Not Getting Management Support for Safety? Maybe It’s The Way You Ask
I’m sure this has happened to you: the company you’re working for is experiencing a compliance issue, and you’ve been told, “You’re the subject matter expert, so you know best how to solve this issue.” And it’s true, as safety managers, we know the best way.
So, you go ahead and create a plan. However, when it’s time to implement the program, it’s difficult to make everyone follow the plan because there is no management support. Let’s dive into the reason why management support is essential and the proper way how to get it.
No Management Support for Safety, No Accountability
When there is no management support, the implementation of the plan fails. And that is because there’s no accountability.
Accountability is necessary because it ensures that everyone involved in the implementation moves and does their part.
However, when there is no management support, there’s no one to hold these key persons accountable. Because the reality is the safety department doesn’t have direct authority over employees. So, we need every department’s boss to ensure that the key people in their department do their part.
Two Tales About How You Ask Matters
Now, it might not seem like a big thing. But yes, how you ask matters. It’s simple yet effective.
You see, to get the management support, you need to involve them in planning. I know you might think, “But if I involve the management team, I might be told off. That I was hired as the subject expert, so I need to do my job.” And you were indeed hired to solve this issue, so you need to come prepared.
So, let me tell you the tales of my two clients that show the value of asking properly to get management support.
Tale 1: The Regional Manager
The first tale is about the regional manager of a transportation company. This company has an accountability problem that affects the safety compliance of the company. So, in order to resolve this, they first wanted to make sure everyone was training. You can’t have accountability if they aren’t trained. So he created a project which was an elaborate safety training program.
Now, during the planning process, this regional manager created the plan from start to finish without collaborating with anyone. Meaning he didn’t get feedback from others on what they thought about the plan. The training plan he created is an online 90-day training.
When the training was implemented and the 90-day period was done, it hadn’t gone as planned. Only 10 percent of the staff finished the training. So, the accountability problem that they had in the beginning wasn’t resolved. The training only created more accountability issues.
Where did it all go wrong? The way he asked the management team. In fact, he didn’t even ask or collaborate with anyone. That is why the plan and benefits of the program aren’t clear to the bosses of each department. Thus, these bosses didn’t push their staff to complete the training.
Tale 2: The Safety Manager
The second tale is about a safety manager of a manufacturing company. Similar to the first tale, he needs to create a training program to improve the compliance of the company.
Now, I entered and gave help in the early stages of this project. And the first step that I made him do was to create a clear return on investment of the project. List the benefits to the company of the program. When he presented this to the management team, the benefits became clear to them. Thus, they had a vested interest and had given a proper budget.
Next, I encouraged him to collaborate with other managers regarding the time constraints, availability of the trainees, and other things that can help the training program succeed.
Then, after he created a complete plan, he presented it to the management team. Because the plan clearly showed the schedule, budget, ROI, and benefits to the company, the management team gave their support-pushed every trainee to complete the training. Thus, the training was completed on time.
In summary, management support is needed to make sure everyone is held accountable for following the safety program. And to get management support, the way you ask matters. Create an ROI for the project, collaborate with others, and then present it to the management team. This way, the direction and benefits will be clear to them. Thus, resulting in having their support.
Management Support for Safety: How You Ask Makes All The Difference
Safety Brye: [00:00:00] Management support can be a finicky thing. They hire us to solve their safety problems, but at the same time, they don't really wanna do what we tell them to do. They wanna keep up the status quo, but they wanna do it with no injuries. And this is where we get so frustrated and end up throwing up our hands and blaming lack of support, but maybe just, maybe it's the way we're presenting it.
Let me explain.
Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year Safety Professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again, I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you. At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective
[00:01:00] safety program that increases your management support, and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place.
Let's get to it.
Hello. Hello. Hello, my safety friends. Today, I wanna share with you two different approaches to getting management support and how it turned out for these two different safety professionals. So when we see a safety hazard, we know exactly how it should be addressed. We know the best way. So we go to our management teams and we say, here's the problem.
