8 Ways to Improve Your Workplace Safety Communication
Research studies estimate that 70% of workplace mistakes are caused by poor communication. Interestingly, how we start our message often determines the result. The more important the message, the bigger the need to plan out what you are going to say.
- Always be honest and accurate about the current safety status. In 1994, when the new CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner was brought in to fix a troubled IBM, he put two charts on the wall to show how the market share had dramatically fallen. Until that point in time, IBM staff refused to believe IBM was in trouble (they lost $8 billion that year). A picture tells a thousand words. IBM-ers quickly saw the message. Sometimes seeing is everything.
- Customize your safety information. If your message involves talking to a variety of different groups or disciplines, make sure that the words and concepts that you use will be clear and understandable to them.
- Get people involved with your message. Get your listeners actively involved. The best way to engage people in a conversation is to ask well thought out questions that get to the heart of the matter. It is important to frame your questions so that they require thought, and cannot simply be answered with a yes or no.
- Tell stories. The right brain prefers, and is best influenced, by stories. It also provides an emotional connection to information that people will remember. What real-life workplace stories can you use that show the importance of safety?
- Reward in public. Recognize high performing safety leaders or change leaders publicly. This will encourage others to work more safely.
- Use positive language. Avoid words like ‘don’t’ and can’t. Focus on the behavior you want, rather than talking about what you don’t want.
- Be clear about expectations. Let everyone clearly know what it is expected of them. Also make sure that they know that we all depend on one another.
- Follow up with Action. While workers might accept your words, they will want to see actions that prove that you believe what you say. Keep communicating with them and checking on their progress. Remember, the old adage “Actions speak louder than words”.