A Towers Watson study titled Change and Communication ROI, claims that the most important goal of an effective communication program is to motivate both employees and management to act upon, and achieve, the goals set by the organisation.
Yet, most organisations fail miserably at their latest communication launches, including safety. With only 55% of communication initiatives succeeding initially and only one in four being successful (25%) in changing behaviour long term.
This translates to an annual cost of $528,443 (even higher for larger companies).
Where there are communication barriers, due to people misunderstanding information, there are also productivity losses. The same study found that the cumulative cost per worker per year is $26,041 just from communication barriers alone.
Communication is an interesting thing. No matter how many years you have been talking, writing or even managing other people, your communication abilities fluctuate.
While it is mostly true that those with concise and clear communication skills are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions, the skills that got you there won't keep you there.
Communication skills are one of those things you have got to be consciously improving on a regular basis. After all, we can get so lazy in our communication. Have you ever tried to write a directive email while talking on the phone, before rushing to a meeting? The chances are your email was unclear and confusing.
As someone who writes and communicates my thoughts freely, it was a shock to hear from one of my Fast Track your Safety Communication Results students that she has to follow a script for toolbox talks.
We all have different styles when it comes to making decisions. When it comes to making a choice at work, how do you like to operate?
One mistake I often see safety professionals do, is that once they have created a new company safety procedure, they get all excited about it and go and tell the next colleague they see. Usually their workmate has their mind on something else such as they're busy filling out a form or using a machine.
Recently, I was talking to Julie Honore from Safesearch, a safety professional recruitment company that specialise in finding safety staff in Asia, Australia and the Middle East. She told me that there is a growing demand for sophisticated safety professionals that can coach, influence and engage on safety.
Over the years, I've had the honour of reading and improving stacks of standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Recently, I was talking to the Managing Director of a large recruiting firm for safety professionals in the Asia Pacific region about the importance of communication skills.
As a safety professional, it's vital that you can get your fellow workers in alignment with the company safety goals, so that everyone is working safely and productively.
You can have the best safety system in the world, but if you are not communicating it correctly, your organisation is at risk.
If you've ever felt that a lot of your friends or colleagues are robotic and don't think much, I've got some news for you. You're probably right.
One of the interesting things I find when it comes to safety is that some safety professionals (some, not all) like to play bad cop when it comes to getting their safety message across.
Over the years, I've worked with a lot of safety professionals. Some of them have really surprised me with their flair for not being able to influence anyone and to talk about safety in such a boring way that all I could do was stare catatonically at the floor.
One of the things I like about my job is consulting with safety professionals on how to improve their safety communication.
I get to review monthly safety themes and safety articles for the company newsletter and proffer suggestions for improvement. Often, a complete overhaul is required.
Safety professionals are great at the technical, but struggle when it comes to packaging information for other people to digest. Sadly, just because you find restraining loads very interesting, doesn't mean others will automatically share your enthusiasm.
Recently, I was talking to a safety consultant who told me about a business he visited a while ago that had staff handling pieces of wood with multiple nails sticking out, while not wearing gloves.
Every day these employees were constantly subjecting their hands to pain, yet, no-one complained.
What's interesting about human behaviour is that when we are in physical pain the body will learn to adapt and avoid it.
Think about the last time you had a sore tooth. You automatically started eating on the other side of your mouth.
In this company where people were ignoring the daily pain of work, they just got used to it because everyone else was doing it and nobody protested. Management was okay and would have been open to suggestions (provided enough people let them knew of the issue).
To be an effective safety leader, you need to be able to persuade your workplace to buy-in to your safety vision. You have to be able to cut through any confusion on safety and focus your organisation on what is important.
One of the major frustrations of being a safety leader is that it's often difficult to get your safety messages understood and acted upon correctly.
Safety communication is often left to safety professionals to write and publish.
Marie-Claire Ross, author of the highly acclaimed book, Transform Your Safety Communication, is helping safety leaders and safety professionals improve their safety leadership and communication skills, in order to change how workers think about safety compliance.
One November evening in 1987, commuters were busily rushing home from work on the London Underground.
When it comes to writing or talking about safety, safety leaders often assume that they know what techniques to use to influence and engage others on safety.
