I shamelessly stole that question from US serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary’s first business success came when taking over his family’s liquor store and turning it into the online success winelibrary.com, growing annual sales from $3M to $60M through his innovative use of digital marketing and, in particular, social media.
If the name Gary Vaynerchuk is new to you then a word of caution is due, particularly if you’re offended by profanity. Gary’s talks are, well, spicy. But he’s a marketing genius and light years ahead of others in the field.
I’ve seen him speak in person a few times and one of the stories he tells is of a very conservative CMO grilling him on the ROI of social media. You can read the profanity-free version of the story in more detail here. Unable to convince her using metrics, or pondering how she measured the ROI of her ad on p.139 of Vogue (which she can’t), Gary resorted to the question, “What’s the ROI of your mother?”
He wasn’t being disrespectful to women generally or mothers in particular because, as he acknowledged, he wouldn’t be where he is today without his mother’s nurturing and guidance. His point was that he can’t show the ROI of his mother because, well, you just can’t put a value on a relationship like that. His view on social media is that it’s an imperative, not a choice so stop worrying about metrics, get on the bus and start building relationships …
Or, as William Bruce Cameron put it, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” [This quote is often wrongly attributed to Einstein – Ed].
So, what’s this got to do with health and safety? Well, ROI has started to crop up a lot in recent months in the every day discourse we have with e-permits customers and potential customers, and it seems inappropriate at best.
The safety of employees and contractors alike should be so fundamental, so in-grained in the culture of any organisation that the implementation of new (or even existing) policies, procedures and supporting technologies [that ensure workers go home safely at night] should not be justified using ROI. Because, in doing so, a value is being put (indirectly and inadvertently) on human injury and, indeed, life.
I include ‘existing’ policies, procedures and supporting technologies as this issue isn’t just related to new investments. The effort and diligence needed to ensure that good, solid existing systems are applied rigorously is also often lacking. We have discussed this previously as the reason contractors are actually safer than employees. “Our employees know the ropes” is likely to be a dangerous alternative to rigorously and uniformly enforcing the use of existing systems. It’s basically code for “we’ll take shortcuts when we need to” and undoubtedly contributes to higher incident rates.
Clearly much still needs to be done as health and safety fines have hit record levels with Iceland Foods one of the latest to be fined (£2.5M) following a fatal accident. Continued incidents are not unrelated to the need to deliver financial results in the short term. As the Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee pointed out, the pressure on companies to “deliver short-term financial gains for shareholders” means reforms are required to ensure directors “take more seriously their duties to comply with the law and the Code relating to corporate governance”.
As the reader of this post, you’re likely to be a health and safety professional who is running like crazy to ensure the safety of all and, as such, you get it. But are your employees participating or resisting your efforts? Are you asking for more resources but being told that budgets have been cut elsewhere and you’ll just have to work harder? Or that your new initiative doesn’t meet ROI criteria? If you do hear the latter, you now know the question to push back with!
Alternatively, you might just want to point out (politely if you’ve watched one of Gary’s videos) that the health and safety of all transcends ROI and then ask for alternative criteria against which to evaluate initiative A vs. initiative B.
This is a difficult topic. Please leave a comment below if you strongly agree or disagree. We welcome your feedback. Next up on e-permits insights is commentary around ISO45001. Don’t forget to pop back or subscribe below to receive notifications in your inbox.If You Like This Post, Please Share It!