Understanding how to build organizational buy-in is essential to creating an effective safety program. “Employers consistently identify employee engagement as the key pain point in their safety program,” said Maryann Hoff, Senior Risk Control Manager. “Without engaged employees, a safety program cannot progress beyond top-down compliance to become a strong and sustainable safety culture.”
Here are five tips to help build employee engagement within your organization.
- “Tip your message.” This idea, defined by Malcolm Gladwell as, “The moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point,” can be extremely beneficial when initiating safety culture within your organization. Start by identifying the three types of people in your organization that will help spread the message and launch buy-in from all departments. Your “connectors” are the people in your organization with influence across different departments, which can make introductions and connect everyone, spreading the message beyond just risk management. Your “mavens” are information specialists in your organization, who others rely on for problem-solving and trusted information. They add credibility to your safety goals. Your “salespeople” are the influencers in your organization with excellent negotiation skills. They help sell your ideas and messaging across all departments.
- Leverage unique personalities. There are likely several traits that exist within your safety team that can be put to good use to support your goals. An artistic personality could design your safety posters and logos. An analytical type could ask for opinions from employees on how to improve safety-related work processes. Your contrarian could be utilized to persuade others that know it usually takes some convincing for that individual to be brought into a new idea.
- Build, streamline and communicate your message. After identifying your safety allies in your organization, consider the “law of the few,” that is, to build your safety action team from these allies. After creating your team, find the “stickiness factor” and narrow your message, making it original and engaging. You want your message to be simple enough to understand and stick with your intended audience. Using the “power of context,” know how you are communicating your message using your safety team. Are they relaying the message with its intended purpose? How is it being perceived across the organization?
- Understand the impact for each department. Every department will perceive safety’s impact differently, so translating the message through your safety allies is critical to its success. Do they understand why safety impacts them? Do they know how they can show visible support? Do they know what they can do to influence the achievement of safety goals? For example, if you discuss your goals with the marketing and business development teams, explain how the company’s safety record could affect your reputation, both internally and externally, and how an exceptional safety record could be a beneficial marketing tool. Explain how a poor record could lead to loss of business and increased turnover. Connecting safety with each department’s goals helps to factor in their overall success, driving change.
- Engage with employee feedback. One of the most critical factors to motivating your safety stakeholders is listening and engaging with their feedback. The best way to incorporate change is to understand where the transformation begins. Have you asked how your employees feel about the current safety climate? Do they think their input is valued or generally ignored? By lifting their voices and displaying your genuine commitment to their insights, you can empower them to initiate decisive changes that make your organization safer long-term.