprint to enable all of you safety managers to learn a standardised system to improve their communication, check out the Fast Track your Safety Communication Results Workshop (early bird pricing available).
Back in the late 1960s, two psychologists, Getzels and Csikszentmihaly, did some research among some art students to uncover how they approached an arts project. They started by dividing the students into two groups. One group undertook the project with the mindset of trying to solve a problem by asking, "How can I produce a good drawing?" While the second group, tried to find a problem. They asked "What good drawing can I produce?" based on the tools they had to use.
A highly prestigious arts panel judged the art work that was created. Those who had worked from the perspective of trying to find a problem were judged to have created the most innovative work. At the time, these research findings caused uproar among psychologists. However, time has shown them to be remarkably accurate.
In fact, as Daniel Pink says in the book, To Sell is Human, what the study found was that the discovery and creation of problems, rather than being technical skillful, is what sets people apart from a creative perspective.
In today's world information is everywhere. We can quite easily jump online to search the web, or post a question on a Linkedin group and get an answer to our problems. Solving problems is much easier than it used to be. Just because you can solve them easily, it doesn't mean you're more advanced than others. It's actually the ability to find problems that sets the creative person apart from others.
It also means being able to draw insights from safety information and providing people with the insight, while avoiding any potential safety issues that can arise. If you're able to see where problems can occur, when others can't, then you are making use of your creative power (unless you always find problems and get stuck on things not working, then you're just a negative person and not much fun to be around).
For example, in the work that I do, I've had a large medical organisation ask me to speak to 250 of their employees about improving their culture and communication. There are two ways I can approach the task. I can ask myself "How can I do the best presentation?" or "What problems do they have and how can I help them with that in the presentation?" This pivots the solution from initial self-interest (how can I do the best presentation?) to one of service (how can I help them?).
Interestingly, US-based recruitment company 1-Page (which is about to list on the Australian Stock Exchange) tackles the common issue that business faces with recruitment in an innovative manner. It goes beyond people assessing resumes (that all look the same) and instead requests that applicants find solutions to real business problems. Potential recruits are issued with "challenges" with the responses being assessed using big data semantic analytics.
In the future, being able to find creative solutions to safety problems will set talented safety professionals apart from the mediocre. This makes sense given the amount of safety awards that safety associations dole out each year for innovations to safety problems. After all, innovating on safety is important for companies.
So how do you add more creativity to your safety problems? When it comes to solving safety challenges with more creative and innovative solutions, there are a few steps you can take.
1. Ask Different Questions - Often, when we can't find the solution to problem, it's because we aren't asking the right questions. Sometimes we can be so focused on finding a solution to what we believe is our problem that we are blind to other pathways to solve it. And sometimes the problem we are looking at isn't the right problem. To breakthrough this common challenge, ask yourself these questions: What is the outcome we are trying to achieve? Being future focused on the results you want can turn the issue on its head. Often, we can be wasting time on a side-problem that really is just an outcome of the real problem. Another question to ask is "How do we break the big problem down into five manageable issues?" This makes it easier to explain to others what you are trying to solve, but at the same time makes the problem seem less intimidating. It also means you break down labour required to solve the problem into discrete modules which is one of the requirements of crowd-sourcing (see point 4).
2. Compare it - When it comes to solving problems, we often need to look at others in different industries as to their solutions. Often, comparisons give us new solutions to old, unsolvable problems. When Unilever was trying to work out how to make teeth whiter, they first asked "What other companies have needed to make things white?" Once they realized that laundry detergent manufacturers boast about "Making your whites, whiter" they were able to discover how a blue pigment creates the illusion of whiteness. The outcome? A toothpaste containing blue pigment.
3. Get Out of Safety - Whenever I catch up with safety professionals, I always get amazed how they all work with the same consultants, all follow the same books and safety leaders, attend the same conferences year after year and even dictate to me the same old, safety case studies. If you look at al the safety books that are printed each year, the majority are written by those who have done nothing else but work in safety. That's why books like Transform Your Safety Communication which is written by a marketer, are valuable to safety professionals who want to think differently. Lee Fleming, a business administration professor at Harvard Business School analysed 17,000 patents and discovered that when teams are comprised of similiar people with the same educational backgrounds they uncover fewer breakthroughs. On the other hand, cross-disciplinary teams produced the most. While a MIT study also bears this out finding that problem-solvers were more successful when they had less experience in a relevant discipline. This means that biologists are more likely to solve a chemistry problem and vice versa. If you want to solve a problem that has you stumped, ask those from other disciplines to help you solve it. Consider studying with those from different disciplines and backgrounds so you get a different approach to working on safety issues.
