“Safety starts at the top” is a common term in industry. While this is well underlined, what does it actually mean? That we expect the CEO / COO to wear gloves and protective goggles when mowing the lawn? Joking aside (they probably rent that out) it claims that a commitment to employee safety must begin with running an organization. These statements sound great too, but a commitment with no first-hand execution sounds like an empty promise. How can they supervise something when they rarely see field work for a meaningful period of time?
I’ve worked with business owners (usually mums and dads) who don’t care about security processes, procedures, or investments. Fortunately, that is rare. Usually their model comes from the old school of field service. I’m sure a name / company will come to mind for most of you. For these companies, my advice is simple: sell anything while it’s valuable because it won’t last very long. For those who care but feel their security metrics are more difficult to pin down than their financials, there is hope.
I’ve chosen to focus on the C-Suites (CEO / CFO / COO) and the owners for this article, especially because the decisions they make have the greatest impact on the direction of the business and, therefore, its ultimate success or fail. The word “security” is a little difficult to use at this level because it is used too often. Instead, we need to focus on different risk categories: financial, organizational, environmental, market, investment, operational and reputational (social / governance) risks.
So how much should the C-suites be integrated into operational risk management? While some might say this needs to be their primary focus, it could be detrimental to the company’s growth. As the owner, I had to take many risks. Starting a business is a risk, as is owning fleet vehicles, entering into a lease / mortgage or capital investment. The list never really ends. Since my employees are involved in emergency measures, poison analyzes and tests as well as on-site rescue, the risk is integrated into our model. However, if I, as the owner, focus only on one area of risk (or opportunity), others will be left behind and we cannot compete successfully.
One strategy that I recommend and have shared in previous articles (you can read it in detail here) is to use your security team as operational trainers, skill coaches, and mentors. They are best equipped and most capable of having the time and pulse of morality, knowledge, skills, experience and team element of our organizations. This requires a person with exceptional skills. However, by using your supervisors and managers to train your security team, you can ensure that your security and management teams work together effectively and ultimately drive the success of your business.
Implementing the previous strategy will make the next recommendation a lot easier. Create concrete and clear expectations. I’m not talking about saying things like “Be Safe” and “Zero Incidents” or even assigning a quota to safety data or setting safety goals. As owners, we need to see the field firsthand and develop a deep understanding of the daily tasks, dangers and risks. Listen to your employees, find out what their specific challenges are, and determine where and where customer expectations deviate from the goals set. You will be surprised at how far things are in the field from the stated goals of the customers. The day-to-day life of an owner / C-suite is typically far removed from that of the field service and we need to understand the realities of our team to run it effectively.
To be honest, our employees face more than just training and knowledge challenges. Personal problems, long schedules, distance from family, and financial problems all affect their ability to achieve the excellence we hope for. This is difficult to walk as the fine line between being a good boss and dealing with your people’s private lives is fraught with dangers. It’s no secret how distractions outside of our professional lives affect safety and performance. How can we involve our employees in their unique struggles and help them overcome the things that are quietly our greatest threats to efficiency, health and safety? This is another area our security guards can help with. The more you deal with employees on an individual level, the better you can understand their performance challenges and potential. Using them as leaders, coaches and holistic mentors rather than reviewing the actions of the operation can make all the difference.
I acknowledge that my ideas here are novel and potentially monumental. I think that’s what our industries need, a new approach that incorporates the human component and performance metrics. We have to involve our employees and organizations in such a way that gaps are identified and rectified quickly. Safety and excellence start at the top, but for it to mean anything we need to be able to measure it. In my next editorial, I’ll discuss how to recover from the failures that cripple a business when mishaps in our organizations result in injury, death, and the high TRIR disaster.