Health and safety needs a re-brand
By Anna Keen, Founder of Acre Frameworks.
A little over a month ago I hit the streets of London to understand what the Great British Public’s perception of Health and Safety was; this was the result:
Acre Frameworks: Health & Safety Stereotypes and Perceptions
Not very complimentary is it? But if we are all honest is it that unfair? How many of you have interviewed or met people that fuel this stereotype?
When I first started recruiting in Health and Safety it was all about compliance, enforcement and rule following. The roles attracted many individuals whose personality preferences aligned to this. They enjoyed following rules, telling people what to do and they didn’t trust people to do the right thing.
I hope most of us would agree that if we aspire to achieve compliance alone it won’t get people home safe at the end of the day. We need to empower those in our workplaces and change not just their behaviours but their beliefs; we need to do Health and Safety differently.
Having worked closely with John Green and Safety Differently we know there is momentum within the profession to change. If we are to deliver this change through recognising people as the solution, removing the bureaucracy and focusing on the positives we need to accept that the skill-set of those in the profession needs to change. We need to re-focus development and we need to stop fuelling the stereotype.
What does this skill-set look like? I am privileged to work with some of the most passionate, innovative and engaging individuals who are driving change in their organisations and across the industry. I wanted to define what makes these people different. What makes them effective and ultimately successful?
So I did something really innovative, I asked them! I have spent the last six months working with senior leaders to understand and define which non-technical competencies were critical for success.
The purpose of this was to promote the idea that although qualifications may make you competent, by themselves they won’t make you effective and its effective people we need to drive change in the profession.
Through the use of the assessment tool we have started to understand the personality preferences of leaders in Health and Safety. We have profiled leaders from Crossrail, Laing O’Rourke, Vodafone, Royal Mail and ISS to name but a few. I want to share with you some of the findings that were particularly interesting which definitely challenge the stereotype:
70% are more likely to consult with others
75% are interested in other people’s motivates and behaviours
85% preferred new approaches over conventional methods
70% are more likely to look for the positive
80% aren’t restricted by rules and procedures
In order to be successful you have to actually demonstrate behaviours that are quite the opposite of the stereotype. You need to want to understand others, challenge past approaches and look for the positives. The role has changed but the brand hasn’t.
What if every person in the profession dedicated as much time to developing critical behaviours as they do developing their technical knowledge? What if the ability to demonstrate these competencies carried as much weight as qualifications? Would it allow us to drive positive change in organisations and would it allow us to attract talent into the profession? Would it allow a Health and Safety leader to be considered with the same credibility for a promotion to COO as their peers? Would it allow us to rebrand?
How do we do this? Let’s start by understanding where we are:
- We need to understand at an individual and team level how personalities impact people’s effectiveness.
- Heads of functions need to understand their team dynamic, key strengths and development areas.
- Individuals need feedback on how they can change their behaviour in order to become more effective.
- All professionals need to develop their skills beyond technical knowledge, not in pursuit of initials after their name, but to allow them to make a real impact and to get people home safely at the end of the day.
It is my hope that if we do this we can make small changes at the individual and organisational levels that can make a big impact across the profession as a whole.
I ask you to take some time to reflect on this. Whether it’s through utilising the Acre Frameworks tool or by good old fashioned reflection, take a long hard look at the impact you and your teams are having and ask yourself what am I doing to Re-brand Health and Safety?
Anna Keen is founder of Acre Frameworks.