A while ago, I connected with an old friend and when I mentioned I was writing a book on safety communication, he laughed and told me how clumsy he was and how he hurt himself all the time.
Copy writers know how to write advertising so that people will read their content.
In 2008, when Barack Obama announced his national security team he explicitly mentioned that he wanted to appoint a team that would avoid groupthink. He said:
A quality is part of our personality that comes naturally to us. For example, you might think of one of your friends as 'always being generous'. This means being generous is a characteristic or quality that a person has.
While a skill is defined as a learned capability. A skill is not necessarily something we are born able to do, but it can be learnt. For example: Being able to communicate clearly is a skill that we learn to do which takes years of practise.
So what are good leadership qualities in supervisors?
Our language is incredibly powerful. How we talk about ourselves, and others, says a lot about about us.
When it comes to being engaged at work, recent research studies show a consistent trend in low employee engagement levels worldwide.
When it comes to getting staff to remember your important safety messages, using a safety slogan can be an effective way of getting the message through.
But not all safety slogans cut it. A lot of them are quite bland and well, just not catchy. Given that we're bombarded with around 3,000 messages a day, your safety slogan will become invisible and ineffective pretty quickly.
To ensure that your workplace safety communication is engaging, you need to have a stand out safety slogan. When choosing or designing your safety slogan, there are a few things you need to consider, to make sure your safety slogan is memorable.
Are your safety efforts are stuck in the past? Unfortunately, some companies think of safety as an afterthought ensuring that it is never fully integrated into the organisation. Thereby, ensuring that safety is never properly embedded into the company.
We've all experienced the critical, negative work colleague who puts a dampener on everything. They complain about the boss, other staff members, customers, new initiatives and always seem to see something sinister lurking behind a new initiative. They only seem to laugh when someone hurts themselves.
Safety professionals often complain about how hard it is to get people to listen to them about safety. This is often a subtle sign that it might be time to change how they approach communicating the need for safe behaviours, rather than getting frustrated that it's not working. After all, as Einstein said:
Researchers have found that institutional habits exist in almost every organisation. Interestingly, one of the main differences between a company that outperforms on safety versus a poor performing company with safety are their safety habits.
We've all experienced being at a company speech and feeling our anger grow as the company leader waffled on about a whole lot of stuff we knew wasn't entirely accurate and wasn't based in any achievable reality.
Back in 1987, every Alcoa plant, worldwide, had at least one accident per week. It was dangerous work. Molten metals bubbled at 1,500 degrees and machines that could literally rip off a man's arm were used every day. It was commonly accepted that some staff wouldn't make it home.
If there is one thing that safety managers despair about, the world over, is how to get their staff to be more engaged and responsible for safety.
If you're reading this article, you know that any decent health and safety training manual has to include information such as personal protective equipment (PPE), emergency evacuation, incident reporting and so on.
On August 5, 1997, Korean Air airplane Flight 801, crashed killing 228 people.
In a previous article, Why Leading with Compassion is the Future for Business, we talked about how companies that have compassionate leaders are highly profitable and productive. But how do you do that?
Back in the 1970s - 1980s, Jimmy Savile was one of the most famous television presenters on the BBC. An effervescent, eccentric man he hosted "Top of the Pops", followed by other children's television shows.
High performance companies integrate safety into every company decision. This is because they realise that the safety of their staff is an important part of how they do business, but also that by looking after safety, staff morale, productivity and even profitability improve.
Companies that are best in class when it comes to safety, all have one thing in common. And that is each employee and contractor takes ownership of their own safety. It's part of their workplace culture.
A great safety speech isn't about telling staff to improve safety. Instead, it's a unique opportunity to motivate staff to work together for a common good.
On a windy day in October 1987, the new CEO of Alcoa, Paul O'Neill, gave his maiden speech to shareholders. Most CEO's would use this opportunity to get shareholders excited that they were going to focus the company on increasing sales and reducing costs, for improved shareholder return. But O'Neill was different.
“I want to talk to you about worker safety.” In an instant, shareholders wondered why he had omitted to talk about improving profits. After all, Alcoa was in a mess.
“Every year, numerous Alcoa workers are injured so badly that they miss a day of work. Our safety record is better than the general workforce, especially considering that our employees work with metals that are 1500 degrees and we have machines that can rip a man’s arm off. But it’s not good enough. I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for zero injuries.”
