Warning Iceberg Ahead
I am, for my sins, a health and safety consultant . One of the great joys of my role is to support an organisation, or a senior leader within the organisation, to arrive at the conclusion that something needs to change.
Many times throughout my work though, I have noticed one 'truth' that leaves me scratching my head as to why I am there in the first place.....the operational staff already know the problems! Some of them even have some fantastic solutions too.
So why hire me in the first place? I think the answer is something as simple as how executives and senior managers receive the feedback from the operational level employees in the first place.
Your operatives have a great, safety solution (which may also save you time and money as well as improve quality of service). In order to have that solution 'heard' by the right person, they must first go through several layers of leadership or management that do not quite understand the concept or benefits of the solution. It could also be a maverick idea....and we all know what can happen to people who are mavericks!
Also consider the Chinese Whisper effect. By time the operatives suggestion of "Use substance 'x' instead of substance 'y'," you receive the message: "We have a real issues with dragon sightings over the hill. Winter is coming" (Ok, maybe not that bad)
"Yes, but (1) we have suggestion boxes and (2) I visit the operatives with three of the management team on a monthly basis." Suggestion boxes typically don't tell the full story because they rely on written communication and the A6 cards don't really allow you to express ideas in best light. A 2 minute conversation may though. Do you ever remember how intimidating it was walking into your parents' bedroom to tell them you had done something silly? Same sort of thing, multiplied by the number of managers you take with you for the operative.
My advice to leaders and decision makers?
Before hiring someone like me to take a look under the proverbial bonnet of the car, start by asking your operational teams a REALLY simple question:
"What do we need to do to improve health and safety around here?"
You can swap the term "Health and Safety" and insert <efficiency> <Quality> <Output> however you like. But.....as the leader of your business, do it on your own. No managers, no additional board members....just you.
Try it out for a week and let me know what happens.
If you still want that health and safety consultant though...