and other delusions we like to share!

Before you crucify me, as an ex-HR Leader myself (who oversaw the WHS function) I’m just being real here.

Let’s be honest, compared to other much sexier roles within organisations such as ‘data scientists’, ‘creative directors’, ‘digital disruptors’, we’re kinda at the lower end of the ‘who you wanna hang out with at the office party’ pecking order.

And yet, of course, they’re both crucial roles within organisations.

Especially when we look at the appalling stats when we get this stuff wrong.
Did you know:

  • The cost of bullying within Australia is somewhere between $6-36 billion annually (PWC).
  • $543 million is paid in workers’ compensation for work-related mental health conditions (Safework Australia).
  • The cost of presenteeism & absenteeism as a result of work stress is estimated to be $14.8 billion per year in Australia (Medibank Private).

Now, for any WHS or HR professionals reading this, there is no need to take this personally (or book yourself into your EAP), it’s not about WHO you are as a person (because clearly, you're awesome), rather, it’s about WHAT the role has become known for over the years…

We’re often known as the 'Fun Police', the 'Straighty 180’s' or even 'The Corporate Gestapo'. 

Somewhere along the line, we’ve made the role about being SAFETY ENFORCERS: with a strong focus on compliance, compliance, compliance!

And that’s where we’ve gone wrong.

See, as WHS, HR or any People Leader within organisations, our role is to influence behaviour and drive the right outcomes.

And yes, whilst we absolutely need to implement excellent Safety Systems to help guide this, alone it does not drive behaviour. 

Because logic doesn't drive behaviour, emotions do! 

The What, (the safety strategy and systems) speaks to our team's head.

If organisations are on a quest to create a culture of safety (physical & psychological) to optimise the performance & wellness of the team (you’d be crazy not to) this is simply not enough.

You have to touch your team's heart.

And to do this, it starts with answering WHY?

  • WHY does safety or a safe environment matter to us? (Hint, it’s not to reduce injuries, LTI’s or to optimise profit - these are outcomes). 

Create a compelling story (one that touches people’s heart) 

The story I share is simple…

“I truly believe (see what I said there, I believe) that everyone (whether you are the CEO or the new kid on the block) deserves to come to work, be respected, feel safe, be able to do their job, and go home to who really matters in their life!” 

And when this doesn’t happen, then the feeling I feel is “passion” or “frustration” and that drives my behaviour (which is not always popular, but that’s OK). 

If you are on a quest for a culture of safety to ultimately optimise performance, innovation, collaboration & wellness, you need to answer these four key questions for your team: 

  1. WHY does safety &/or a safe environment, matter to us?                 
    (paint a picture of the ideal future) 

  2. WHAT is our safety system?                                                                   
    (policies, processes, structures)

  3. HOW do we do things around here?                                                         
    (the aligned behaviours, not negotiables, rituals, reward structures all need to be aligned to your WHY).

  4. WHO is leading the way & are they serious)?                                 
    (Safety has to be Leadership-led. Leaders need to believe in it, drive it & role model it).  

Final note - listen up leaders!

If the leaders within a business, say one thing (in rhetoric), and do another (ie. "do as I say, not as I do" type scenario) your quest for a culture of safety is completely doomed!

It’s kinda a huge responsibility, but hey, that’s why you get paid the big bucks.

Until next time, keep smiling! 


PS: As you know I do a heap of work with organisations and leaders to build connected teams and create workplaces worth belonging. If you are looking for some support or guidance in your quest to optimise your team’s performance & wellness, drop me a line, I’d love to help!

PPS: I stoked to be speaking on this topic “Creating a Culture of Safety” at the upcoming Comcare Conference in Melbourne in a few weeks. There is a whole load of awesomeness at this two-day event, check it out and I’d love you to come and join us there!

BLYTHE ROWE & Her Life on Heels.

The founder and director of Human Incite, is widely recognised for her passion, energy and her ability to shake things up. Blythe is brilliant at revving-up productivity and performance in organisations. She is on a mission to rid our workplaces of toxic behaviours, build meaningful relationships, personally and professionally and create workplaces worth belonging. Her enthusiasm simply is infectious!