Health & Safety is often managed within a business as a compliance issue. Employees are told what to do and chastised for getting it wrong. Adhering to the company’s H&S policy is the sole goal. Here, we consider the impact of leadership to deliver a more consistently successful outcome for the whole business.
The old British adage “children should be seen and not heard” could well be applied to Health & Safety. Posters everywhere, highlighting risks, imploring us to be more careful, perhaps sharing the latest company initiative of Zero Harm or similar. But no regular discussion about its importance to the business – to the employees or their leaders and to society as a whole.
Why the silence? And why the continuing decline, or at best unpredictability, of achieving Health & Safety targets for businesses? Could these be related? The answer is undoubtedly yes.
The phrase Health & Safety has been expropriated to represent the laws and regulations that demand compliance, and therefore it is perceived universally as a dreary subject to be confined to dusty folders. But if incorporated into a more up-to-date statement – the Health, Safety and Wellbeing of employees – it represents an innate part of being human. We want to be the best we can be for work and life – our health, wellbeing and safety is critical to achieve that. To restrict the conversation is to reduce the employees’ value both of themselves and of the company. Poor business performance will surely follow.
People are the core of any successful business and their wellbeing and motivation is central to any growth and development of a company. Efficiency and profitability go hand in hand with people who are heard and feel valued. Employees can highlight risks but also contribute ideas for efficiency from the front line. Managers can collate information from their teams and peers and offer constructive programs of work. Leaders use the information from their management to inform the plan they create for business growth and evolve the culture of the organisation. This is powerful and transformational for any organisation.
Another critical element of business success is a clearly defined company vision. This must be consistently relayed as part of the organisational DNA – simple, focused, with a strategy defined & actioned to achieve it. Linked to this are company values repeatedly conveyed with as much clarity as possible. People know what is expected and how to achieve it.
As an example: if Health & Safety is discussed as a ‘number one priority’, is it actually mentioned in the company values or the vision? Where an executive group have concluded on the importance of Health & Safety to them – they believe and value it highly – then it must be anchored in the company vision. By moving it there, it quickly becomes part of communication every day at all levels.
Words and actions are more valuable than visuals alone in adjusting human perception and habits. As a business leader, how do your employees know what you value?
If you are interested in learning more about our approach to leadership and business culture, please contact us.
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