To create a stronger safety culture, first of all we need to bring people together and alter the conversations we have

To create an environment where people feel they can speak, be heard, listened to and understood, needs a little more thought than simply getting people in one space.

Since 2014 we have talked with our members; asked questions, listened to their experiences, learnt from what they say, and involved them as our thinking evolves.

And what we have heard loud and clear is that it is a struggle in their busy work day to find the opportunity to develop relationships, to be able to speak up and to be heard.

There are many untapped existing opportunities in your day to day where people are brought together to talk about working safely:

  • A conversation with one or more colleagues
  • Team meetings or get togethers
  • Huddles, briefings and debriefings
  • Handover
  • Organisational conferences and events

Our work has shown us that people’s ability to really talk is reliant on how we behave, the attitude we have and values we hold close.

Things to consider

  • Your attitude and behaviour when holding a conversation
  • Being kind no matter who you talk to
  • How the conversations take place and the skills you use
  • How you can help shape what is being talked about
  • The way titles and labels can make people feel intimidated
  • How you can use the insights you have heard to lead to action

Tips for an effective conversation

  • If arranging a meeting, be thoughtful about the invitation and set some ground rules about respect, equality and kindness
  • Think about the physical space you are going to use; boardrooms and conference rooms tend to be sterile and cold with large tables as barriers
  • Create a hospitable space by welcoming and caring about personal comfort and mutual respect, smile, greet people warmly and use first names – greet them like they are a guest in your home
  • Create a spirit of welcome – it is powerful to be truly wanted
  • Go to them if it means they can take part
  • How you open a conversation about working safely sets the tone
  • Clarify the purpose of bringing people together such as generating new knowledge and insight
  • Try to slow everything down, give people time to think and speak
  • Ask everyone to listen to others actively, by sitting silently as best they can, and acknowledge that it can be hard to do as we can all get distracted or are too stressed to listen or we can’t resist the urge to say something
  • Throughout the conversation, reiterate the purpose and process.
  • Some of the conversations may be difficult; everyone’s experience and ideas are considered a valuable contribution to the whole
  • How people leave a conversation can have a lasting impact
  • Explain what will happen next– a handwritten summary of the next steps or where they can contact people if they want to say more. Follow up plans may even determine how you document the event and how you make sense of the insights that emerged, and take action
  • At the end make sure that everyone leaves ‘safely’ – i.e. that they are not upset, they have had their chance to talk and that they have felt heard