Safety is a Popularity Contest – Win It with These Tips

Companies seeking to remain profitable must continually improve their processes. Paying attention to process results and tweaking the process requires performance measurement and tracking. Having performance scrutinized isn’t always fun. Information may show one group has out-performed another. Some groups may not have done everything required. Performance metrics may negatively influence incentive payouts and promotional decisions. On the flip slide of the coin, commendations can be given when positive results are visible and that’s something everyone should want.

Read on for tips to ensure the continuous improvement process will be a positive one.

Tip 1 – Provide lots of performance feedback

Metrics (even the leading ones) reflect PAST performance. Metrics may be reviewed days, weeks, or months after performance takes place. By the time handshakes and congratulations happen, people may have forgotten what they did to succeed. Leading companies provide feedback often so people won’t forget what made stellar performance possible. This makes good performance repeatable. What’s more, frequent feedback shows people that their efforts are being noticed even when a group’s overall performance is mixed.

Tip 2 – Make performance metrics visible

Work teams need open access to safety information and they need to review progress regularly; this way people will know where they stand, will not be caught off-guard, and will know what they should be focusing on. The reasons for floor-level results should be communicated upwards so managers will not be caught off-guard during higher level review meetings. Well informed managers may then allocate resources necessary for continuous improvement.

Companies may use bulletin boards, closed circuit television, and incident management software to keep track. Making measures visible means accepting the responsibility for keeping measures updated. Few things scream “I don’t care about safety” more loudly than bulletin boards adorned with last year’s data.

Tip 3 –Troubleshoot BEFORE review meetings

Relationships between activities and outcomes must be explained. This means identifying best practices and troubleshooting what’s happening in areas that have not met their goals. Much of this troubleshooting should happen before review meetings or else there may be disagreement, confusion and arguments during review meetings.

Tip 4 – Flip negatives into positives

While problems should be viewed as opportunities, having a lot of unresolved “opportunities” doesn’t necessarily feel good when it’s time to account for area performance. Negatives must be converted into positives (solutions) before review meetings. Even if there’s no time to fully implement solutions before review meetings, at least plans can be reported showing that safety is being taken seriously.

Safety is a popularity contest you need to win

Tracking workplace health and safety performance can help demonstrate the relationship between safety results and activities, recognize work done well, and identify opportunities and new best practices while improving safety culture and employee engagement. Despite these benefits, performance tracking will probably be approached with a sense of trepidation. Words are not enough. Companies must show that measurement systems will be fairly administered.

No one wants to look bad during review meetings. Supporters of workplace health and safety don’t want people to look bad either, because people may tend to blame systems that make them look bad. Right or wrong, this is exactly what happens in the real world.

Practitioners of traditional safety approaches dole out negative consequences by hiding behind sayings like “safety isn’t a popularity contest.”  I humbly disagree: All aspects of business happen best with the support of others. Companies need to do everything in their power to ensure people who are held accountable for continually improving results have the resources and support necessary to succeed.

At the end of the day, safety is a popularity contest which must be won.