With today’s world being fast-moving, rich in technology and subject to an ever-changing business landscape, it’s safe to say that the way leaders get things done today is hugely different to how it was even 10 years ago. When it comes to health and safety, it can be easy for teams to feel uninterested, or that learning is stuck in the past – which is why it’s all the more important for leadership staff in this field to communicate well and encourage engagement.

How Health and Safety thought leaders are prepping for the 2020s

Leadership has changed, and that’s as true of the health and safety management world as it is of any other position of authority, no matter which industry or sector you look to. However, this doesn’t need to be a daunting statement, and the simple fact is that effective leadership now and into the next few years requires only those adjustments which should naturally come with the territory.

As concerns regarding mental health in the workplace rise, and new technologies enter both industrial and corporate workplaces with ever greater speed and influence, the role of a health and safety manager is more vital and varied than ever. New legislation and refinements of existing rules can create as many opportunities as challenges, for even the most experienced health and safety professional.

In any health and safety role, training and development can never truly be ‘complete’, with ongoing education required in order to keep up with ongoing change in processes and requirements. That said, effective leadership requires the utmost level of knowledge, with qualifications like the NEBOSH diploma proving to be a sought-after way for senior health and safety staff to prove their credibility.

Of course, certification is just one piece of the puzzle in terms of effective leadership. Demonstrating the abilities that such qualifications imply is another subject entirely, and one needing as much in the way of self-discipline as empathy and tactfulness.

Communication is a two-way street

As much as anyone in a position of authority is beholden to listen to employees and their concerns, so too are those employees expected to listen to leadership staff. With some likely to roll their eyes at what they feel are restrictive health and safety practices, getting your point across without seeming condescending or interfering can feel like a tricky balance to strike.

When trying to convey health and safety best practices to your workforce, remember that learning is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Just as some children take to schooling in the conventional sense more naturally than others, there are actually various ways in which people interact with, learn and ultimate retain information over the long term. Understanding this will help you do your best work as a health and safety manager or senior practitioner.

Recognizing and praising those workers who adhere to health and safety regulations well, if not outright delegating some responsibility to them to both enhance their pride as much as take some of the workload off you, can be an excellent way of promoting a positive approach to this subject.

Helping coworkers learn painlessly

If a worker or team expresses frustration at the policies you’re introducing or practices you’re explaining, try not to get frustrated if they don’t seem to take what you’re teaching them onboard. Instead, adopt a different approach, and where possible, ask them what would help them mesh more cohesively with what you’re trying to train them on.

In teaching, the four recognized ways in which students learn is called the VARK system, and since you’re effectively a teacher of sorts when relating health and safety best practices to your colleagues and peers, it’s good advice to keep in mind.

The VARK system is a breakdown of the four most common styles of learning that people with certain mindsets have. These are Visual, Audial, Reading and Kinesthetic.

Figuring out how each member of your team best adopts information will help massively in getting them actually adhering to the rules, without feeling as if you’re laying down the law. If you’re working with their preferred learning styles, they’re more likely to remember and follow the instructions being given.

For example, Visual learners take in and store information optically, and they respond best to being shown a demonstration of live best practices, by being given charts and infographics, and by being shown images of what a safe and healthy work environment or correctly set up industrial machine ought to look like, versus another image of the opposite.

Audial learners might seem easy to please, given they learn best by being spoken to, but that doesn’t give you an easy ride. After all, the onus is still on a smart health and safety manager to make what they say interesting and catchy, so nobody tunes out during your dialogue, and to remain approachable to feedback and questions too.

Those who learn best through Reading can be handed all the literature you feel they’re able to consume, although you’re wise to avoid jargon where you’re able to. Meanwhile, Kinesthetic learners are those who learn through practice, getting hands on with things, role-playing and being allowed to explore test versions of real-life considerations.

Above all, health and safety is for everyone on the team

Health and safety is, by its very nature, a series of practices and procedures designed to keep your workforce happy, healthy, secure and productive. Communicating this transparently, above all else, is the priority of every senior level health and safety professional out there.

People are much more motivated by knowing that things are in their best interest versus being a series of rules they abide by, but don’t understand. By passing on your own training and knowledge through clear communications, interactive workshops, and selling the benefits to each individual of following best practice rules, you can help to ensure that your leadership remains effective.

Author Bio: Terry Hearn is a researcher and copywriter, working for a number of international cyber security brands. His professional work covers topics from consumer tech to business data protection, and outside of the office he sidelines in covering the latest sporting news.