Workplace Solutions Human behavior Safety program management

Promoting investment in safety

How can safety professionals improve executive buy-in for investments in their organization’s safety programs?
Photo: ClausAlwinVogel/iStockphoto

Responding is Tito Warren, president of global industrial sales and operations, Red Wing Shoe Co., Red Wing, MN.

One of the most important steps in implementing any new safety program for your organization is receiving buy-in from senior leadership. These leaders have the power to set priorities across the organization and put new initiatives into practice, but they also may be averse to risk and change because of a large number of responsibilities to consider.

As safety professionals, it’s easy to see the value in investing in strong safety measures – but not everyone has the same day-to-day insight into how those dollars translate into a meaningful impact on safety culture. This makes it imperative that you successfully articulate your concerns when making the case for a new safety program.

Consider three areas when building your pitch for a new safety initiative: your leaders, how your organization operates and how you plan to show up for this program.

Know your leaders

Before approaching leadership with the proposed plan for your initiative, there are a number of factors to consider. How universally appealing are your concepts? Does your leadership team prefer that you elaborate or get right to the point? Do the leaders often go beyond the status quo? Answering all of these questions will help you determine the structure, body and details of your pitch.

Most importantly, consider how familiar your leaders are with the day-to-day work of your employees – especially those who would be most affected by your safety plans. If your leadership team isn’t hands-on in that department, incorporate an educational angle that showcases what your employees’ work environment truly looks like and how a strong safety culture can improve their experience and your organization’s outcomes.

Know your organization

Ensure your safety initiative aligns with your organization’s bigger priorities. When preparing your presentation, consider how your organization has approached previous changes – and don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues to understand their experiences, too. This will give you a sense of how your initiative fits into the overall direction of your organization based on what leadership has bought into in other areas.

Consider how your organization’s various departments and functions work together. When attempting to get senior leadership to buy into a safety initiative, showcase how stakeholders in various departments (technical specialists, consultants, compliance experts) would come together to make the program a reality. Getting multiple departments invested in the proposed initiative will establish a more solid foundation for your plan’s approval.

Your proposal should clearly state what you’re trying to change, why it’s important for your organization to make this change, how you propose implementing the change and how you’ll measure success.

Know yourself

As a safety pro, your role is to be the in-house expert on all things safety. While preparing your pitch, think about the questions your audience may ask and prepare answers for them. Safety conversations can often put people on the defensive – no one wants to give the impression that they don’t value it – so be sure to meet these questions with facts and figures from your organization, restating problems and highlighting available solutions.

Once your program is implemented, the organization will look to you for guidance on adjusting to the new status quo. It’s important to present a plan you’re fully committed to and believe in to ensure quality leadership on your end during a period of change. As the expert, you must always be ready to answer tough questions and address potential pushback.

The key to success

Asking your leadership to buy into a new safety program can be a daunting task, but remember that you all have the same responsibility: to keep the employees of your organization safe while allowing them to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Be prepared and informed throughout the process – your confidence in the plan and in your ability to execute it will shine through.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be considered a National Safety Council endorsement.

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