The Ultimate Safety Change Buy-In Guide
By Brie DeLisi
Creating and implementing safety changes in an organization is no easy task. There are so many opportunities for failure – not having a thorough plan, unanticipated roadblocks, a lack of resources, ill-suited programs and procedures. Even if all of those items are covered, the most impactful is whether or not there is buy in from the greater employee population. Below, we’ll cover tips on how to generate employee buy-in when making changes to organizational safety.
Employee Involvement – perhaps one of the most critical steps is to actually involve employee representatives in the change process itself for a number of reasons:
• Employees are the expert at their job. As a manager or engineer, you may have theoretical understanding of the job steps and any change implications, but the employee is the one who has actually mastered the task and will have critical insights. An example that we’ve seen too many times is when utility companies buy trucks without employee input and the trucks end up being ill-equipped – these companies often end up spending more money after the trucks have been delivered to change their set up.
• Employees likely have great ideas. When trying to prevent injuries, no one is more impacted and involved than the employee themselves. They might already have great ideas but have either been shut down or don’t know how to voice their ideas. One simple yet effective example is with one of our janitorial clients experienced a few employee injuries after exposure to sharp objects in public-space garbage. During a team safety meeting, an employee suggested using clear bags instead of black so they can see what has been disposed, a no-cost change in day-to-day operations.
• Employees will buy-in to something that they helped create. When employees are involved in the problem-solving, they will absolutely implement and follow through with the ideas. In addition, they’ll also promote and support within their own teams.
Communication – Change is already stressful, especially when it impacts one’s responsibilities, operations or tasks. Unclear communication make change even more difficult to accept. The key components include:
• Who, What, When, Where, Why and How? Include all of these elements so that employees have a full understanding of the change. So often employees are given limited information which only creates additional frustration.
• Give a heads up. Giving employees notice in advance allows them to absorb and get used to the idea.
• Offer person-to-person updates. Flow the communications down through the organization, providing talking points and an opportunity for questions. Being able to have a conversation is much more effective than being told via a video or email.
• Keep the emails concise and limited. All communications should be brief and concise and send them out on a limited basis. Communication overload will result in employees not be interested in reading them anymore.
Training – if there is any change that will result in an employee needing to gain relevant knowledge, there should be training involved.
• In Person Training. Ideally this training is in person, with a practical application, and fosters an environment in which employees can ask questions.
• Train before rollout. If employees are confronted by a new process, piece of equipment, application, PPE, etc. without having the knowledge on how to use it, that will generally create a stress response with resulting frustration and resistance. Additionally, it will impact the effectiveness of the roll out. Offer a safe environment for them to first learn and then they will feel confident when the day arrives.