Establishing key performance indicators
Types of Performance Indicators
Performance Indicators can come in many guises, depending on their focus and means of measurement. Generally speaking, they can be Process or Outcome-orientated indicators that are measured by numbers (i.e. quantitative) or subjective perceptions or feelings (i.e. qualitative).
Process-oriented indicators are focused on the trends of actions, activities and process aspects that lead to desired results. Process-oriented indicators tend to be measured relatively frequently throughout the duration of an activity. Some activities will be continuous, others one-off events. For example, number of managerial – employee safety conversations within the last week would involve continuous monitoring, as this is an activity that should be taking place all of the time. The number of people attending a series of safety training events that have been set-up as a result of training needs analysis would only be monitored throughout the time period of the training events being held. Primarily, therefore, process-orientated indicators focus on the act of people doing something.
Outcome-oriented Key Performance Indicators are focused on the results of the process. For example, monitoring the number of managerial-employee safety conversations resulted in a manager visibly demonstrating his/her safety leadership for a defined number of times in a given time period. The safety training events led to people changing their safety behaviors when conducting certain activities (e.g. confined space entry).
There are three categories of performance indicators[i]:  Key Results Indicators (KRIs) that provide information about the past;  Current Key Performance Indicators (CKPIs) that provide feedback about the performance of safety activities in real time; and  Leading Key Performance Indicators (LKPIs) that are high-level predictive indicators of desired future outcomes.
Key Results Indicators (KRIs)
Knowing the results of past activities can help identify appropriate KPIs that influence future behaviors. Lagging indicators are metrics that measure end-state objectives, the status of desired outcomes, or what has already happened. They are not considered to be KPIs as they are reactive: Lagging indicators measure activities and events after they have occurred. As such, they are considered to be Key Result Indicators (KRIs) that summarize previous activity.
Good KRIs provide a clear picture of whether the company has travelled in the right direction and of the progress made toward achieving desired outcomes and strategies. Typical safety KRIs such as previous injury and exposure statistics are commonly used to provide an overview of safety performance in company communications. KRIs can also be used for a wide range of safety-related activities to ascertain how well a particular improvement strategy has worked. However, KRIs do not inform about what needs to be
Qualitative and Quantitative Indicators
The majority of safety-related measures in companies use quantitative indicators (e.g. Incident Rates) as the primary form of measurement. In the examples above, both the number of safety conversations held and the numbers of people attending safety training courses are quantitative indicators. It makes sense for the majority of safety related Key Performance Indicators to be measured by numerical amounts (i.e. number of personnel trained on job-specific topics), as this makes it much easier than subjective measures to collect, collate, analyze and interpret the data through data-mining or statistics.
However, there are occasions where safety performance must be measured in more of a subjective manner (i.e. quality of training provided by HSE Department). In these cases, qualitative Key Performance Indicators should be used. In many cases, these can be transformed into quantitative data using Likert-type scales (e.g. Highly Agree to Highly Disagree).
Measure the success of your safety culture
Having established the means and methods for changing the Safety Culture, it makes good commercial sense to know if those strategies are having the desired effect by measuring performance. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measurement tools used to provide feedback and evaluate progress toward the Safety Culture strategy goals. Although the type and number of indicators may differ for different companies, KPIs are current or future orientated measures that can be adjusted as the strategic goals change or evolve, as the organization gets closer to achieving its goals.
For any given strategy, one or more KPIs can be used to determine success. If written correctly, focused on the right activities, and understood by personnel, KPIs can help companies to:
Establish performance levels achieved in the past and present
Predict and quantify the impact on desired performance activities
Change future behavior
Determine the effectiveness and quality of the safety processes in place
Identify further improvement opportunities
Permit better integration of feedback information into day-to-day operational decisions
Identify additional resource requirements to accomplish improvement
By carefully identifying and articulating the drivers of safety performance, and measuring and managing the broad effects of both good and bad performance on various stakeholders, companies can make a signi?cant contribution to changing their Safety Culture.
Usually, these drivers are based on desired pre-defined effects, with specific criteria used for measurement: in other words, [a] what behaviors/effects are desired? [b] what does success look like? And [c] what needs to be done to achieve the desired strategic outcomes? The data contained in the KRIs needs to be data-mined (e.g. incident rates) to help identify performance strengths and areas of opportunity, and where adjustments are necessary.
Current Key Performance Indicators (CKPIs)
Current KPIsare measures that provide a pulse check on current safety performance (e.g. current percent safe behavior scores for the Maintenance department). Current indicators are more useful than KRIs as they can be used to establish the progress of current safety initiatives and facilitate adjustments in real time: much the same as a speedometer in a vehicle.
