Does Your Safety Brand Seduce or Control Employees?

BIC - February 2016
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Printable Version

What is the brand of safety in your organization, and what value does it represent and provide to those affected by the safety improvement efforts? People place a lot of time, faith, money and resources in brands, if for no other reason than what the brand signals, represents and means to them personally. How well are you leveraging this for your safety improvement efforts?

Think of your favorite vehicle manufacturer, preferred airline, favorite beverage or charity close to your heart. Why are they meaningful to you? Brands create an emotional connection to people, and emotions tend to drive buying and buy-in decisions often more than those based on logic. According to brand-building expert Denise Lee Yohn, "People decide which brands to buy and which ones to stick with based on how they make them feel. That's why brands aren't in the business of selling products; they're in the business of forging close emotional ties with their customers." She also shared, "To create valuable, sustainable customer relationships, great brands don't sell customers on contracts. They seduce them with connections. Impactful, memorable, emotional connections lead to true brand loyalty." Are your safety efforts creating loyalty?

When we think of employees, management and contractors as customers of the safety program, what percentage of communication, training and education creates the perception people have to obey? What percentage attempts to facilitate an impactful, memorable, emotional connection that leads to an engaged, want-to culture?

Like safety cultures, every company has an existing safety brand. A brand is how people associate with an individual, company, product and service. Companies that recognize this work to influence and harness these associations to improve internal and external business performance. There is concentrated attention placed on improving brand equity, which according to Investopedia is "the value premium that a company realizes from a product with a recognizable name as compared to its generic equivalent. Companies can create brand equity for their products by making them memorable, easily recognizable and superior in quality and reliability."

The best perceived way to win in safety, in many companies, is to work to embed safety into every production activity. If we integrate safety into the entire fabric of production activities, a value of safety is created, and we end up with safe production rather than safety versus production trade-off decisions being made. While this belief is initially rewarding, you can go too far. If the effort results in disengaging the very people whose engagement is necessary for advancement because they don't see the value, the culture suffers, and any improvement that results is rarely sustainable.

What does your safety brand mean to others? What is the big idea it represents, and what is its personality? How well-known, memorable and popular is it? How does the brand speak for itself through interactions with and between the customers of safety? How does this create reliable behaviors?

Companies seeking increases in employee loyalty, productivity, retention, satisfaction and engagement realize these are not areas to control; these areas should be influenced. Because like beliefs, behaviors, decisions and storytelling, these areas are all byproducts of the perceived brand of safety and the past and current safety improvement strategy. This requires a different approach to overcoming the competition of production versus safety. Marketing is needed, and the brand of safety must be managed.

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