4. Talk to the Crowd - This segues nicely into the next point that just by talking to other people and getting others involved from diverse backgrounds can lead to the biggest breakthroughs. If you have a safety problem, don't just ask another safety professional. Ask the receptionist. Ask the finance manager. Ask the crowd. In fact, the more people you ask, the better the solution. For really tricky safety problems, look at putting them up on crowd-sourcing websites to implore the crowd to find a solution. For example, post your specific challenge on www.innocentive.com or www.topcoder.com.
Having a broader outlook on life can give you enormous abilities to solve safety problems that stump others. Mixing with those in different industries, reading books that aren't by staid old safety types and attending conferences not related to safety, can open you mind to new thoughts and proceses. Considering that our brains thrive on newness, it will also work towards introducing more enjoyment in your life.
In time, those who can solve the most safely problems will be richly rewarded in the job market.
Photo image credit: Franky242 from freedigitalphotos
This week guest author, Simon Hart from Enhance Solutions take us through a new research study that publishes some surprising studies on workplace safety. Are men more committed to safety than women? Which industries are more likely to have the most injuries? Read on to find out.
In a recent publication, Dangerous Personalities Making Work Unsafe: Predicting and Preventing Transgressions against Workplace OHS, SACS Consulting undertook a survey with a range of different organisations and employment sectors. In an anonymous questionnaire, respondents were asked about their attitude and behaviour when it comes to OHS and safety in the workplace.
The study, of more than 1400 professionals across all industries, found a strong correlation between an individual’s measurable personality and values and the likelihood that they will be safe or unsafe at work (see Why are Some People Accident Prone? for extra information).
According to the study, the types of personality traits that are associated with better safety behaviours include: prudence, patience, fairness, diligence, social boldness and valuing security.
The SACS study found that some people still ignore OHS rules and act unsafely in the workplace, whereas others value their own safety and that of their colleagues so actively, that they try to improve the safety of their workplace. Using personality and values testing, the study was able to predict whether an individual is more or less likely to be safe at work.
WHICH INDUSTRIES HAVE SAFER PEOPLE?
The study showed that workers in the utilities, local government and FMCG sectors tend to have higher overall safety behaviours. Workers in these industries are more motivated to ensure safety at work, more likely to comply with OHS rules and to participate in improving safety at work. They also report a higher safety climate in their workplaces.
OVERALL SAFETY BY INDUSTRY
State government employees tend to be less safety conscious and compliant than local government. This may be explained by a higher prevalence of office jobs in state government, which like professional services, arts and media communications are less concerned with safety compared with other industries. Many local government roles, like utilities and manufacturing, involve physical labour and onsite jobs that tend to attract more safety consciousness.
The study shows that the industry outlier is health and community services, including aged and disability care, which has only a median safety consciousness, yet the highest number of injuries.
Of the 120,155 serious workers compensation claims in 2011-12, the highest numbers of claims were made by workers in health and community services at 19,060 claims. This was an average of 50 claims for compensation for work-related injury or illness made by workers each day. 16,670 claims were made by manufacturing workers and 4330 claims were made by government workers.
COSTS OF SAFETY INCIDENTS ARE INCREASING
While numbers of injuries have modestly declined over the past decade, the costs of workers compensation claims have increased dramatically. Employers in Australia spend upwards of $7 billion on workers compensation per year and the overall cost of workplace injuries and illnesses was estimated by Safe Work Australia at more than $60 billion in 2008-09, which equates to almost 5% of GDP.
In particular, workplace stress and bullying claims and costs have sky-rocketed. Employers often struggle to prevent and manage these types of subjective OHS risks at work. SACS research has uncovered a new insight into this problem by identifying which types of workers are more likely to have interpersonal conflicts at work.
MYTH or FACT?
The workplace stereotype that women are ‘catty’ while men are easier to get along with has been busted by SACS research. Men are more likely to bully or harass people at work, and women are likely to help others in personal difficulty and be nicer to colleagues.
