C-Suite Board Meeting with Health & Safety Leaders

C-Suite Speak: 4 Tips for Showcasing the Business Value of EHS to Gain Executive Respect

February 19th, 2019

Environment, health, and safety leaders see the business value of EHS every day. Healthy, safe, and engaged employees are productive employees. And productive employees drive businesses forward and bolster bottom lines.

But chances are your executive leadership team doesn’t see the EHS value you see. More often than not, your C-suite is focused on the overall success of the business, and they want any internal department or effort to have provable, tangible business value. To command their attention, respect, and buy-in, you have to help them make the value connection.

So, it’s time to get the C-suite excited about EHS. It’s time to speak their language so you can effectively engage and communicate business value. And here are four tips to help you do just that.

1. Get comfortable with “risk”

While complying with all applicable regulations and ensuring the health and safety of your employees is core to your mission, at the end of the day, your EHS strategy is all about mitigating and managing risk—and that’s certainly something any executive can get behind.

Shifting your communication style from compliance-oriented to risk-oriented can be a game-changer. Not only is the word “risk” common nomenclature within the C-suite, but it’s also a powerful attention grabber. After all, defending the company against risk is a core executive function.

So, think of it this way: You don’t simply manage the safety of employees and the business’s physical spaces. You manage risk to ensure the safety of the company. Show your executives that by tweaking the way you communicate.

2. Showcase EHS as a profit center

Expensive OSHA fines. Costly workers’ compensation claims. Stopped production. High-priced legal fees. Employee turnover. Damage to the company’s reputation. You know that EHS compliance failures and safety incidents come with high price tags—as well as the potential to stifle business profitability and growth.

So, rather than trying to convince the C-suite to simply cover the costs of your department and its initiatives, take steps to show how EHS is helping reduce costs, boost productivity, retain employees, and lead to better business outcomes.

For example, let’s say that you’re proposing an investment in workplace ergonomics. Studies show that safe, comfortable, well-ventilated, and well-lit workplaces increase productivity by 16% and job satisfaction by 24%—which can be tied to employee retention. In addition, the average cost of replacing an employee can range from tens of thousands to up to two-times the departed employee’s salary.

Or maybe you are proposing a deep-dive into the organization’s waste disposal processes. Upfront costs (including assessments, testing, or any consulting support needed) may be more than offset by cost savings from the resulting source reduction, waste minimization, recycling strategies implemented, or waste contracts re-negotiated. With some digging on your end and a bit of math, you can illustrate the potential for cost savings and minimize focus on the cost of the initial investment.

The bottom line is the bottom line. If you can illustrate the financial risks and opportunities, the better chance you stand of winning over executives and gaining their respect.

3. Showcase how EHS strengthens the business

There’s little doubt that company culture has become core to modern business operations. It’s more than an employee perk or recruiting tool—culture often defines a company’s mission and plays a role in guiding the business strategy.

Most of today’s executives understand the role and importance of culture. But they likely don’t realize what a pivotal role EHS can play in building and growing that culture.

When companies demonstrate that the overall well-being of their employees and work environments is important, employees are more motivated, engaged, and invested. And let’s face it: If employees aren’t invested in their job or comfortable in their work environment, they aren’t invested in the company.

So, to show that developing a culture of proactive health and safety that moves beyond compliance is a business value-add, bring in the facts and numbers like you did to prove profitability. For example, Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace” report showed that highly-engaged workers experience 41% lower absenteeism, 70% fewer safety incidents, and 40% fewer quality defects, all of which can be tied directly to the bottom line.

4. Use metrics wisely

You understand the nuances and intricacies of incident reports and audit results and what the numbers really mean in terms of EHS performance. But your executive team doesn’t have that insight. Metrics are simply data points, and they can be manipulated or easily misinterpreted, so you need to be able to offer relevant insights that map to your business goals.

Rather than bombarding your leadership team with numbers that may or may not be material, take steps to draw insight and add context to any EHS metrics you choose to share.

By presenting the right data with the right context, you can help leaders understand how your initiatives have positively contributed to identifying and mitigating risks, as well as protecting the company and its people.

Talk the Business Talk to Get the Respect EHS Deserves

You know the business value of your environment, health, and safety program. But your C-suite will never fully understand its importance and value if you can’t connect your efforts to real business value.

Start earning the attention and respect of your leadership team by changing up how you communicate what you do and how you do it. Then take steps to showcase the profitability potential and cultural importance of EHS. Finally, focus on providing insight rather than data points.

If you’re able to effectively communicate value, you can get more than attention and respect. You can get buy-in that leads to better partnerships across the company. If you feel you don’t have the insight or internal resources to make this leap, partner with an EHS consulting firm to get the ball rolling.

How can EHS leaders prove even more value? By rising as a strategic talent retention and recruiting partner. Learn how you can help tackle the talent shortage.

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