Here's how we need to fix it. You good with that? And most of the time they're just gonna say yes, right? Unless it's like something really big that's gonna cost a fortune or it's gonna really disrupt operations, they're
[00:02:00] just gonna look at us like You're the expert. Yeah, go ahead. And then when we actually go to do the work of this amazing idea that we had, that's when we start getting pushback because they didn't really understand everything that you were kind of addressing to them.
So what I have found is that this approach, basically saying, here's the problem, this is how we fix it. You're good with that. That is actually the root of the problem when it comes to management support issues. It's how we actually start that conversation and how we present the solution that can end up causing us problems when it comes to implementation time.
So I wanna share with you two stories that I have worked with people through. Of course I entered the story at different stages, but here's the problem that two of my clients were facing. Now let me just set the stage a
[00:03:00] little bit cuz they are from different industries. So one worked for a transportation company and he was a regional manager of a transportation company.
So he's dealing with people like all over the country. And the other is a safety manager at a manufacturing site. So he's a lot closer to the people that this affected. Okay. Now what both of them are having were compliance issues. They just could not seem to get their management teams or their employees actually following the policies and procedures, and they kept writing new policies and procedures and implementing them, but then nobody would follow them. And
when you root cause it out, it's actually an accountability issue because we as safety managers can't hold people accountable because we don't have authority over them. But the people that have authority over them don't hold them accountable. So when you go to the management team and you're trying to work on
[00:04:00] accountability, the very first thing that they wanna make sure is that the people they're holding accountable are properly trained.
This is actually an entire lesson in Safety Management Academy because it's so important, because so many people don't understand where accountability comes from and how to have accountability, not just in safety, but in anything. So there's actual steps and processes that you have to have in place in order to have a strong accountability foundation.
So check out Safety Management Academy. If you want more on that, I even have a whole training in there that you can use to train your management team on. But in this case, both of these leaders understood that we need to make sure the people are properly trained so that way the management team can hold them accountable.
So they both needed to implement a training program. And if you've taken my free course, so just go to thesafetygeek.com/freecourse ,I think is the website. You know that I prefer to make
[00:05:00] chili over bean dip, right? I prefer, and like telling them the whole thing and giving them my dream vision for safety.
So this is technically what my safety manager number one did. He had a vision of how he wanted this training program and he created this really elaborate training program that included multiple training courses over a 90 day period. And it covered every single aspect of the job in detail. Like if you went through this training afterwards, you should, if you paid attention during the training, you should be able to do your job as a supervisor perfectly.
You should know all the compliance issues, all the safety issues related to your job, and you should have references to go back to and all of that. It was beautiful. So he presents it to his team and they ask a couple of questions,
[00:06:00] but honestly, you know, he's the expert. This is what you say that we need. And they were like, Hey, if that's what needs to be done, go ahead and do it. And because he is a regional, over a large area, it's much easier to implement something that is self-paced, that is online, because, you know, I've done it before. I've actually traveled to 22 different locations and delivered the same training probably 40 times.
That's exhausting. So now in this day and age where computers are readily available and, and online learning management systems are great, you can easily just do online training. There's downsides to online training though, right? And we're not gonna get into that here. That's a whole caveat. I could end up going down.
Anyway, he does his training. It's online, it's self-paced. He gave them 90 days to complete the training. And the courses were given to them in like an order. So they had multiple courses to go through, but it's like, hey, in your first 30 days, do these
[00:07:00] in, within 60 days, do these and within 90 days do these. So that way they were always taking the most important courses first to the last. So that was the plan. And then they go about spending hours. They meaning him and his team. They go about spending hours creating the training, investing in an LMS a learning management system. Scheduling the training, monitoring the training, really doing everything they can, like this was their big project training.