Leading Key Performance Indicators(LKPIs)
Leading KPIs are a set of high-level proactive metrics that are predictive of the desired outcomes and future performance results (e.g. create a safety partnership). Leading KPIs give an organization a feel of the current overall status, such as number of safety audits performed, percentage of corrective actions completed, and amount of job-specific training completed. The main difficulty with developing leading KPIs is being sure that they are strongly correlated with the desired outcomes. It is very important that the purpose of the leading KPIs is understood by all personnel if they are to change or affect future performance. In this way, people are more likely to know what corrective actions to take in order to impact performance if the outcomes desired are not being achieved.
Development and Selection of Key Performance Indicators
The process of developing and selecting effective and meaningful Performance Indicators should be based on a complete and thorough understanding of what is to be achieved, why, and how. Examining past and present safety performance and upcoming safety-related initiatives can help to define this. In the present context, although trying to change a Safety Culture is difficult, it is doable if it is divided into meaningful sub-topics (e.g. Safety Leadership, Safety Communications, etc.), with these further divided into sets of associated activities (e.g. identify gaps in safety leadership skills among all managerial staff), that can be measured (e.g. number of managers not trained in safety leadership).
Our Roadmap has shown how the overall Safety Culture can be improved by adopting various improvement strategies focused on key Safety Culture attributes. Each one can be implemented separately, in various combinations, or all simultaneously. Each business unit of a company will likely have different needs, improvement initiatives, safety management systems, and Safety Culture maturity levels. Each, therefore, will need to use different sets of Key Performance Indicators, depending on their current status.
To develop meaningful Performance Indicators, a company must clearly understand [a] what it is currently doing and why; [b] how effective those current efforts are at influencing the desired performance; and [c] what it is trying to achieve in terms of behavior change at various levels. This will require a review of existing efforts that, depending on the resources available, can be a labor-intensive, time-consuming process.
Once completed, the company will need to set various goals, with milestones, to promote continual improvement where gaps are identified, within each topic strategy adopted. In turn, this will drive the development of new performance indicators and various supporting initiatives that will help the company achieve the desired culture change.
It is likely that some performance indicators will already be in place that can be retained, as they are effectively focused on the desired outcome(s).
Others may need to be adapted or eliminated, as they are encouraging the wrong sets of behaviors to achieve the desired outcome(s). Once these goals and safety initiatives are established, the information is used to select or develop effective and meaningful Key Performance Indicators.
An effective and meaningful Performance Indicator can be assured if each is assessed against the SMART attributes shown in the table below.
SMART Performance Indicators
What the Performance Indicators is measuring should be exact and very precise. Ensure the Performance Indicator is tangible and has consistent meaning for all personnel.
The Performance Indicator should be easily measurable, and generate a value of some kind that can be compared with other metrics.
To ensure ‘buy-in’ from personnel, these goals must be realistic and attainable.
Performance Indicators should be directly tied to and consistent with a company’s Safety Culture improvement goals.
Time is a unit of measurement that can be used as a Performance Indicator. In many instances, performance can be assessed on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly time basis. Placing milestone and end-dates for goal achievement offers the advantage of monitoring various implementation steps in a change process.
When developing Performance Indicators, it is also worth considering:
That the quality of the Key Performance Indicator should take precedence over quantity: i.e. don’t collect numerical data for the sake of it. Ensure the activities being monitored and accompanying data will positively influence the desired behaviors /effects.
Whether the Performance Indicators are understood by all employment levels and ‘buy-in’ is established.
Piloting Performance Indicators in small sections of the company to ensure they work as intended, before rolling them throughout the organization.
Dominic Cooper Ph.D.is the CEO of B-Safe Management Solutions. With over 25 years practical hands-on experience, and a past Professor of Safety and I/O Psychology at Indiana University, Bloomington he is an award winning author, a Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS), Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH), a Member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and a Member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). Dominic has written extensively on the measurement of safety performance and Safety Culture in both academic and practitioner journals. A world renowned Behavior-Based Safety expert with some 160 publications to his credit, he works as a professional advisor and as a project manager for single and multi-site projects on Safety Culture improvement initiatives.
Lucas Finley, MS is a Senior Project Manager at B-Safe Management Solutionswith many years’ academic and practical field experience. Lucas has conducted primary research into human behaviour, Safety Culture and safety leadership, and obtained professional experience within the Construction, Healthcare, Logistics, Oil & Gas, Pharmaceutical, Rail, Steel and Utility industries in the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East.