Alex Pollack recommended three actions that EHS Managers should take in his blog entitled "Becoming Recession Proof". He provides good guidance for EHS professionals and managers on survival in their current position during the recession. Not only do I agree with Alex, here are two more actions you can take:
- Use the language of business leaders
- Demonstrate your value
Use the Language of Business Leaders
If you want to be heard and understood, communicate using the language, terms, and measures of your organization's leaders. If they are discussing cycle time reduction, reduction of waste, employee retention, ROI, and/or time to market, then align your programs and messages with these issues. Top leaders in companies care about, but don't really understand things like injury/illness rate, cost of non-compliance, names of regulations, or TLVs. However, astute EHS professionals know that when these technical issues and details can be presented in terms top management can understand, they are effective, understood, and essential. Listen to the topics and terms discussed at management meetings, read and think about the company metrics and initiatives, then align your technical program to support them using the common language.
Ergonomic improvements reduce waste, improve cycle time, increase employee satisfaction, and oh… they also decreases the chance of injuries. Learn to speak like a business leader, not as a technical expert. This is easier than educating a plant manager on the details and requirements of a technical EHS issue.
Gone are the days when EHS professionals were measured on compliance and injury/illness rate. As EHS programs have evolved, matured, and reduced losses in the workplace, we must demonstrate the value of our presence and contribution to the bottom-line of the organization. Value, in business, is typically measured in money. Specifically, if the results of your EHS program lead to savings or a monetary contribution greater than the cost of the program, you've added value. Return on Investment, or ROI, is business speak for calculating the value ($) of your program. This could be the value of the overall EHS program, the IH sampling program, ergonomic improvements, or emergency prevention and preparedness. Injury/illness rates are a poor reflection of value and savings. Cycle time savings, reduction in errors and scrap, reduction in new project lead time, and employee retention can all be translated into monetary values to demonstrate ROI. The trick is demonstrating the cause and effect of EHS contributions and calculating a realistic return.
When you can demonstrate how, and how much, your EHS contribution has enhanced the bottom line of an organization, then you are demonstrating value, leading to a higher level of respect and recognition throughout the organization.