And then at 90 days, what they found was at less than 10% of the staff actually finished the training. There was an accountability issue, which is what he had in the very beginning, Right? They had to spend more time holding people accountable, not to policies and procedures like they originally wanted, holding them accountable to just complete the training so that way they know the policies and procedures. And months went by, and this was their entire focus every single week.
[00:08:00] Every week they're talking about getting the training done, getting the training done, but you know, he's in this corporate office and it has to be disseminated down to multiple locations. It gets hard to do. Right? So it just consumed everything and that compliance issue that originally brought this up continued while, while you're working on getting the training done so that way you can hold people accountable to the compliance issues.
Those compliance issues continued despite the fact that more and more people were getting trained and despite the fact that there was more understanding of the compliance, because we were focusing on training. That's all that people cared about, and this is where I stepped in and I said to him, I was like, well, you know, the problem is that you walked in and said, here's the problem, here's the solution. This is what we need to do. There's very little collaboration in the beginning,
[00:09:00] there was very little buy-in in the beginning, so this is why you're fighting it at the implementation stage. Another thing I teach in Safety Management Academy is that you have to start with the right foundation, so that way it takes you longer in the beginning, but your implementation is so much easier and so much quicker, and it was that problem in the beginning that was causing what was happening now.
So before we talk about his response to all of that, let me talk about safety manager number two. Remember, this is the person that was managing a manufacturing site. So yes, it's a little bit easier for this client because he is literally like face-to-face with the people they're all within, you know, a complex.
Okay. So his training program, the way that he approached it, I had him start off with creating an ROI. So what is going to be the return on investment of this training program and that return on
[00:10:00] investment, which could be like what? What return does the company get based on the improved compliance, right?
That determines his budget for the training. So instead of just creating an elaborate training program, it was like, no, what is our budget? So that way we know what our budget is. Next he went to the department leaders and discussed what training they needed to see. Maybe it was safety related, maybe it was something else.
Maybe he can combine what they needed with what he was doing to impact their goals as well. And this would help increase his budget because now it's not just an ROI for safety, it's an ROI for efficiency or productivity or quality, right? So that increased his budget for the training. And he wanted the accountability to start as soon as possible, so he understood that there was a lot of training that needed to be done, but if he spread it out too far, that was waiting for the accountability piece that was the whole goal of this training, right?
[00:11:00] So he wanted that to start as soon as possible, so it meant the training needed to be completed as soon as possible, and this gave him a time constraint. So now he has a budget and he has a time constraint. Then he discussed the timing with the management team to determine.
When they could do the training and how much time he could take from the employees to do the training. This determined the best approach for the training, which actually ended up being a hybrid, partially computer-based and partially in person. And then when he presented it to his team for approval. He reviewed the entire process.
I discussed it with this person and this person. This is the impact it will have. This is the return on investment that it will have. So it wasn't just about accountability, but it was how many dollars this training is adding to the bottom line, not costing the company, but adding to the bottom line. And then he asked for the funds and the time to go ahead. But he also said during his
[00:12:00] presentation, he goes, there are other choices. This is what I'm recommending, but here are two or three other choices that you could do as well. Putting it all online, spreading it out, you know, for a longer period of time, doing live training versus self-paced. So what he did with those two to three other choices is that he said, yes, these are available, but the difference between those
and what I'm proposing is yada, yada, yada, right? It could have been, you know, more cost. It could have been more time. It could have been you're spreading out when you're gonna get the benefit. It could have been you're impacting different production schedules or something like that. So he did give them choices, which is something I'm a huge advocate of.
But at the same time, he fully explained his whole thing. So, with Safety Manager number two, he got his training completed within 30 days, 100% the entire staff was trained. But on top of
[00:13:00] that, he had a program in place running new supervisors coming along for them to go in through that training as well. And he was very quickly able to move on to the next thing, which was his accountability piece for the policies and procedures. So then he could train his management team on accountability, and then he could start monitoring that they're actually holding them accountable to the programs. So the difference is, is that the training got lost with safety manager number one, like the, not the training got lost.
