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How to write the CEO Safety Speech

CEO safety speechHow 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.

Another area is to consider is whether the speech is about a new safety program being introduced into the company or a speech that is talking about the current safety status.  Both of these types of speeches need to be approached differently.

Introducing a New Company Safety Initiative

In Blue Ocean Strategy, authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, believe that any new company initiative needs to be introduced to all levels of staff (not just senior management) by a three step process.

  1. Engagement – Allow all workers to have input into the strategic decisions that affect them by asking for their feedback.  This shows respect for staff and their ideas.  It also can contribute to better strategic decisions.  Ideally, you are able to do this step before the new safety initiative speech is undertaken.
  2. Explanation – Everyone who is involved is given a clear explanation of the thinking underlying the new decision.  This is to build trust in regard to management decisions.
  3. Expectation clarity – Once the strategy is finalised, managers clearly state the new rules of the game.  Goals and targets are set. Expectations for staff are clearly communicated.

In other words, to introduce a new safety initiative, the speech needs to contain information about:

  • the current safety performance and why it needs to be improved  (explanation)
  • the benefits to staff, company and community (expectation clarity)
  • any negatives (explanation)
  • how the new safety initiative will be measured and what is expected from each staff member (expectation clarity).

The Current Safety Status Speech

Once a new safety initiative has been introduced, it is vital that the CEO or other senior company representative gives regular progress speeches to staff.

As Dick Brown was quoted as saying in Execution, written by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan: "The culture of a company is the behaviours of it's leaders.  Leaders get the behaviour they exhibit and tolerate".

After all, staff won’t believe that the company backs its safety messages, until they see the proof of action.   So it's worthwhile that the CEO gives a regular progress report.

In fact, according to Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last, social psychology research indicates that when a leader publicly espouses a particular view, they become much more likely to behave consistently with that point of view even if they did not previously feel that way.

So there are two real benefits obtained from the CEO talking about company safety to staff.  The first one is that staff will be more persuaded to change their safety behaviour after listening to the CEO and the second one is that the CEO will start to behave more in line with the new safety initiative and as staff are more likely to believe action rather than words, staff will start to alter their behaviour as well.

When it comes to writing this speech, the following need to be included:

1. Make it relevant to your audience – In the speech, make reference to their safety record as it can differ by site.  If you do have more than one site, it can be beneficial to compare that site to the best performing site to encourage some healthy competition.

2. Site Visit -  Enable the  leadership team and employees the opportunity to discuss safety issues with the CEO. This is important to showing that the CEO really does care about their safety and is serious about change.

2. Recognise high performing safety leaders or change agents.   As well as congratulating each of these people in person, it is also important to mention these leaders in any safety talk.  This will shows that the CEO will reward those who work safely and it will also encourage others to work more safely.

3. Use stories. Where possible, include any examples of staff/sites who have improved safety.  Stories help provide an emotional connection and help people to remember.  They are particularly useful when you need to get people to remember data.

5. Make it simple. Keep the messages down to 3 -5, as brain studies show that this is the maximum amount of information people will remember.

Remember that staff want to feel safe in their own workplace.  They also look to the senior leader to see evidence that safety is important.  And while they might listen to your words, it really is action that they want to see.  So by undertaking individual site visits and checking on their progress will really show that the CEO means business when it comes to safety.

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