We have touched upon this a couple of times before, but we cannot stress it enough. The impact of top-level management on the QHSE culture is big. When top management is not involved in changing and maintaining this culture, it will diminish over time. Top management needs to be involved and really show that it is important to them.
How To Be Involved
As a director or top manager, you have to be involved in the QHSE culture. It is such an essential part of the company culture that without you being involved, it would change.
Especially when things have been done in the same way for a long time and things need to change, you need to be involved in this change process. It takes months or even years to change the attitude, and therefore, the culture of the company. This is not only done by training and education but also by hiring and defining job profiles.
You, as the manager, need to have a voice in this to make sure it goes in the right direction. In order to do this, it is important that certain KPI’s on quarterly measures are in place to get a feeling for the culture. Define certain things that need to happen and make sure these are managed properly on a regular basis. Always make sure that the end goal is top of mind and well communicated to everybody. This way, everybody knows why they are doing the things they are doing. This can be hard, especially when people need to change certain behaviours they have been doing for years.
When the change has happened, you still need to be involved in keeping the culture on the level it is at. When something doesn’t get enough attention, it will deteriorate over time. Hence, having these KPI’s are key because they enable top management to check the progress. Noting down the things that need to be done and making people responsible are important for maintaining quality and safety. As top management, you cannot simply “outsource” the responsibility of the culture; you need to keep your eye on the ball and continuously guide people to the goal.
Lead by Example
This goes without saying, but as top management, you need to lead by example. More often than not, top-level management doesn’t always follow procedures because they take a bit longer. When you, as the top manager, don’t follow the company procedures, you basically show employees that they are not that important, so why should they care? All the processes and procedures were supposedly created with a certain goal in mind; make sure you follow them to reach that goal. If, however, the procedure feels unnecessary, maybe that is a good moment to change it. Just ensure to not follow the processes yourself, as it gives a very bad example to the employees.
Even when you as top management are deeply involved in the QHSE culture, there are still certain people that don’t want change. Whenever this is the case, it is vital to keep showing them why certain things are changing and why this is the direction the company is going.
When some people are still not changing, however, it is always good to think about changes that might be inevitable. You don’t have to immediately let these people go, but giving them a different role within the company can already help. Changing roles inevitably comes with change, and therefore, you can combine this change with a change in attitude.