How Can EHS Professionals Use Strategic Communication Skills?
6 December 2023 - Evotix
Every EHS expert knows that communication goes beyond simply conveying rules and regulations. It’s about forging connections, establishing camaraderie and understanding and driving change.
Whether you're a seasoned EHS pro or you’re taking your first steps into this field, mastering the art of strategic communication is pivotal for nurturing a robust culture in any organization.
In this blog, (inspired by insights from our recent podcast episode of Two Bald Guys Talking Safety featuring special guest Karen Hewitt) we delve into four invaluable communication-based tips for creating a safer work environment.
1. Be deliberately strategic in your communications
Consider your health and safety comms a precisely organized machine. Being organized, strategic and intentional in every interaction is key to communication success.
A deliberate communication strategy is all about meticulous planning – which means thinking before you speak, understanding the core message you want to convey and knowing intimately how that message aligns with your employees' perspectives. The key here is to be acutely aware of your approach to communication. Remember that safety communication isn’t just about delivering info, it’s about inspiring understanding and action.
Effective safety communication can be a powerful tool to instill in an organization. A strategic approach ensures that every interaction is geared toward promoting safety, ensuring everyone – from workers to management – is firmly on the same page. This synergy leads to proactive safety measures and a shared commitment to incident prevention.
2. Keep it simple, keep it effective
Simplicity is underestimated in every communications channel, but it seems to be especially undervalued in traditional EHS comms. Whether you’re addressing your workforce or engaging in a dialogue with your senior leadership team, remember that simplicity and clarity are your biggest allies.
Most people, regardless of their role, will appreciate a clear and concise message. Avoid jargon and keep it straightforward. Simple messages aren’t just easier to understand; they’re more memorable, more actionable and more likely to stand the test of time. When instructions are clear and easily digestible, employees are more likely to adhere to safety protocols. This doesn’t just lead to a safer workplace; it can also minimize potential legal and financial ramifications for the organization.
3. The art of storytelling
Storytelling is, and has always been, a crucial tool for proper communication. Stories have the remarkable ability to forge deep connections between speaker and audience, which is invaluable when you’re trying to get your message to stick in people’s memories.
Share anecdotes, success stories or real-life experiences related to safety. These stories not only make your message relatable but will also go a long way to an emotional resonance. They’ll help to engage your audience, making your message more impactful.
Because stories humanize safety, they can take abstract concepts and reshape them into relatable, real-life contexts. When workers hear a story behind the near miss of a colleague (real or fictional) or how safety measures prevented a serious incident, they’re more likely to take safety protocols seriously. This kind of storytelling bridges the gap between safety documents and lived experiences, fostering a safer work environment.
4. Preparation is key
Before beginning any health and safety conversation, pause for a moment of reflection. Ask yourself the following questions to better refine your approach:
Who exactly am I talking to?
What could be their catalyst for change?
Could their unique perspective cause my message to be misunderstood?
Being well-prepared isn’t just about knowing the facts; it’s also about understanding the viewpoint of your audience. This empathetic approach can help you to tailor your message more effectively, making it more impactful.
Effective safety communication isn’t one-size-fits-all. What resonates with one group of employees isn’t guaranteed to work for another. Tailoring your approach based on your audience’s needs and concerns can significantly improve message reception and understanding. Empathy demonstrates a commitment to fostering a safety-first mindset and proactive culture in the longer-term.
It’s not just about following the rules
These strategic communication tips can make a profound difference. They’ll help you to build a culture that’s not just about following the rules but centers around embedding safe operations within the organization’s DNA. Effective comms isn’t about imposing change; it’s about inspiring it.
A proactive culture is more than policies and procedures; it’s a shared commitment to ensuring the well-being of all employees. By prioritizing effective safety communications, organizations can drastically reduce workplace incidents, improve employee morale and enhance their reputation as responsible employers. This not only improves the workplace but also contributes to sustainable operations.
By embracing the power of strategic communication, we can begin to make this vision a reality. Remember, every message matters, every word counts and every story has the potential to prevent incidents and save lives.
So next time you find yourself communicating around safety, approach it with a strategic mindset, keep it simple, embrace the art of storytelling and prepare with empathy. With all these ingredients carefully incorporated, your message holds much greater potential to shape the future of your organization’s EHS.
As you embark on this journey of strategic communication, keep Karen Hewitt’s wisdom in mind: safety isn’t just about processes; it’s about people. Protect their well-being and make their daily lives that bit safer.
Looking for more organizational strategies to improve your health and safety? Check out our blog: EHS&S Strategies for Uncertain Times: Ensuring Business Continuity and Growth
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