… Culture and Indicators: Can You Measure ? …
Let’s start off with something we know. Successful organizations have teams that execute exceptionally well, they stay focused on their goals, and from the outside looking in we readily make an assessment that they have an engaged workforce. No doubt these individuals are striving for excellence for a reason. They also have a strong organizational culture as they have established a way of thinking and a style of how things get done.
Here we will focus on the role of Health and Safety (“HSE”), and how culture impacts an organization’s Safety performance outcomes. The HSE department is not a stand alone group nor it has different performance concepts or motivators, however, this group bears the responsibility to educate, guide and oversee the behaviors of leaders and employees across all functional work groups to work safely, as such they greatly influence their “Safety Culture”.
Practically stated, Safety Culture is a subcomponent of corporate culture and has people, job and organizational characteristics that have a powerful effect on Safety performance. A Safety Culture shapes what employees believe the organization really wants and dictates whether employees will or will not adhere to the safety rules when line management is not around.
To begin with, we need to acknowledge that organizations are complex systems. They are difficult to manage in ways that result in both excellent performance results on the “bottom line” as well as an injury free workplace.
It is important to know if a Safety Culture exists inside your organization. In any workplace it does not take very long to make an assessment if a positive Safety Culture is present or if one exists that puts employees at risk. Just walk around, observe and talk to workers. What are their beliefs about Safety? What is the material condition of the workplace? Are there physical hazards and unhealthy exposures? Do they always follow the rules or do they take shortcuts due to pressure to produce volume quickly?
What you see and what you hear will speak volumes about the habituated behaviours, good or bad, that have become the norm in the organization.
There are many theories and debates if a culture can actually be measured. Yes! Safety Culture can, and must, be measured, and its impact is too important not to know what it is doing. If you don’t measure it, you can’t control, manage or improve it.
Leaders drive the culture of an organization by setting performance expectations and engage in regular feedback and dialogue with their employees to foster great performance. The Conditions for Great Performance are significant predictors of on-the-job performance. The Conditions which are underlying foundations for understanding human performance in the workplace, state that employees: Know What to do, are Able to do it, Equipped to do it, Want to do it, and, have Interactions that foster trust, respect, integrity, collaboration and accountability. The ability to measure Safety Culture is a determining factor of the skills, knowledge, and abilities of the employees who impact Safety performance.
Let’s quickly conduct a Safety Culture check for your organization. Is there evidence to show to what degree…
- Safety is always the top priority
- Everyone is involved in and responsible for Safety
- There is a blame-free work environment where errors are treated as learning opportunities
- The degree to which the conditions of performance supports working safely everyday:
- Do habituated behaviors and attitudes demonstrate trust, respect, integrity, collaboration and accountability?
- Are employees encouraged to work safely through feedback and recognition?
- Does the balance of consequences support working safely or actually reward taking risks?
- Are employees clear about performance expectations?
- Do employees know where they stand regarding their own performance?
- Do employees have effective, efficient work processes and procedures for doing tasks efficiently, effectively and safely?
- Are employees adequately resourced given what is expected of them?
- Are employees supported to succeed with learning and coaching?
Complementary to creating and measuring Safety Culture, establishing leading indicators is a revolutionary advance in an organization’s capability to manage Safety proactively and drive prevention. Leading indicators are based on current trends, and they need to be measured and monitored regularly. These indicators are “upstream” of the workplace outcomes and provide data about what is likely to happen to those outcomes if current trends continue.
Unlike lagging indicators which are historical in nature, and are “downstream” of the current performance activity in the workplace and are the results of past performance. Safety outcomes such as lost time injuries are lagging indicators.
To be a true leading indicator of Safety performance, a valid and reliable set of leading indicators will guide organizations in continuously improving all the system conditions that are necessary to enable workers to work safely. The Conditions of Great Performance are leading indicators.
Your Call to Action:
1. Identify the leading indicators and Safe Work Actions that fit your business’ work situation
Establish your Safety indicators and measurements that the organization is targeting. These indicators must be directly correlated to the safe work practices of workers and the safety-related outcomes of their actions on the job.
2. Choose the tools and methodology to measure your Safety performance and identify root causes
Leaders need a process for measuring, monitoring, managing and improving the leading indicators of safety performance in a continuous improvement cycle.
Perception surveys are a valid, effective, efficient and low cost method of gathering periodic leading indicator data. Gathering comprehensive data about worker’s actual on-the-job experiences regarding the extent to which they are enabled by their organization to work safely, are leading indicators. Data has shown that performing Safety Audits alone failed to provide an adequate measurement of leading indicators.
3. Set up a “dashboard” of monitoring information to regularly measure the effectiveness of your HSE Program
Leaders need to be able to frequently monitor “upstream” trends in order to anticipate the probable results of Safety performance. Annual or bi-annual measurement is not frequent enough to predict the likelihood of deteriorating future “downstream” safety outcomes before they actually start happening. A quarterly measurement will easily identify any trends that need attention.
4. Develop solutions required to strengthen the Leading Indicators and deliver improved Safety results
Upon a comprehensive measure of your Safety performance there may be multiple causes and therefore a need for a variety of actions to transform your Safety Culture and/or improve the effectiveness of your program. Develop ahead of time what solutions that you are prepared to take if your measurement is producing less than the results that you are looking for.
As we tie it all together, there is a predictive relationship between an organization’s safe work practices and their Safety performance. Organizations must be proactive at creating a strong Safety Culture and adopting rigorous measures and improvement strategies in order to have a greater chance of achieving their desired Safety goals, and ultimately a safe workplace that protects their employees and assets.
Always, I am here to help my colleagues. I want your feedback, comments and questions about your Performance Management experience. If you have any questions about how these Performance Improvement concepts can be applied to your work group and/or your organization, please let me know and I will be happy to assist.
I want to write about on-demand topics. Please drop me a note if you have any topics of interest and I will work to incorporate this information into my newsletter series.
What’s next? The next newsletter will be released in October.