Changing culture is difficult. It takes time to influence the behaviors, customs and norms that make up a company’s culture so that employees can be safer and healthier.
“Culture change takes time and hard work,” says Noah Goodwin, Commercial Risk Manager at RiskSOURCE Clark-Theders. “There is no magic wand to fix everything overnight.”
We sat down with Goodwin to look at what steps a company can take to evolve their culture. Here’s what he says are the keys to culture evolution and enhancement.
1. Confirm readiness and willingness to change
Goodwin says one of the first things he looks for is willingness and commitment to change. This mindset and advocacy for safety has to be present before they will work with a company on culture change.
“For culture evolution to happen, we want to see alignment between company strategy and the desired culture, and a strong commitment to that process,” adds Goodwin. Because the focus is risk management, if a company is not committed or willing to evolve their culture, it’s not a fit to work with them.
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2. Analyze the current culture
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Once it’s confirmed a company wants to improve for the safety and health of its workers, Goodwin says it is important to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the current culture.
This helps to see where workers are doing the right thing already, and where there are weaknesses.
“This allows us to do a root cause analysis of why it isn’t a safe culture,” says Goodwin. It could be complacency or attitude, lack of training, lack of consistency with processes, lack of communication, or outdated machinery, among many other causes.
“If we do see a gap in the perception of safety between management and workers, then we try to determine, what is that gap and why?” Understanding why there could be differences and discrepancies can shed light on safety practices. For example, if top management says training is regular and effective, and line workers tend to say the opposite, Goodwin says they know there is more to evaluate.
3. Formal and informal communication
Policies or procedures may be able to change on paper rather quickly, but entrenched practices and norms can be more difficult to shift. Goodwin says that one part of the change process is making sure workers (not just management) know why change is needed.
“We can explain how it was prior, and why that’s not okay, and why we are moving forward in another way,” says Goodwin. This approach is only reinforced when all parties involved are consistent and clear with the message, including how this benefits each individual.
4. Prioritize a few critical activities
Goodwin says they typically focus in on the critical activities that can result in the greatest amount of culture change for any given organization. A common activity that falls under this category is creating or implementing a safety committee.
Adding a safety committee, or making sure the safety committee is effective in supporting employees, helps to develop safe practices and norms, supports the development of formal safety programs, encourages self-inspections, and typically adds structure to help if any accidents or injuries do occur. “In some cases, we can be a part of that safety committee, with them, for a period of time until they’re able to do it on their own,” adds Goodwin.
5. Make sure roles & responsibilities are clear
Involvement of all key stakeholders from the start, and during any change management, is critical. It can also help to combat any resistance to change. Aim to be as clear as possible when re-establishing roles and responsibilities in your organization.
“As with most goals, planning the necessary steps to achieve the goal is critical. Without planning these steps in advance, including who is responsible for completion and the deadline for doing so, it is very unlikely that the organization will achieve their goals. Having a person or a group with the authority to hold people accountable for meeting these goals is also important,” says Goodwin.
6. Measure and monitor
Don’t forget to monitor and gather ongoing feedback from workers along the way. In the short term, a company like RiskSOURCE can gauge how management and employees feel about safety with regard to onboarding, ongoing training, and the ability to have open communication.
“The changes in perceptions or feelings over time can be tracked to monitor improvement. Positive improvement in this area should correlate with reduced risks and injuries,” explains Goodwin.
Lay the Foundation for a World Class Safety Program
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