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May 25, 2018

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‘Poor safety performance is a symptom of a misfiring culture’

Morgan Wilson of Juice Learning discusses some of the lessons learnt after nine years of delivering health and safety consultation and training to clients across the world.

Many of our clients don’t have a safety problem, they have an engagement problem!

Poor safety performance is a symptom of a misfiring culture; a culture where trust is often damaged and where people don’t feel as involved as they could be in creating future success. The result is often an absence of the kind of discretionary effort that could make the difference between success and failure, or in safety, between life and death.

Effectively engaging employees is a universal challenge, but it’s something we’ve been excelling at for nearly a decade.

Why is this so important? Well, studies show that in organisations with high levels of engagement:

  • Employees make better decisions, are more productive and deliver better customer service;
  • People are more likely to innovate;
  • Workers commit more readily to leadership decisions through having a better understanding of them;
  • Everyone benefits from reduced absenteeism, attrition and presenteeism.

It’s not hard to see how these kinds of outcomes can have a hugely positive impact on health and safety. Oh, and as an added bonus, these organisations also tend to outperform their stock market peers!

So, in the spirit of sharing, here are our top tips to engage for safety:

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there

Agree a collective vision, create a strategy (not an initiative) and involve as many people as you can to develop your plan. Remember, this plan is going to be as unique as the challenges you face, so you could consider everything from reviewing recruitment, conducting focus groups, creating a team of engagement champions and refining your communications strategy.

Listen, learn and empower

People are the solution, not the problem… so give them a voice!

Have a dialogue not a monologue. Ask lots of questions because if you don’t already have all the answers you’ll need to find someone who has, and the harder you look, the more chance you’ll have of finding them.

Trust is critical

In our personal lives, trust is the foundation of any positive relationship and it’s no different in the workplace. Your leaders need to set the example: be authentic, share, explain and involve. Most of all – actually get to know your team, understand their concerns, value their ideas; and remember Maya Angelou’s often repeated quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

Establish how you are going to measure employee engagement

Work with your internal teams to understand how employee engagement is measured. Build positive working relationships with Human Resources, Internal Communications and key stakeholders. Align safety programmes to ensure traction, value add and avoiding the tick box / this is another ‘fad’ syndrome for the people involved. But a word of warning… don’t define success purely by statistical evidence… as the sociologist William Bruce Cameron said “not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Silence is not golden

Communication is key and needs to be honest, engaging and effective. Think in terms of a marketing strategy – better still, involve an expert and create an ongoing campaign that gets the attention of your audience and persuades them to buy-in to what you’re saying. But this shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the high-quality, face-to-face communication that managers must pay attention to in order to successfully engage employees.


Be an upstart, think differently, do things differently and if business as usual isn’t delivering the business you want – change it. Be courageous and try new things… or change will never happen.


Juice Learning works with organisations to explore their safety culture and devise training programmes to get everyone to think differently and increase engagement. These include Leading Safety, Owning Safety, Value-led Leadership, Communications Skills, and Wellbeing and Resilience programmes. See the company on Stand S380 at Safety & Health Expo in June.

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