Making beneficial changes to a safety system often appears straightforward. But when implementing the changes get underway, organizations often encounter snags and obstacles that impede the change's success, and this process often exposes differing perceptions and misaligned commitments regarding safety among employees, supervisors, and managers. By having increased awareness about the underlying issues that can slow or impede positive change, organizations can address and mitigate them from the outset of their Management-of-Change process, rather than be caught off guard by them and risk derailing the change effort. Here are three blind spots that commonly hinder the success of a Management-of-Change effort in adopting new safety technologies.
Front-line employees may have a different perspective on how to keep safe while doing their particular job tasks than managers do. As such, when safety measures get imposed from the top-down, pushback should be expected, as many employees may feel that changes are being imposed blindly and without consideration for the real circumstances in the work area. The implementation of new safety measures should include input from the front-line employees so that their experiences in the work area are considered and reflected in the change. Not only does this appropriately place value on employees' experiences and perspectives, it improves the suitability of the change for the particular employees and work environment, reducing the need to address objections and make adjustments.
Blind Spot 2: Variable Comfort with New Technology
Safety sensitive workplaces tend to be diverse in terms of age and experience with technology. And even in some industries the workforce is aging. Technology has advanced rapidly over the last three decades, and it continues to advance. But not everyone is able to keep up, and proficiency and comfort with new technologies can be generally low among many members of a given workforce. A Management-of-Change process for new technologies needs to consider that their employees represent a variety of comfort with things like computers, smartphones, Internet technology, and so on. Although many safety technologies including AlertMeter® are easy to learn for all kinds of people regardless of proficiency with computers or mobile technology, assuming that everyone in your workforce is already comfortable with them is likely going to make implementing change slower and more difficult.
Blind Spot 3: Telling vs. Communicating
The way changes are described and communicated to a workforce can impede the success of their implementation. In the same way that generational differences can hinder the adoption of new technologies, generational differences, cultural differences, and even personality differences among the workforce mean differences in the ways they all gather, interpret, and retain information. And when it comes to introducing brand new concepts into safety systems and cultures that are not focused on continuous improvement, skepticism and pushback are inevitable without consideration for how to best communicate changes and improvements for everyone affected. A key to communicating effectively is to realize that communication is not a one-way flow of information. It is not a monologue. Instead, communication should consider the audience and incorporate their perspectives. Too often, information about important changes is merely told to its audience, and communication is assumed to have happened. But feedback, verification, and clarification need to be a part of the communication method within a Management-of-Change process to ensure that the information being communicated has been properly interpreted and understood.
Communication Is Crucial
You've probably noticed that these three blind spots share a theme, which is communication. Effective communication is the keystone of a safety system designed for continuous improvement. Check out our paper on communication and safety if you're interested in a deeper dive on the subject!