Overall, men are more likely to do bad things to colleagues and women are more likely to do bad things to the organisation they work for. With stress and bullying incorporated into OHS legislation, employers should be just as concerned about preventing these types of psychological harms as physical ones.
ARE MEN OR WOMEN SAFER AT WORK?
On every safety behaviour and across all industries, men are more diligent and committed than women to being safe at work.
Women are less likely to participate in OHS practices and are more likely to disobey their company’s rules. This finding was also reflected in SACS Consulting’s previous study on counter-productive workplace behaviours which found that women are more likely to disobey company rules.
Australian workplaces have come a long way on safety at work in recent decades but the emphasis has been on minimising safety risks at the worksite and drilling employees on OHS procedures.
What the study has shown is that employers can now minimise the safety risks that employees bring to the workplace. This is why it's important that companies improve how they communicate and inspire employees to work safely together. It's no longer about whipping people into being compliant, but creating regular dialogue with employees about why safety is meaningful to their lives. The book Transform Your Safety Communication teaches workplaces how to do this.
For employers concerned about OHS and are keen to reduce workers compensation costs, time lost to injury and associated productivity costs, screening their staff may be a shortcut to achieving better safety outcomes. This can be done by screening and assessing potential employees, which many employers do to get insights into other aspects of their staff, but screening can now be done to determine how safety conscious or OHS committed individuals are from the outset. This will allow employers to select the right people for their workplace or to modify roles and responsibilities to better fit the characteristics of their staff.
Guest Author Simon Hart, Senior Consultant, Enhance Solutions
Image Credit: Suat Eman
Communication is an interesting thing. No matter how many years you have been talking, writing or even managing other people, your communication abilities fluctuate.
While it is mostly true that those with concise and clear communication skills are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions, the skills that got you there won't keep you there.
Communication skills are one of those things you have got to be consciously improving on a regular basis. After all, we can get so lazy in our communication. Have you ever tried to write a directive email while talking on the phone, before rushing to a meeting? The chances are your email was unclear and confusing.
Aside from communication suffering when we are juggling different priorities, it also suffers if we haven't spent the time correcting easy mistakes that can cause our communication to have people scratching their heads. Or worse, not even bothering to look at it because it was underwhelmingly boring.
When it comes to unclear safety communication there are five common mistakes that I've seen made by everyday safety professionals. These are:
1. Too many messages - This is a rookie mistake that many safety professionals keep repeating when they're no longer a rookie. It's when you start writing or talking about one safety process and then throw in another. Or you go off on another tangent. For example, talking about the need to wear safety glasses but then deciding that the information should really talk about all the terrible people who aren't wearing them. It's not the time or place to complain about poor safety performance when you're trying to explain a procedure. People will stop listening or subsconsciously think "Well, if all these people aren't doing it, then I don't have to either."
2. Safety essays - You know the ones, safety articles so dense with wall to wall text, that if you try to read it out loud, you'd struggle to catch your breath. No-one needs that much information. Nor is anyone going to read it. The more information you provide people, the more likely you will confuse them. Your role is to provide the safety insight and not content for the sake of content. Your insights need to make it easy for people to understand why they need to do a procedure, what they need to do and how. People don't need to know all of the related legislation and recent legal cases.
3. Using big words - Getting an "A" in English at school was all about using lots of big words and flexing your vocab knowledge. But in the business world, people tune out. After all, how are they supposed to know what to do when they don't even know the meaning of words? I had one safety professional work with me on a manual training manual. I requested several times that he wrote the content simply. So you can understand my surprise when he substituted the word "hammer" with "percussive tool." Percussive tool, really? Ever heard the blokes out on the floor saying "Pass me the percussive tool, Percival?" I don't think so. You can imagine what our insider term is for him now (hint: starts with 't').
4. Not asking for what you want- This is a big mistake and one that I often see with safety professionals. We often underestimate the power of just asking. Directly. Many of us don’t ask for what we want – preferring to make hints, expecting people to know what you want them to do or avoid asking for fear of looking stupid.
The surprising thing is that research studies have found that people get really high compliance rates when they ask.
