Communicate Safety Like a Fan!
A lack of communication is a trap that will limit success. Have you ever sent an email about a subject and considered your communication complete and then nothing happened? Have you ever written a procedure, added it to your management system BUT no one actually follows the procedure? Have, you ever created a safety campaign, emailed it to your team, BUT the workers never heard about it? Have you ever had thoughts like, “They should know,” “We told them,” “That is our policy?” If you have had these experiences, you have fallen into the trap.
When safety communication is one dimensional, we limit our potential. Communicate your safety interest with relentless passion. Surround people with your safety message. Develop safe habits with memorable and methodical communications. Employees need to know safety is important because they see and hear a consistent and relentless message.
Just think about how we communicate interest to people around us. For example, sports fans know how to communicate their interest. The universe revolves around football in my house. My enthusiasm for football began when I was young. My earliest memories include going to Friday night high school football games and watching football on television all weekend. It is a tradition that continues today. Our house is consumed with a message that football is vital to our existence.
I adopted my enthusiasm from multiple influences. I have personal experiences with football. My Dad, brother, and I played football in college. My Dad also coached high school football. There is also a fan side to the story. We watch football on television. There is an anticipation side of the equation; I look forward to football and count the days until it begins. There is an awareness element; we talk about football constantly. There is a visible side to our obsession; we wear our team’s colors and purchase “stuff” with our team’s logo. There is an educational side too; we read articles and books about football teams and players. And there is a financial commitment to our message; games, tickets, equipment, and promotional material all cost money.
If you did not know my family, how long would it take to determine we like football? NOT LONG! We communicate our enthusiasm for the sport with our words, our actions, our time, and our money. It is not a strategic communication campaign but rather a natural product of our interest. The influence carries over to my three boys. They all play football. I wonder where they acquired their interest. Was it random chance? No, of course not – sports fans communicate their interest in the sport. Apply the same principle to your safety culture. If safety is vital to your existence, you have to communicate it with every possible avenue. Your enthusiasm, confidence, and sincerity will become evident to everyone. Your goal is to instill dedication and commitment into your program with a sustained effort to pump your message into your work environment. Let your planets revolve around safety.
Effective communication will come from seven different directions. That could mean seven different people, seven different communication mediums, or seven different training sessions. The idea is to present the message with repetition, enthusiasm, and confidence. Show your passion for safety and sustain the message. Keep it simple but methodical. Also realize that communication is more than an email stating a few goals. Your attitude, confidence, and enthusiasm will communicate what is important to you.
Visual: Become safety’s biggest fan and make it obvious. Employees should see your injury-free culture everywhere with banners, posters, flags, flyers, letterhead, giveaways, hats, shirts, jackets, bulletin boards, and any other conceivable method to make safety visible. Brand your message with symbols and logos. Keep the message consistent but change the format frequently.
Verbal: Employees should hear the message from multiple directions. Every member of your leadership team should talk about your message in their sleep. Your workforce will begin to expect the first words out of your mouth are always safety-related. Integrate the spoken word into your environment. Talk to people. Show people safety related information. Require a safety topic before ALL meetings. Develop the ability to ask good safety-related questions. Create an environment that discusses safety informally.
Written Messages: Communicate with newsletters, memos, letters to employees, brochures, and flyers. There are endless ways to put your message into the hands of employees. Keep your message simple and focused like a laser on your core messages. Every written document you produce should have a reference to safety – or, at a minimum, it should incorporate your logo or symbol. Communicate your expectations, goals, and responsibilities. Have people sign documents conveying their commitment. Use technology to put the written word out there. Examples: Web sites, email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook….you name it, you can do it. I even know of one site that posts their safety and health newsletter on the inside of the toilet stall doors! Their newsletter is aptly titled, “The Porcelain Press.”
Informal Communication: Your conversations count. Safety is not relegated to a formal safety meeting. People know what is important to you by the content of your questions and conversations. Talk about safety when you eat. Talk about safety when you meet. Talk about safety at the coffee pot. Talk about safety on breaks. Talk about safety outside of work. Talk about safety with your family. Relive accomplishments. The idea is to make safety a topic of every conversation just like a sports fan talks about his favorite team.
Safety communication is like cable television – you have to have the “Headline News” version of your message as well as the one-hour documentary version. Both approaches appeal to different people at different times. Cable stations report on the same events, but each network has its own style. Your average viewer cruises the channels sampling different perspectives on the same current events. Take the same approach with your communications and awareness campaigns. Deliver the same core messages using multiple networks. Your safety commitment is not a secret. You create safety fans with a demonstration of your own passion for what is important to you! The benefit is your safety culture will spread!