John McBride knows what executives are looking for when hiring EHS pros. He’s the director of national recruiting for Consentium Search LLC and was one of the first workshop speakers Monday afternoon, October 11 at the 2021 National Safety Congress & Expo in Orlando, Florida.

Technical knowledge is not a problem, he said. It’s a given. “What I hear execs talk about when it comes to safety is leadership, engagement, and communication. Those skills are in demand,” he said.

McBride mentioned an adjunct to communication – perception. Safety pros need to be aware of how they are perceived by employees, and how they perceive the workforce. How you communicate is in part shaped by how you are perceived. Many employees view safety pros as the “safety cops.” How do you create a positive impression of a “safety cop”?

There are many ingredients. Education. Certification. Competence. Accomplishments. And importantly, how you communicate is a key to changing perceptions. There can be good safety cops and bad safety cops. Good safety coaches and bad safety coaches. McBride said one of the keys to falling in the “good” category is to speak to be understood and listen to understand. No jargon. More empathy.

And to create the perception you want employees and senior leaders to have of you, communicate constantly. Email. Text. Walk the floor and have one on one conversations. Ask questions. Check in. Talk up successes, even small wins. Tell stories. Be honest, transparent, and follow up when you don’t have an answer to a questioned raised by a frontline worker or a senior leader.

Communicating like this can change perceptions, create impressions, and build trusting relationships. To get these results, frequency is very important, said McBride. Don’t fade in and out, on and off the radar. Keep up a steady stream of updates, announcements, alerts, future developments – without being overwhelming or annoying. Keep your messaging short and concise.

Bottom line: pay attention to those soft skills. That’s how you build relationships and reputations.