Need to Talk to the Board? Read these suggestions first…

Neil HartleyHealth & Safety Issues/TrendsLeave a Comment

how to conduct board level communications

In our eBook “Beyond Compliance: A Guide to Changing the Health and Safety Culture in Your Organisation” we devoted a chapter to getting C-suite/Board buy-in with 9 specific, practical and actionable tips on how to handle that communication.

With the increased onus on senior management participation in health and safety mandated by ISO 45001, access to the Board should be made somewhat easier but clear, concise and relevant communication on their terms is still an imperative.

The 9 tips we cover in the eBook are:

  1. Think Strategy
  2. Adopt the Right Tone
  3. Speak their Language
  4. Focus on What’s Important to the CEO
  5. Make it Tangible
  6. Make it Easy
  7. Tap into their Competitive Spirit
  8. Team Up
  9. Become a Leader Yourself

We highlighted 3 of these in a previous post on communicating with the Board and we’ll cover another 3 here. You can also download the free eBook via the link above.

Adopt the Right Tone

The golden rule with this point is to make sure you don’t preach, criticise, or complain about the company’s current health and safety culture – or lack of one. Also, don’t approach the issue by focusing on the company’s health and safety flaws in an attempt to shock or shame the CEO into action. Instead, you need a more positive approach focused on solutions.

After all, effecting change is not about you being the hero fighting the good fight and trying to get others to do the right thing. This approach will get you nowhere. Instead, you’ve got to understand what is important to the CEO and the board and then frame your arguments and persuasion conversations around that.

Speak their Language

As well as adopting the right tone, you need to avoid health and safety language, jargon, and lingo. While this makes perfect sense to you and other health and safety professionals, it may not make sense to others. This applies to the CEO as much as anyone else.

Instead, you should communicate with executives in a way they understand, using language and concepts they are familiar with. This helps get your message across, but it also brings other benefits.

After all, the process of understanding issues from the perspective of the CEO, rather than simply a health and safety point of view, will give you a better understanding of business in general and your company in particular. This will help you achieve the health and safety changes your business needs.

What does it mean to communicate in a way that senior executives understand? Firstly, you must talk about the things they are interested in. This includes the strategy of the business and its performance, i.e. the impact on profits, reputation, compliance, etc (more on that below).

Also, you need to be succinct. All those details that are important to you and essential in creating a workplace that has a proper health and safety culture are not of interest to the CEO.

The truth is, you don’t actually need the CEO to be interested in the detail. What you need is them to buy-in and provide leadership. So, give them bullet points instead of paragraphs and executive summaries instead of reports.

Make it Tangible

You should also speak loudly about the positive results you have achieved through the various health and safety policies and initiatives you have undertaken so far. This will make the plans and vision you are trying to implement now more tangible.

Again, approach this in a way the CEO will understand. For example, don’t talk about the number of people you trained and how long it took you to complete the training. You probably won’t get far either if you just focus on the number of accidents the training managed to reduce.

Instead, tell the CEO about the productivity gains and cost savings that were a direct result of the reduction in accidents. Put real numbers on this and you will see the CEO start to take more notice of what you are talking about.

Don’t forget you can download all of the 9 tips together with other practical steps to change the health and safety culture in your organisation via our eBook “Beyond Compliance: A Guide to Changing the Health and Safety Culture in Your Organisation”.

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