This article was produced from a recorded interview on March 5th 2018 between Ramana Kolluri, PhD, Partner at ERM and Rob Harrison, Director of Content Strategy for Intelex Technologies Inc.
How do employees internalize new EHSQ beliefs and behaviours? How can you encourage leadership to support a new organizational culture despite the challenges that new policies and procedures can bring? The answers to these two fundamental questions can help EHSQ professionals drive cultural change within their organizations to the benefit of leadership, employees, the bottom line and stakeholders. Everything hinges on balancing the four driving forces behind any meaningful change: Belief, Behaviour, Process and Technology.
The Technological Evolution
The way EHSQ information is managed today is not dramatically different from the way it was managed twenty years ago. The change in technology is dramatic, but that hasn’t fully been adopted by the EHSQ environment and herein lies the problem. People are still using rudimentary tools (like spreadsheets) to capture data. This isn’t the easiest solution, nor is it the most effective way of capturing data in such a way that it will have an impact on operations.
The proper documentation and analysis of this information is essential to identifying your EHSQ successes and failures. But that isn’t enough. If that information only exists within your ecosystem, it is not informing meaningful change. The paradigm shift becomes possible when you take that information and compare it to others. You might not even realize your information is important until you see how it stacks up against others in your peer group. Collaboration is at the core of this pursuit. It can help your organization identify what areas of your operation are successful or problematic. If, safety without barriers is the goal,collaboration and cooperation are the methods to achieve that goal.
The technology and tools available to EHSQ professionals has dramatically improved over the years, however adoption of those tools has lagged or been non-existent. The point of technology is not just to make our lives easier, but to perhaps rethink our processes. Capturing data is not a problem, and leveraging that data to create a sustainable and successful safety culture is where the future of EHSQ information technology lies. However, technology is just one factor you have to consider.
Belief and Behaviour to Create the Right Culture
What is the belief system of your organization? Is keeping workers safe an important core value for you as an individual? As a company? Having the right belief system in place will help drive behaviour which is the real goal. Maybe the motivation was to tell a better story to stakeholders, however if that story doesn’t resonate with the people who are depending on you for their safety and livelihood then it will be nearly impossible to change their behavior in a meaningful way. Without a belief system in place, no amount of data or policies or procedures will help integrate a desired safety culture.
Organizations will evolve organically unless they are disrupted. What kind of disruptions have shaped the behavior of your organization? Are changes made on the fly, or is each policy and procedure carefully thought out and documented? Some companies are naturally entrepreneurial, while others have a well-entrenched culture. Identifying how the organization has developed its culture is the first step to changing it and finding the right approach. Remember that culture is a group dynamic that has been borne from the collective experiences, beliefs and behaviours of your organization. These factors are manifest in the EHSQ procedures your organization has developed, and understanding them will help you articulate your desired culture. Everything from documenting incidents to how you talk to an employee when you see a potential problem becomes woven into the cultural fabric you are trying to create.
A holistic approach is the key to driving this cultural change. Safety has always been at the forefront of this conversation, as well as environmental compliance. It’s time to incorporate environmental risk to understand the bigger picture. This is a topic that is emerging more frequently in discussions with clients and colleagues. Stakeholders and employees are also taking an interest in managing environmental risk and will support an organization that builds this element into their belief structure. Motivating your workforce to support your holistic approach to EHSQ will bring on the cultural change that will elevate your organization’s operations to the next level.
Driving change can be difficult, no question about that. Change can grow out of frustration from the current situation, or it can be initiated in anticipation of potential frustrations in the future. The challenge lies in not giving up and succumbing to the fatigue along the way. Below is a checklist to help you navigate the challenges ahead:
- Define your current culture and recognize the major events that influenced your organization’s development.
- Clearly state your goals for the future and where the culture should go because you will need to articulate these multiple times to multiple people.
- Determine if the current behaviours of your management and employees are in accordance with the desired culture you are working to achieve.
- Embrace technology to ensure you have the right systems and processes in place to support the desired culture.
- Collaborate and cooperate. Share data with your peers to identify successes and failures so you know what behaviours to continue, eliminate or adopt. People in this field are passionate about what they do and want to share their knowledge.
Ramana Kolluri is a Partner at ERM, a leading global provider of environmental, health, safety, risk, social consulting services and sustainability related services. His work is primarily focused on helping global corporations improve EHS performance through operational improvement and management systems. He brings 24 years of consulting and industry experience covering enterprise risk management, EHS management systems, compliance, information solutions, permitting, technical and strategic program design, development and implementation. Prior to joining ERM, Ramana most recently worked for Barrick Gold Corporation as their Director, Risk and Management of Change.