Regular communication and consultation about safety is a proven way to reduce injuries and workplace accidents. In a US study, it was discovered that employers report a $3 return for every $1 they invest in safety programs – provided that they have regular safety committee meetings to stay on track. Despite good intentions, not all safety meeting, or toolbox talks are of equal value. In the mid 1990's, Marcial Losada undertook extensive research into the characteristics of high performance business teams which were split into three categories:
- High performance teams - which had high connectivity (meaning, they were responsive to one another) and members asked questions as much as they defended their own views. They also cast their attention outward, as much as inward. When a challenge occurred, they remained flexible and resilient.
- Mixed performance teams - as could be expected, mixed teams sat in between. But they fell apart when there was a major challenge.
- Low performance teams - were far less connected to one another, asked almost no questions and showed no outward focus. They also fell apart during tough challenges.
Losada might not have been specifically researching safety meetings, but we can easily infer that there are high performing safety teams that manage to make great progress on safety, while some just languish.
Transforming your Safety Meetings
When it comes to high performance meetings, there are four core areas:
- Open communication - Open communication in companies leads to a lot of the right behaviours that motivate people. It enables employees to see the big picture and understand the purpose of their job because everything is transparent.
- Questions - It's important to have a leader who asks questions rather than telling people what to do. It's important that the leader has the skills to ask tough questions that challenge any out-dated assumptions in the organisation. This includes finding out what safety challenges people are most concerned about and what they believe needs to be done. By guiding and encouraging the team to come up with answers it grows their collective brainpower.
- Positivity - High performing teams have a high positivity to negativity ratio of 6:1. More positive comments are made, rather than negative. Poor performing teams have a ratio of 1:1. Essentially, high performing safety meetings have leaders who "leave their ego" at the door. They coach, they question and they ensure everyone speaks up in a collegial and positive atmosphere.
- Engaging communication - Showing statistics is an important part of any safety meeting but numbers can be hard to follow. Just as there are better ways to influence staff during a new safety initiative, there are better ways to display your data.
Take a look at this example:
Telling people to drink 2 litres of water a day is pretty abstract, but by breaking down the information and using visuals makes it much easier to explain what people need to do.
Benefits of High Performance
By encouraging staff to openly discuss safety issues and how to address them, you naturally start to create a culture where people trust that they can speak up and offer ideas. It also encourages team members to accept personal responsibility for safety and to become more accountable. This enables you to tap into the collective wisdom of the group, rather than try and create solutions on your own.
Want your safety meetings to run like a high performance machine?
Register now for “Leading a High Performance Safety Masterclass” on Tuesday 7 May. Find out more at: http://www.digicast.com.au/safety-meeting-training
Acknowledgement: This article was kindly provided by Marie-Claire Ross of Digicast Productions.