Most people believe the goal of communication is to pass on information, but in a workplace setting the purpose is more often to achieve a desired action or change in behavior. Communication that succeeds in changing safe workplace behavior must:
- Have the right message
- Be delivered in the right way
- Have meaning for those who receive it
- Be continuously monitored
Leaders Drive, Supervisors Deliver
Safety communication must be leadership-driven and first-line-delivered. Senior leaders must show their commitment to safety through videos, meetings with employees, informal walkthroughs, newsletter articles, adherence to safety rules, and other means.
First-line supervisors provide an all-important link between the corporate message and the employee who needs to hear and internalize it. Effective communication must be two ways. It’s not about imposing rules on people, but about putting a value on the table and allowing people to discuss it and come to agreement.
Integrate Safety into Communications
Safety should be integrated into an organization’s vision, values, and mission. For example:
- Core guidance documents like vision and mission statements should address safety in addition to value for customers, commitment to innovation, service delivery, etc.
- Formal meetings and training sessions should always include safety. At many businesses, every meeting, no matter its primary purpose, starts with a brief safety communication.
- Feedback systems, including safety suggestion programs, should be established to emphasize listening to employees and acting on the information they provide.
- It is also important to pay attention to measurement and metrics, including reports, scorecards, and performance assessments. If an organization proclaims the importance of safety but only measures production quality and delivery, employees come to believe safety can be compromised. The old adage, “what gets measured, gets done” applies.
Do you have any safety communication success stories to share? We would like to hear your opinions.