A CEO asked me what the "secret" was to get employee engagement and form the kind of safety culture his organization desired. The answer is quite simple:

  • Define the vision, values, beliefs and behaviors you want a member of your safety culture to possess;
  • Drive those qualities with your training programs, supervision, management communication and other reinforcers in your organization;
  • Reach a critical mass of employees who possess all or most of these qualities; and
  • Let the critical mass pass the tipping point where every worker becomes influenced by the norms of the group.

Improving a safety culture takes work up front, but pays back for that work over a long period of time.

Even the upfront work is manageable if you take it a step at a time and realize that you only need to change the critical few characteristics and capabilities, not all.

A culture with relatively stable turnover rates can perpetuate common practices for several generations of workers with only a little ongoing reinforcement from management and supervision. That is a great ROI in anyone's books.