A couple of months ago I hosted a safety webinar and received a couple of emails from people complaining that they missed it. I assumed they wanted access to the replay and had to ask. That was what they actually wanted, but they didn't make a request. Well, I tell you what my friend, if you don't ask you don't get. It makes me wonder how they communicate about safety. Chances are they tell people a new process, but they don't both to ask them specifically and clearly on how it needs to be done. This is a critical part of communication. Giving people information is not enough. You have to ask for action. If you want to learn more about this the book, Transform Your Safety Communication goes into detail about this. Otherwise, our Fast Track Your Safety Communication Results workshops offer more interactive learning.
5. No deadline- This leads me to my next point. It's very common that safety professionals will complain that safety reports aren't being handed in on time. Clear communication is all about being specific. Be specific about what you want and when. How high, how far, how much? Where, how and with whom? Don't be hazy with this as laziness is the hallmark of a poor communicator.
Providing people with information is not enough. The real role of safety professionals is to provide people with the insights they need to keep themselves safe at work. Not lots of content.
In safety communication, it’s all about getting people to feel that the procedure is important and then make the necessary changes to their behaviour.
Image credit: Stock images by freedigitalphotos
After many years of being told how amazing the National Safety Council Congress and Expo is in San Diego, I finally had the pleasure of attending this week.
I headed off to San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner train from Los Angeles. It was a relaxing and scenic 2.5 hour journey where the train is literally right beside the ocean. I was most surprised to see a plethora of surfers at 7.00am, as well as joggers and walkers. As someone who jogs by my local beach at the same time, when only a handful of people are about, it was refreshing to see so many people on such a long stretch of beach.
Arriving at the San Diego Conference Centre too early, I decided to have a coffee. Luckily, for me there were 3 Starbucks to choose from alongside the conference centre. Phew! Each one of them had queues that were 20 minutes long. Hmmmm.
A massive amount of people were eagerly waiting to get inside the expo. The incredible thing was as soon as the doors opened at 10am and everyone stormed through, it was like they all evaporated. The expo centre is so large that even what looked like, say 2,000 people arriving all at once, just looked liked a small handful once you walked around (but it increased over the day).
I have to say that my favourite stand was Disney Careers. Yes, that's right - Disney as in Walt Disney. When you think about all of the Disneylands worldwide and all of the safety risks in running a theme park, the need for switched on safety professionals is critical (and of course, those that can live out Disney core values which I'm guessing are pretty difficult to find).
So they were there recruiting. Yes, that's right, recruiting safety professionals. They weren't selling anything - not even Mickey Mouse themed safety helmets.
Of course, their freebies were highly prized. I particularly liked the Mickey Mouse ear pens. At least, I can give those to my kids to assuage my guilt of being away.
As luck would have it, I'd only been walking around a short 15 minutes when I literally walked into Phil La Duke another safety blogger. We've been connected on Linkedin for a few years, so we then walked around and met lots of people. Isn't it amazing that you can make a connection on Linkedin and meet up half way across the world?
Phil introduced me to a unique company called Slice that has stunningly designed cutting tools. I literally fell in love with a modern day Stanley knife that uses a ceramic blade, rather than steel. They are much safer and lighter. Of course, there was a fellow Melburnian on the stand who distributes the slice products in Australia.
Australian Safety Shows v. US Safety Shows
As someone who has exhibited at many safety shows in both Melbourne and Perth, I have to say I could have been at a Melbourne safety show. It's amazing how they can all look the same - same products and the same types of companies exhibiting.
The major differences were:
1. Scale - the sheer size was enormous, but still achievable to walk around a couple of times in one day.
2. No scantily clad promotional girls - That's right - none. For some reason in Australia, we always have at least 3 snarly looking blonde girls in little shorts, tight singlets and the obligatory safety helmet and boots walking around handing out brochures. Surprisingly, there were none. Only two beautiful male models (?) who tried to coax me into a safety boot training session (also on offer was a Starbucks voucher and a t-shirt, sadly no-one attended).
3. No pushy salespeople - Yep, I expected that. But no-one harassed me. No-one tried to sell me a fall arrest system. No-one tried to force safety gloves on me. All sales staff were friendly and polite.
4. Entry fee - This was a surprise to me but the fee was $100 per day. In Australia, it's free. Of course, when I would exhibit I would tire of the groups of people who were just cruising around looking for freebies (some would literally walk up to you and ask if you had anything to give them). At least, for exhibitors they know that attendees are all genuine.