The best safety professionals that I've worked with like safety. They read all the right safety magazines and go to all the right safety conferences. But that's not what gets them out of bed in the morning. What they're really passionate about, and what makes them stand out, is their desire to keep as many people safe as possible.
As a safety content producer, I get the rare chance to look at countless standard operating procedures from a variety of large companies.
We use these documents to write clear, friendly scripts, in order to produce training videos that will engage, increase learner understanding and recall. Nearly, 95% of the time, these standard operating procedures are really hard to read and understand. And they're very often wrong.
Mistakes are a healthy part of learning. They're nothing to be embarrassed about, as long as you learn from them and move on. But being sloppy is a totally different story.
In the book First, Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham, his research found the relationship between an employee and their manager determined how long an employee will stay in a company and their level of productivity.
Writing a safety speech can be a daunting task. But rather than staring at a computer screen for inspiration, we've put together some helpful topic reminders to include in your speech to get maximum motivation and attention from your workforce. Refer to these five must-have topics to help get you started.
For some companies, toolbox meetings can be a real drag with disinterested staff and the safety manager trying desperately to motivate staff and change behaviour.
Everything we do is communication. And it is no wonder that research studies point to 70% of workplace mistakes being caused by poor communication.
How we start our message often determines the result.
According to Crystal Clear Communication, by Kris Cole, people quickly determine the meaning of our message and whether they will be receptive at the beginning. We only have a short time to get our messages across:
- 2 minutes when we are face to face
- 30 seconds on the telephone
- 10 - 15 seconds by voice mail.
So the more important the message, the bigger the need to plan what you are going to say.
Every mining company knows that a safe working environment for everyone, including sub-contractors, is the mine site’s responsibility – even if headquarters is in Australia, Canada, or the United States.
Getting your mine site up to scratch, to meet MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) or Department of Mines and Petroleum inspections can be a lot of work.
But how do you easily and cost effectively improve mine safety communication?
Safety and budget-conscious mines like Barrick Gold Corporation, Rio Tinto and Newmont Mining Corporation create mining safety labels on-site with thermal transfer printers - satisfying Government regulations and keeping operations running smoothly.
Mine equipment operators, mill operators and maintenance personnel face dangers every day, but traditional safety sign ordering methods are costly and too slow to make an immediate impact on safety.
Many Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) managers still dig through thick catalogues in search of just the right sign with the correct dimensions, colors and Government compliant language. Requisitions slow the process further.
Ordering custom signs from sign shops is ridiculously expensive and slow - especially for delivery to remote locations. You’ll wait weeks and weeks - nearly forgetting you ordered the signs in the first place.
This process hinders getting signs up quickly or even at all especially when you have to buy 20 or 30 signs to get a price break even though you only needed a couple.
While, older labelling systems are expensive and unwieldy.
The good news? Thermal transfer printers may be ordered directly and delivered overnight to remote sites. Almost immediately, you can create all the signs and labels you need and they’ll perform anywhere in and around the mine. Thermal transfer printers use heat to literally “bake” on graphics and text to vinyl and other supplies which have been tested to perform under the most demanding conditions.
It's an easy and quick way to get your workplace safety communication happening instantly.
Mining Safety Tips & Guidelines
So while no two mines are alike, there’s a good chance you’ll need the following signs:
- Traffic signs
- Facility signs
- No smoking/cell phone signs
- Mine permit boundary signs
- Identification tags for exploration
- Pipe markers
- Valve tags
- Arc Flash NFPA70E signs
- Radio call number information
- Instructions about personal protection equipment (PPE)
- Start-up procedures
- Marking tools with colors, numbers and barcodes helps reduce theft and loss and color marking hard hats and equipment to differentiate shifts and departments helps keep people as well as tools in their sector. When short-term electrical outages occur, signs that are visible in the dark help people find their way.
- Signs and labels created using the thermal transfer process will last for years. With specialty supplies, they will adhere to virtually any surface.
Signs and labels that are site specific to company policy make all the difference for new hires, visitors and subcontractors. Just like customised training materials, customised site signs improve site safety effectiveness. Multilingual signs support a global workplace encompassing Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America.
