2019 CEOs Who "Get It"
President and CEO
The Hillman Group
- Holds executives accountable for the safety in their work environments by reviewing incidents weekly and co-facilitating a monthly Global Leadership Safety Team.
- Refocused site safety teams to build employee engagement and create a standard method for best practice sharing.
- Implemented sit-stand desks, security and new distribution center rack configurations to reduce ergonomic issues.
- Developed and implemented a new corporate safety policy that is visible in all locations.
The Hillman Group’s purpose, vision and mission: delivering simple solutions to a complex world. We strive to be the leading North American provider of complete hardware solutions, delivered with industry-best customer service and sales support. The Hillman Group employs 3,500 workers.
Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who “gets it.” What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are today?
Early in my professional career, I had the opportunity to work in the wire, cable and mining industries. In those industries, having a safety-first, zero-injury culture was paramount due to the severity and potential of any injury that occurred. I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best companies in business regarding best practices in safety. At the age of 32, I was awarded the Phelps Dodge Corp. Chairman’s Award for Safety due to my leadership role in turning around an operation that had a Total Recordable Incident Rate above 20 to one that worked for two years injury-free. During that time, I also learned the difference between safety programs and a safety culture, and the importance of having both in order to be able to achieve a destination of zero injuries.
Why is safety a core value at your organization?
Because it is a fundamental responsibility of leadership in our organization to provide a work environment that allows our team members to work safely and injury-free every day. I hold myself and my leaders accountable for the safety of all team members in our organization.
What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?
The biggest obstacle is ensuring we have 100 percent buy-in from all team members to put their personal safety and that of their team members as their first priority every day. In our organization today, we handle over 100,000 SKUs and 300,000 lines shipped every day. The nature of our business creates a significant volume of activity with a fair amount of repetition in tasks. We have to make sure that our culture is constantly reminding our team members to put safety first, and we have to design into our work practices and processes methods to eliminate the risks involved with repetitive tasks. One example of a practice we introduced is stretching. Every day across our business, with 3,500 associates, we ask our associates to stretch prior to working and, in some cases, we stretch again half-way through the day.
How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?
I do my best to walk the talk. I ensure everyone knows safety is the top priority in the organization. Every communication forum I have with our team members starts with safety. I also support investing where appropriate to show financial backing that demonstrates leadership commitment to safe operations.
How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement?
We measure both lagging and leading indicators. Lagging indicators are primarily TRIR and [lost time injury rate], and leading metrics are safety observations, safety talks and housekeeping audits.
What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization’s overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?
Off-the-job safety comes into play on a regular basis as we encourage our team members to share materials and learnings from our business with their families at home. We also have programs that promote general wellness of our organization. An example of this is a program that we call “Healthy Hillman” – we encourage proactive management of a healthy lifestyle for our all of our associates.