So what's the latest Safety Product?
Now, for those dedicated safety professionals that are reading this you're probably asking - what was the latest safety product? What's new in safety? Hmmmm. I don't really know.
All I know is that I saw so many weird looking high visibility safety gloves that I thought they were some new product for Halloween.
I have been told online safety management systems were the next big thing - but I'm not convinced.
All I know is that I finally saw pink safety helmets and vests. Yay!
All in all, I enjoyed my long day walking around and meeting people. Highly recommend.
As someone who writes and communicates my thoughts freely, it was a shock to hear from one of my Fast Track your Safety Communication Results students that she has to follow a script for toolbox talks.
Six times a week.
And she can't change the content or the PowerPoint Slides.
Of course, all of the content comes up instantly on each slide. So she's effectively talking to a group of people while they speed read her content.
I could totally understand and empathise with Sandy (not her real name), as to why she felt so frustrated and unempowered. Day after day she was walking into different meeting rooms around the site, reading out a script to people she doesn't really know, with a script she has no control over. It was decided that because she didn't know some of the technical equipment or processes that someone else more senior needed to write it, while she delivers it.
There are several issues with this common (and stupid) corporate practice:
1. First of all, as a safety professional the most important thing you can do is have people like and trust you, so that they will come to you with questions and let you know when a safety issue arises. But it's very hard to build rapport if you have to act like a robot, mindlessly talking through pre-written slides.
2. Second of all, I know very few senior safety professionals who have any training in how to create interesting slides, let alone how to deliver content in an engaging manner (unless they refer to the book, Transform Your Safety Communication). It's very hard to present information convincingly, if you haven't written it. As someone who has directed countless senior leaders delivering speeches to camera, I always advise to write (and rehearse) your own speech. Any speeches that were written by someone else, people always stumbled over and just sounded false. In the end, many CEOs would madly rewrite their script, so they could say their own words in an authentic way.
A better use of resources is to get a junior person to write their own presentation to build up their skills, but to also make them more authentic and believable.
3. Communication is all about relationships. Ideally, it's a 2 way conversation where you get people involved with your information and they ask questions. The more you communicate a topic, the more feedback you get, so the more you can tweak the content, so that it's relevant to your audience.
4. Being a good leader is all about empowering your staff and stretching them. Good leaders don't tell employees to do a pre-made presentation and not improve it. That's short sighted. Every piece of work anyone does in a company has the potential for improvement. And for a workplace to thrive, everyone should have the power to give their input and action on it. That's how you build accountability and job satisfaction.
In the book, How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins he says exceptional companies need self-managed and self-motivated people. These are key ingredients for a successful culture. But where a culture is characterised by rules rigidity and bureacracy, you end up creating a culture of mediocrity.
So if you're in a command and control organisation that "makes" you do boring safety presentations, how do you get around it?
Yep, that's it. Ask a whole lotta questions.
When you do a toolbox talk, ask a question at the start. A simple "Tell me what do you already know about our emergency procedures?" Get some dialogue happening.
You'll find that once you do the first live rehearsal, you'll see where people get bored. That's where you ask them a question about the content. Get them involved. See how that question goes the second time around. Test and tweak. Be curious. See the boring 6 toolbox talks as an opportunity to test questions and learn.
After all, you're not really diverting from the script. You're adding to it by asking questions. You're not telling people any unauthorised information.
At the end, ask people questions about the presentation. Questions such as "What did you learn today?' or "How could I have done that better?"
If all you're doing is talking during a presentation, you're not relating. Asking questions builds rapport and helps work towards getting people to trust you - such an important element in safety.
Asking questions also gives you the information you need to go back to your boss and say, "I've been doing 5 toolbox talks like you told me, what I'm finding is that people are confused about y procedure. What they tell me they need to know is this....Are you okay if I update the slide with this information?"
Taking control and ownership of the presentation will not only give your boss a break from having to write the content all the time, but let them know that you have good ideas and are always looking for solutions. It also means you're accepting responsibility which is a sign of a great employee that any good corporation would encourage. And of course, if they say no - ask why.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, at freedigitalphotos
We all have different styles when it comes to making decisions. When it comes to making a choice at work, how do you like to operate?