Call it the autonomy of the label printer. You control when and how frequently you create signs and labels. You see an accident waiting to happen, zip right back to your desk, print out a sign and post it on the spot. No waiting for approval. No paperwork to fill out. No injury or worse.
Guest author: Martin Carter, Global Mining Manager for Graphic Products, works directly with mine safety managers to customize and implement safety identification programs that meet compliance requirements while improving mine communications and security. Martin Carter, Graphic Products, firstname.lastname@example.org,1-800-788-5572 Ext. 5683 or visit www.DuraLabel.com. Photo credit: Duralabel
Research has found that the majority of workers have seen their workmates engage in risky safety behaviour.
When it comes to warnings about potential dangers or giving people an important instruction on site, you have to rely on labels and signs to communicate. A sign's message can be communicated effectively with a picture that can be understood across all ages and languages (see Why Using Visuals in your Communication is so Important for more information on why visuals work so well).
According to the the research paper "Relative Effectiveness of Worker Safety and Health Training Methods" from the American Journal of Public Health in February 2006, engaging safety training is three times more effective than the least engaging methods in promoting knowledge and skill acquisition. In addition, the most engaging methods of safety training are, on average, most effective in reducing negative outcomes such as accidents.
If you're in charge of writing the next safety message or safety slogan for your company's safety initiatives, you know that you've got a challenge ahead of you. After all, most safety slogans become invisible and ineffective pretty quickly.
When it comes to safety, no company wants to see staff hurt or property damaged.
Many safety professionals believe they need to reward staff to get them to behave safely.
Since we were little, the majority of us have been taught to look out for what is going wrong and fix the problem. This can be for anything from getting an "E" at school to having friendship issues.
They then classified 200 unsuccessful ads and found that only 2% could be classified into the six templates.
But wait there's more...
The researchers brought in three groups of novices and got them to create three ads for three different products. The first group received information on the products and no ad design training. The second group was trained for two hours by a creativity instructor, while the third group was trained for two hours on the six templates.
For all groups, the best best ads were selected by a creative director and tested with consumers.
Many companies often get frustrated about how their workplace training is inconsistent from site to site, despite trainers using the same training materials.
Now that you have worked out your topic for your next routine workplace safety campaign, it's time to sit down and start writing. Here are some tips that have been designed for routine workplace communication initiatives (and not for large safety communication programs that require a lot of change, for large scale initiatives go to "14 Tips to Launch a New Safety Initiative").
So your company has finally decided to systemise your safety induction training and you're in charge of sorting it all out.
To get trainees to remember new information, you need to get the information to encode into the brain.
Trainers often worry about how to create engaging company training for staff.
We've all heard the term "Death by PowerPoint" and the majority of us have been scarred by poor presentations and classroom learning techniques, at some point in our life.
Inductions represent the most teachable moment companies have with new starters. They are an ideal time to align staff and contractors with what your company stands for and how you like to do business.
Picture Alert: Inappropriate visual. Example of how bad it is to put the wrong visuals with your content. It doesn't matter if the picture is nice or funny.
In the seminal book Built to Last, by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, they discovered that what made great companies better than good companies was that great companies had a core ideology. This is when a company is clear on "This is who we are, this is what we stand for, this is what we're all about".
Since the early 1990's, most companies have got their act together and decreased their workplace injuries (see chart). After all, it's a no-brainer that workplace safety accidents cost businesses lots of money each year. And from a human perspective, it's always a good idea to look after people.
Companies often tell us that they are frustrated by how hard it is to engage staff with training.
How the safety speech is written depends upon it's form of delivery (eg: written speech for the annual report, face to face presentation to staff or video presentation) and the audience. Ideally, the speech is tailored as much as possible to the particular group of workers as this will get more traction.
We all remember as kids having to stand up in front of the classroom and do a "Show and Tell" session to the class about our newest toy.
When it comes to training staff on safety or procedures, one of the biggest problems many of our clients talk about is the difficulty of training staff consistently across numerous sites.
Research studies tell us that 70% of workplace mistakes are a result of poor communication.
Getting new starters up to speed as quickly possible should be the goal of every company. Yet, sadly, most companies tend to induct new starters with boring reading materials and little training support.
According to research by Recruitment Solutions in April 2007, 47% of employee turnover occurs within the first 90 days of employment. With 60% of respondents highlighting induction improvements as a priority area for investment.