Over the last 15 years, I've worked with a wide range of safety professionals. In that time, many of them have stayed in relatively the same position, while others have become the head of operations for large companies around the world.
The most striking insight I have gleaned from those who moved up into the higher echelons of business is that they all had one thing in common. They knew how to convince senior management to give them the budget they needed to improve safety and worker health.
Yet, if there is one complaint that I hear the most from leaders it is that safety managers, engineers and even supervisors lack the confidence to present safety in a compelling way.
This matches my own personal experience. When my organisation has submitted a proposal to produce a safety training video or training manuals, if the safety manager lacked influence the project often stalled or failed to materialise. In fact, one large project took three years to get off the ground because the OHS manager behind it initally didn't have the skills to get it through. It wasn't until a new, dynamic OHS manager was brought in that the training package could be developed. The end result was that the organisation saved over $50,000 a year in training expenses. Sadly, they could have done that three years earlier.
Selling Safety to Management and the CEO
Requesting budget for safety requires three skills:
- Business acumen - Most safety professionals only know about safety. However, no executive team will take you seriously unless you can demonstrate you know how the organisation makes money, how improving safety aligns to the company goals and how safety can help other departments. Learn everything you can about how the business works outside of your domain. Make friends in all departments - finance, HR and sales.
- Confidence - Being able to present to the board, execs or even your boss means knowing the right things to say and how. The key capability is to be able to build a compelling business case for safety.
- Safety resource - As a safety professional, you are the focal point for all safety-related information. This means you need to be able to locate and track down any safety information that is called upon at a moment's notice. In the book, Safety Culture, it is mentioned that being able to accurately curate all safety information means being relied upon for answers. This increases the potential that people will see you as knowledgeable and will be more likely to take on board your suggestions. This will increase your safety influence and ability to transform the safety culture. It also means you have the data to demonstrate to management what return they can expect from safey investments.
Most important of all is that you have the respect of the CEO, board and executives. Once you have that it makes it much easier to request budget for new safety spending that will get the best results for your company.
But it's not easy.
Every function in business is in competition for the limited time and attention of the folks at the very top. To get noticed and to be seen as an important resource for the organisation, safety needs to be putting up its hand to get involved in as much as possible.
When there are mergers and acquisitions (M&As), safety should offer to examine the safety performance of a potential partner to assess whether it's a good fit.
If the company is outsourcing, safety should be looking at the company's safety record to assess whether its safety standards are compatible. Likewise, safety should review their safety policies and procedures to see how they measure up.
As a safety leader, your effectiveness is determined by how quickly and clearly you can spread the positive influence of safety-related activities throughout an organisation.
It all starts with being confident to present the case for safety in a compelling way. All of the successful safety managers that I have known in the past the have gone on to improve safety at a much larger scale in organisations, all because they knew how to influence those around them and why improving safety was necessary for business success. In other words, they had a core competency in selling safety to the CEO.
That's why we have produced a new online training course called "Requesting Budget: How to Sell Safety to the CEO and Executive Team" to give safety professionals the skills they need to convince management to provide them with more resources and budget. For this month only, we are offering a $10 discount. Use the code 0464EFE298 at the checkout.