We sat down with VTLO consultant Cheryl Kaiden, who has extensive expertise in executive, organizational, and human resource communications. Cheryl has worked with large, global companies in a wide range of industries, including finance, technology, pharmaceutical and health services.
Q: What would you say is the greatest challenge of communicating safe behaviors and practices?
A: We’re all busy, rushing to meetings and under pressure to meet deadlines. It’s hard to get employees’ attention and even harder to get them to change habits. That’s why it’s critical to make an emotional connection. In other words, humanize the safety message and illustrate the real consequences of making unsafe choices. Think of the candid commercials that show the life and death results of texting and driving, lives cut short and families left behind. While you won’t always be communicating about such serious issues, if you want behavior change, you must convince employees it’s worth the effort.
Q: Has technology played a role in safety communication? If so, how?
A: Absolutely. Technology gives us more tools to reach employees. For example, we can immediately text employees to alert them to an emergency; we can use video to tell a compelling story; or we can place a plasma screen message at a specific location where incidents are occurring.
Q: Can you share an example of a critical safety communications moment?
A: One of the most critical safety events is a building evacuation. Communication should begin before an evacuation event occurs, specifically companies must help employees clearly understand what to do when an emergency alarm sounds. A disorganized evacuation can have serious consequences. Develop a proactive, multi-pronged communication plan that includes education, regular reinforcement and easy, visible access to emergency action plans and procedures. Practice evacuations, so you can learn what doesn’t work and update and communicate improvements.
Q: Communicating safe behaviors and corporate procedures can be challenging. Can you share some insight on how to do effectively?
A: In order for people to notice your messages, you have to be creative in not only the language, but also the delivery. I share a few tips on this topic in a brief video (shown below) that I recorded.