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Meet one-on-one with Pat J. Karol

COVID-19, A Change Management Approach

Did you struggle to get your employees involved in your safety program before the pandemic? If so, you might be in for a bigger challenge when they return. If you were not happy with how your safety program worked prior to the pandemic, then you have an opportunity to set a higher standard right now.

Many organizations will fundamentally change as a result of the pandemic. Few organizations have experience with the changes that are now required as a result of the pandemic. New engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE are being introduced in many work environments. These physical changes require changes in behaviors to be successful.

Taking a change management approach will improve your chances of successfully implementing those changes, establishing new norms, and setting a higher standard.

Follow these 6 steps to manage change and get your employees engaged in the safety process:

  1. Create a sense of urgency – The pandemic itself has created a sense of urgency. It is having a personal impact on many people; physically, mentally and financially. Business, as usual, will not alleviate hardships related to the pandemic or to a poor safety program. A strong safety program with engaged employees is needed now. The next five steps will help create a sense of urgency.

  2. Create a vision – Capture their hearts and minds with a vision for change. The best visions tend to evolve over time and conversation. Start talking about the need for change with enough people and a vision for the change is likely to evolve.

  3. Communicate your vision – Never miss an opportunity to talk about your vision with passion. It’s the 10 x 10 communication rule. Tell them 10 times, 10 different ways and they will remember. Don’t stop there, define your vision in operational terms ideally without using the word safety.

  4. Identify your allies – Allies help you spread your message and get things done. Allies can come from any level of the organization, including the informal leaders on the shop floor. Increase your likelihood of success by getting as many people involved as possible.

  5. Create short term wins – Short term wins will help maintain a sense of urgency, sustain the effort, and build habit strength. Identify and communicate specific behaviors, establish objectives, set goals, and recognize individuals and groups who embody the changes. In terms of recognition, always think soon, certain and positive.

  6. Institutionalize the changes – Codify new procedures, update training, job descriptions, and employee orientation. Establish personal and team objectives. Hire and promote people who promote your vision and the need for change.

Making significant changes in an organization can be difficult and often choppy. People at all levels are significant cogs in the change effort and should be included in the process from the start.

Share your experience with change management efforts.

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