A. Prefer to receive lots of detailed information, so that you can make a comprehensive assessment, or
B. Make a quick decision using minimal information?
In our society, we've been made to believe that the best decisions are made from deliberate and systematic thinking. There is a subtle bias against making quick decisions, as we often feel that snap judgements are often wrong because it takes a risky short cut.
Yet, when research has been undertaken with nurses or firefighters who need to make snap decisions they found that the better quality the decision the less likely all of the options had been assessed.
So when it comes to making complicated decisions, B is the correct answer.
In fact, research undertaken with psychologists and even emergency room doctors found that the more information that was given about a patient, the less accurate the decision. Yet, interestingly, the confidence levels of both psychologists and doctors of their analysis was much higher, the more information they had received. Even though, the decision they made was often flawed.
The reality is that being provided lots of information to make a decision, actually increases the likelihood we will make the wrong decision.
We don’t need to sift through every fact or figure. Former Secretary of State in the US, Colin Powell said:
“I can make a decision with 30% of the information, anything more than 80% is too much.”
Ironically, the desire for improved confidence undermines the accuracy of the decision. It makes us more muddled.
In fact, brain research shows that we intuitively figure out what to do with information we have received before we can express it verbally. Our ability to unconsciously make a decision is very fast and highly accurate.
This is because our brain has developed a very fast-thinking section that keeps us alive by relegating all of the high level thinking to the unconscious. And it's this section that makes high quality and quick decisions.
Rather counter intuitively, the more we think about our decision the more likely we are to make a poor choice. That’s why when you force people to make a rational decision with the rational part of their brain, they over think. Their decisions take longer and tend to be of lower quality.
Research has found that the more complicated a problem, the more we need to trust our instincts rather than undergo complicated analysis. The more variables we need to look at, the more we need to trust our gut. Our unconscious brain is at its best when it has to make a decision from a variety of variables.
Helping Employees Make the Right Decision
Essentially, this means that as a safety communicator you want to avoid people over-thinking any safety information you provide. Your communication needs to inspire people right there and then, that they need to follow through with the instruction. That they need to change their behaviour. You don’t want them having to think about it! They need to feel it. Instantly.
Ask yourself, how often have you provided decision makers or employees with lots of information believing that would influence them to be more aware of safety? The reality is that not only does it increase their chances of making the wrong decision about what to do in say a industrial accident, but you're also more likely to make them tune out due to information overload.
If you are finding that when you provide safety information and some employees question why or doubt the need, then you know that your safety communication isn't helping people make the right decision.
For eons, people have said that they made a gut decision. We look up at colleagues with comments like "She's got her finger on the pulse" and "He is a sharp decision maker." Yet, how often do workplaces churn out big complicated safety information expecting people to read it, let alone make a decision as to how to work safely?
Think about how you measure safety in your workplace, are you checking lots of measurements? We often think we need all of the information to keep a workplace safe, but when you think about it, all you need is one main figure. Like the weather. Do we need to know the speed of the wind, humidity or barometric pressure. No. All we need is the temperature forecast.
The key to good decision making is not lots of knowledge. It's understanding. We're drowning in information, yet starving for wisdom. We've confused information with understanding.
What organisations and their staff need is for someone just like you, to clearly tell them what to look out for. Yet, so many safety professionals write and talk about safety in such a way that's confusing and obscures how that information relates to people's lives.
The new role of the safety professional is to critically think about what the safety information is highlighting and then write and talk about it in such a way, that people can understand what it means and how it is relevant to them.
In the book, Transform Your Safety Communication, it refers to 3 steps that you need to follow in your safety communication whether written or verbal, to help people make better decisions:
1. Write simple messages - Cut down the fluff and tell people exactly what the problem is and how they can protect themselves and others.
2. Reduce the content - Less is more. If you provide people with too much information, they will over think and get overwhelmed. Remember, over-thinking leads to poor quality decisions. You want people to feel what they need to do.
3. Tell people what to do - Prioritise the information so that people know how to take action. Without this people will determine what to do themselves. This can often be the wrong choice.
By taking the guesswork out of your safety messages and ensuring that people feel instantly what they need to do to improve, you will dramatically increase the amount of high quality decisions that your workforce makes on safety.
Photo Credit, Stuart Miles