Corporate culture might be an over-used terms these days, but what it really boils down to is what behaviours staff undertake when no-one is watching.
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.
It can be very challenging when you have language and geography barriers, age differences and people just not listening because they suffer from the highly contagious "it won"t happen to me" bias or "I've heard this all before" contagion.
Then, there is the issue of trying to get people to listen to what is said, not what they think is being said. So often, safety professionals feel so frustrated that their safety messages are being misinterpreted. Being able to create the right safety message that gets attention, that people can understand, remember and then take the right action upon, is crucial for successful safety leadership
So what can you do to remove safety blocks that people put up to resist safety messaging?
7 Blocks to Safety Communication
To get people's attention, you really need to know the psychology behind why people don’t listen.
There are seven major safety communication blocks that you need to break down, in order to get your message through. These are often subconscious blocks. If you can work through them you will greatly increase the effectiveness of your ability to take command of your safety communication, in order to increase your authority and effectiveness so that safety compliance comes first.
Here are 7 safety communication strategies to always consider when creating your safety communication plan that reduce obstacles:
- It’s not about them - Self-interest is one of the biggest human motivators of all time. Tap into this by getting into the mindset of your target audience. While writing, keep asking yourself all the time: “So what? What’s in it for me?” Let people know how the new safety information will help them. Don’t assume they will work it out themselves. Give them a “why.”
- It’s boring– Our brains have been designed to stop information overload, by constantly scanning our horizon for items that are different than normal. Anything unusual or unpredictable causes us to stop and listen. Some of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time included fear or surprise to get attention. Ask yourself “What can I use in this information that will surprise people?”
- They know it all – Three of the most dangerous words in the human language are “I know that.” This is a surefire way for the brain to shutdown and block any new information. Avoid this by asking people questions about what they do not know (but think they do). Humans hate to be wrong, so we’re more likely to learn something if we have been exposed as being incorrect. Again, this involves working out an unusual angle that is counter-intuitive to what everyone expects.
- They’re preoccupied – Everyday we are bombarded with around with around 150 - 5,000 advertising messages. . And then there are messages from home that you have to battle with such as family issues, social networking sites and money problems. Your communication messages also compete with messages from the production manager pushing for better productivity, the human resources manager needing forms filled out more accurately, and co-workers distracting each other. Never assume people will listen to you, when their heads are filled with so many other things to contend with.
- They haven’t see it – In advertising, marketers recognise that people need to be exposed to a television ad 4-7 times before they will absorb the message. This is why frequency of message equals success in advertising. To ensure that your workers remember your safety message, you need to get into their head – a lot. This means planning on multiple message placement and exposing people to your message 4-7 times.
- They don’t know what you mean – As humans, we have a tendency to provide people with lots of information. But that literally hurts the brain. Providing lots of data or lots of text contributes to people switching off. Essentially, you need to focus on one clear message and remove redundant information.
- They’re confused about what to do – Any safety communication is all about getting people to think about a safety issue and make changes to their behaviour. Getting the viewer to act and expend some sort of energy on the message is crucial. This is why the Victorian Workplace safety ad that ended with “Would you do what you ask your Workers to do?” was so successful in changing workplace behaviour. Always end with a call to action.
To be a successful safety leader, it's vital to have exemplary safety communication skills. This means knowing how to write safety information that grabs attention, people can understand and that motivates behaviour change.
To do this, you need a variety of safety communication tools that enable you to create engaging safety communication. In the book, "Transform Your Safety Communication", safety professionals are provided with 5 "done-for-you" templates that make it really easy to apply new safety communication skills.
If you're sick of trying to get people to take safety more seriously, then it's time to start upgrading your safety communication strategies. This will ensure you become one of the best safety professionals in your industry.
Photo credit: Artur84, Freedigitalphotos.net