The role of health and safety manager goes far beyond ticking boxes, creating risk assessments, and writing reports. Safety managers are responsible for curating and reinforcing a strong, effective safety atmosphere that protects everyone in the company as much as possible.
If you are a safety manager, it may sometimes feel impossible to get buy-in from not only employees but even those at the top. Despite safety often being a crucial make or break factor in the productivity – and even survival – of a firm, it can be difficult to pull attention away from more visible, everyday tasks.
Fundamentally, being a safety manager requires you to be a salesperson and a good one at that. You need to be able to sell the systems and processes which will make the lives of your colleagues better, and safer. Without proper motivation, people will have very little reason to care.
Not everyone has the gift of the gab, however. Fortunately, you can still sell safety like a top salesperson by following a little advice.
Work on your branding
Marketing works by getting people interested in the product being sold, usually by making complex ideas recognisable and intriguing. People don’t get excited by a carbonated soft drink with vegetable extracts; they get excited by Coca-Cola. They don’t spend hard-earned money on portable laptop computers; they splash out on Apple’s MacBook Pro.
Health and safety isn’t exactly sexy, but it is important. It would be best if you made it palatable and relatable before you can even begin to talk about solutions. Some good examples to look at are Mates In Mind, which highlights the importance of mental health at work and Speak Up, Stay Safe, which aims to improve communication around health and safety in young workers.
You shouldn’t spend too long worrying about your campaign’s catchy name or the colours on your fliers, in the end, it’s the content that matters, but you should at least ensure your ‘brand’ will appeal to its target demographic.
Describe the problem, sell the solution
People buy products that fix their problems. Anti-ageing creams, cars, even games consoles, they all fix or prevent something: the effects of old age, getting from A to B, and boredom. Similarly, health and safety processes aim to solve the problem of life-changing, business-destroying accidents in the workplace.
People will zone out without a reason to care. And with the often-repeated mantra of ‘health and safety went mad’ still so common, it can be hard to get the message across without people glazing over.
To sell the importance of effective, safe working practices, you need to engage and motivate the people in your business to care.
Start with the problem, and sell the solution:
‘In 2019, we experienced X lost man-hours due to injury, costing the business £X.’
‘Machine downtime due to lack of proper maintenance costs us, £X, annually.’
‘Six weeks off work due to injury can lead to £X in lost pay.’
Giving someone a reason to care beyond the general importance of safety is vital.
More importantly, make sure you customise your pitch to the people you are talking to. Employees will likely care more about how a solution will personally protect them when they realise what’s in it for them. In contrast, those in managerial positions will be more receptive to financial reasons to focus on safety and solutions which are closely tied in with the business’ aims.
Why your solution?
When trying to sell your safety programme internally, you already have a head start, as you are a known and trusted individual. Your colleagues have a reason to listen to what you are saying, meaning you won’t have to do a cold pitch.
However, you will be expected to explain why your solution is the best option, particularly when pitching to managers and executives. You will have to explain why your process should be implemented over something which may be far cheaper and, from the outside, provides similar results. To do that, you need to make a case for your idea, and use your influence as a knowledgeable expert to sway your potential customer.
Consider the following:
- Recap the current problems faced by the business due to gaps in health and safety, and highlight the relevant financial and human cost
- Explain, using your knowledge of industry statistics and your company, how your solution will solve the problem
- Present a cost-benefit analysis as well as the projected ROI of your program, compared to similar, possibly less costly solutions
- Explain that everyone needs to be involved to gain their contribution which will provide a safer and more productive working environment
As a salesman, the most important thing you need to do is explain why your product is better than the cheaper alternative. As a safety manager, you need to get the buy-in of those who need to follow or use it by engaging, and involving workers in the process and reassuring them that your solution – whatever it might cost – will have results.
Provide a long term vision
Selling a product is one thing, but guaranteeing its effectiveness over a long period of time is just as important. For example, after you have explained how your product will solve the problem, you must reassure a customer, it won’t break down as soon as cash is handed over. To do this, set out a clear plan moving forward, including:
- How the new programme will be implemented
- The key performance indicators which will be used to show relevant progress
- Who will be in charge of moving forward? If it is you, ensure you have key, provable milestones, and are regularly reporting to show proper leadership.
To get proper buy-in, you not only need a strong idea and proper motivation, but you also need to show your own belief in the programme, and willingness to stand by it. A salesperson who believes in his product can almost guarantee it, make sure you can do the same with selling your safety message!
Speak to the experts
If you have the solution but aren’t quite sure how to pitch it for maximum success or feel your safety programme could do with some fine-tuning, you can seek the advice of an expert to ensure you are selling safety like a pro.
At Veritas Consulting, we have decades of experience in helping health and safety supervisors and managers maximise the effectiveness of their safety campaigns and programmes. To find out more about how we can help you, call us on 0800 1488 677, or get in touch via the contact form.