Rob Batstone: Winning the battle for hearts and minds

Published on Sep 15, 2021
Rob Batstone,
Rob Batstone,

Paper Operations Director, James Cropper

It’s important to remember that first and foremost people are members of society and, second, members of your company. So you can have all the latest shiny tools and policies in place, but if you haven’t gained the hearts and minds of employees then safety will suffer. Developing a strong understanding of the local community helps to improve understanding of employees’ approach to safety. It is really important to explore key factors such as those related to culture and gender to help understand the different mindsets at play.

Understand your starting point

If you define safety interventions before fully understanding the workforce and current context, then you, in effect, ‘sheep dip’ everyone with the same safety approach which reduces its effectiveness or, at worst, fails. So the starting point for any safety journey is key. If you get it wrong at this stage it’s not only costly but creates mistrust and confusion.

At James Cropper, it’s an ethos that has served us well during the COVID-19 crisis, with our number one priority being the safety of our employees, which in turn ensures that we can continue to serve our community and our customers.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that engaging the workforce on safety issues is an ongoing process. We often see positive reinforcement of good safety behaviour, but equally important is to have transparent policies on the consequences for poor behaviour. Having one without the other is counterproductive as non-recognition either removes the incentive for good behaviour or reinforces poor behaviour. The latter often involves difficult conversations that may be uncomfortable but provides the necessary balance to keep safety improvement plans clear and on track.

Raising standards of perception

Much progress has been made over the last 20 years on improving safety records within UK industry, which has been helped by leaders rolling up their sleeves to take safety engagement seriously. However, there is sometimes a disconnect between the public and industry, with manufacturing, for example, not always seen as an interesting or fulfilling career choice for those starting their careers. It means the positives that manufacturing can provide in building sustainable communities and improving lives are not widely communicated.

More effective communication is essential if we are to ensure we have the pool of young talent available to continue to build on these achievements.