Updated: Feb 28
Being up-to-date is essential – and so is consistency.
With risk factors constantly evolving, many organizations are facing new challenges in upholding safety standards.
Not acting quickly enough can create distrust among employees and customers. At the same time, rules that are inconsistent or hard to understand can do more harm than good.
Follow these principles, so you can make good decisions under pressure and communicate them effectively.
Update your safety policy as often as possible
Companies need to respond to pressing issues by optimizing safety procedures as often as possible. The key word here is “possible.”
To have an impact, a new policy needs to be communicated well and adopted by all stakeholders. If rules change faster than people can keep up, the results can be counter-productive. That can cause “fatigue” and disinterest at times when people should be especially vigilant.
Ask yourself – how often can you hold company-wide meetings to announce and explain policy changes? Ideally, you should gather your workforce every few weeks and share updates. You can also send out a weekly or bi-weekly video message that presents new guidelines in a personal way, advises Addie van Rooij, VP for People Operations at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Clear communication from leadership should be supported by the Human Resources team or another designated person who can answer employees' questions.
A safety policy matters if people understand and follow it. Otherwise, it remains wishful thinking. If you do not have the time and resources to put new rules into action, it is best to adopt a more general policy that errs on the side of caution.
Show that you have a longer-term plan
When it comes to safety, erratic changes and inconsistent messaging are the worst-case scenario. A survey of 15,600 workers across different industries conducted by the consulting firm Accenture showed that people trust leaders who think beyond “the Now.”
Even in a fast-changing situation, safety measures should be planned with a longer-term perspective in mind. When adapting to current events, ask yourself – would this policy be sustainable in the coming months? For example, if some employees need to work from home, how can you create consistent rules governing remote work? Changes to your policies should not be so frequent that they contradict each other. Safety is a longer-term mission.
Be open about uncertainty
Many leaders do not like to admit that they do not have all the answers. Their concern is unwarranted, according to Accenture’s findings. Employees value transparency – when things are uncertain, they appreciate leaders saying so.
If your safety policy has not been finalized yet due to the changing situation, that is okay. You can share the current state of planning with your team and what they can expect. Do not hold off until the last minute just because not everything is set in stone. The only caveat is not to present as certain things which are likely to change.
The bottom line: update your safety policy as often as you are able to effectively communicate new rules. Strive to answer employees’ questions and keep them informed. That way, you will not only promote safety, but also create trust and a sense of shared purpose.