The accountability piece got lost because they just switched their focus from, Hey, we're having this compliance issue to we're having now, we're having a training issue. Or safety manager, number two, because he got all the support he needed because he asked in the right way, presented his idea in the right way.
And got it to fit the company's schedule. Prior to just asking for what he wanted, he was able to get his completed and then easily move on to the next thing. Now, when I was
[00:14:00] working with the first client, one of my big things with him was about collaborating and how you approach things to begin with.
And I, and my big thing is offering two to three different suggestions and letting the team decide, or even asking the team for their opinion first. And his response to me was that, no, they expect me to come to them with the answer. They expect that, that's why they hired me. They've literally said to me, why did I hire you if you're asking me how to solve the problem?
And that is where the approach of safety manager number two works really well. He did collaborate, but at the same time, he went into the meeting with a solution and said, this is what I wanna do, but here are some other options. So it's a nice little combination of the two to actually fend off when you have those management teams that they give you that I call it like an artificial authority trap.
[00:15:00] They make it feel like you have the authority to make the decision and that they respect you as a subject matter expert. And they go, yes, we're gonna do your idea, but then when you go to implement it, there's no accountability and then there's no support because there is no accountability. So it helps kind of soften that and make it a little bit better.
And doing things quickly with those types of management teams is extremely important. When you spread things out over 90 days or six months or something, they lose interest because business works very quickly and they're already moved on to the next thing. So even though we are the subject matter experts, when you are asking for changes, your management teams want to know that you've considered all the aspects that you have taken all the stakeholders into consideration in your decision making process. So yes, you can still be presenting as that subject matter
[00:16:00] expert with the best idea for this problem. But you have to communicate your process in coming to that decision. It can't just be, I talked to The Safety Geek and she said this was the best thing to do. It has to be that you talked to your team and that you did a team approach and that you considered the unique stakeholders at your organization.
Now, like I said, I'd much rather provide them with choices and have them make a choice. So I really like to build out the two to three choices, pros, cons, return on investment, and let them decide. But sometimes there is just like one choice, like in this case, we have to get this done. We have to get accountability in place.
I'm not gonna waste six months training when I can get it knocked out in a weekend. But when you're sitting in a situation where you are expected to tell them what to do, how you present it does matter. So keep that in mind. It's not about
[00:17:00] you, it's about getting the support, cuz not just the approval, cuz you'll likely get the approval you need to get the support for your implementation, and you need to show a return to get them truly on board.
If they do not see the benefits of what you're wanting to do, it's gonna be really hard during the implementation stage. Okay, so that's what I got for you today, my safety friends. I hope that you found that useful if you did. If you get a lot outta this podcast and I want you to go to thesafetygeek.com/review
and I have lots of different options for you to leave a review of the podcast of The Safety Geek of any of our resources. So choose what works for you, leave a review, leave a recommendation. I would truly appreciate it, and I hope that you have an amazing rest of your day. Bye for now.
[00:18:00] Hey. If you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock, then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support and employee participation throughout your processes.
Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellow safety scholars over at Safety Management Academy. Just go to thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started. That's thesafetygeekgeek.com/sma and I will see you in our next Students only live session.
Bye for now.[00:19:00]
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Highlights From This Episode:
- Tale Of Two Different Approaches To Getting Management Support
- How You Present Your Safety Initiatives Makes A Difference
- Effective Ways To Build A Strong Foundation In Accountability
- Essential Aspects To Consider When Asking For Safety Improvements
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Even though we are the subject matter experts, when you ask for changes, your management teams want to know that you considered all aspects and included all stakeholders in your decision-making process.
I would much rather provide them with choices and have them make a choice.
But when you’re sitting in a situation where they expect you to tell them what to do – how to present it matters. And you need to show a return to truly get them on board. Otherwise, they will keep pushing it out because they don’t see a benefit.
And don’t forget to leave a review and recommendation. I’ll love to hear all of them – http://thesafetygeek.com/review
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.