Red Carpet Academy Awards

Red-Carpet Ready: Lessons on Launching a Successful EHS Program from the 9 Best Picture Nominees

February 10th, 2020

It’s all in the presentation.

With the 2020 Academy Awards freshly behind us, the ceremonial red carpet serves to remind us of this. The famed pre-show tradition, in which actors, filmmakers, and other celebrities enter the building in lavish garb, is for many viewers the highlight of the entire event.

The importance of putting one’s best foot forward should not be lost on EHS leaders in the midst of launching a program. Here the EHS leader must take on a multi-faceted role, playing the part of producer (program architect), director (risk manager), and leading actor (the programs top champion). One missing component could derail an award-worthy effort. 

In the spirit of the Academy’s annual celebration of cinematic achievement, we’re drawing takeaways from the nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture.

Inspiration from 2020 Best Picture Nominees on Launching an Exemplary EHS Program


Ford V Ferrari: Friendly Competition is Fun

Recounting the story of automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) in their efforts to overcome the legendary Enzo Ferrari in a race, Ford V Ferrari is very much a tale of competition.

In that case, the clashing wasn’t always so friendly, but when it comes to embedding a culture of workplace health and safety, gamification can be a great way to engage employees and maintain visibility for the program.

Part of the EHS leader’s job, especially at this early stage, is taking on the role of a marketer to rally support, buy-in, and participation from employees and company executives, and these sorts of fun initiatives can generate enthusiasm internally. Not only that, but a strong workplace safety culture can benefit the brand’s outward image, helping with reputation and talent acquisition.

You might consider doling out prizes or incentives for achievement of EHS milestones, or creating a leaderboard to track accomplishments.


The Irishman: Tell Your Story and Take Your Time

Martin Scorsese’s latest mobster flick is the definition of a slow burn. With a runtime checking in at three-and-a-half hours, many find it necessary to divide their viewing of The Irishman on Netflix into multiple sessions. But, as the Oscar nomination and 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes indicate, Scorsese was successful in crafting this lengthy tale of organized crime in the 1950s.

Storytelling is an essential crux of communication. Narratives help people organize information mentally, and make important connections that stick. In order for executives and employees to prioritize workplace health and safety, EHS leaders need to spell out the why. Frame it in a way that matters to them, spurring engagement and driving action. This requires being thoughtful, and not rushing the process.

Additionally, when you can thematically tie EHS principles to the vision of your company, it helps solidify the brand positioning, with health, safety, and environmental responsibility as foundational components. That’s just good business.


Jojo Rabbit: Embrace Your History

An off-beat and quirky film set in WWII, Jojo Rabbit sheds an irreverent light on a very dark time in history. A worthy takeaway from the movie — and that time period for the world in general — is that we shouldn’t run away from our mistakes of the past. We should learn from them, and try to extract whatever value we can going forward.

Don’t shy away from missteps, setbacks, or accidents that have taken place in your organization with regards to health and safety. Treat them as teaching opportunities, and use them to shore up possible gaps in your program as you put it into practice. They’ll help you refine the aforementioned EHS narrative in a compelling and honest way.


Joker: Create Emotional Investment

Joaquin Phoenix’s lauded performance as the legendary Batman villain is defined by the powerful range of emotions he displays as a failed comedian who descends into madness.

As Joker reinforces, emotion is incredibly connective for human beings. As EHS leaders, if we want employees to truly care about workplace safety, we need to portray it as more than a mere operational necessity. By combining the two previous recommendations (intertwining narrative with real-life outcomes and consequences), you can strike a deeper chord that resonates. This is especially applicable when it comes to matters of sustainability and environmental services, as people become increasingly impassioned about the future of our planet.  

Having said that … Why so serious? Emotional impact doesn’t have to mean doom and gloom. Steering away from Joker’s dark premise, humor is a powerful way to build rapport and plant a lasting message. Our hilarious workplace safety videos might help inspire you to inspire your team through laughter.


Little Women: Bring Your EHS Program to Maturity

Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel has served as source material for many works, including this latest cinematic rendition from director Greta Gerwig. Little Women is a classic coming-of-age story, in which a family of young women are forced to grow up in a hurry amidst a series of challenges.

EHS programs can be at varying levels of maturity, ranging from “still inconsistently tracking activities and procedures on a spreadsheet” to “fully documented, integrated, and sophisticated.” No matter your current state, the key is to keep moving forward. Use difficult times as an impetus to come together and take positive steps.

And finally, don’t be afraid to lean on others. The family in Little Women grew together through their steadfast connectedness and support system. Aim to build similar rapport within your team and don’t be afraid to call upon the assistance of an EHS consulting team.


Marriage Story: Develop Tight-Knit Relationships

If you’ve seen the movie, then you know Marriage Story isn’t exactly a happy tale of enduring love and happiness. Instead, it’s an exploration of the complications and pains that come along with ending a long-term relationship.

But relationships are certainly at the center of Noah Baumbach’s nuanced film, just as they should be at the center of any EHS strategy (though with considerably less drama, one would hope). Work to foster strong, communicative rapports with the C-suite, departmental leaders across the organization, and other stakeholders.

In the past we’ve covered techniques for building these key bridges with company executives; for example, showcasing EHS as a profit center is a great way to speak the language of bottom-line-minded execs.It’s also valuable to focus on relationship-building outside of your business — even with competitors — through industry collaboration in the name of EHS innovation.


1917: Tie EHS Initiatives Together with a Single Thread

This riveting tale of a WWI rescue mission is noteworthy in large part because of director Sam Mendes’s incredible cinematography and editing. The entire course of events in 1917 comes together in essentially one single continuous shot.

That format provides structural inspiration for any EHS program. Cohesiveness and continuity are vital for such efforts, so as an EHS leader, you’ll want to clearly convey how everything — from ergonomics to industrial hygiene to slip/trip/fall prevention and beyond — relates and fits into the bigger picture of managing compliance, fostering workplace safety culture, and contributing to a healthy environment long-term.


Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood: Get Creative

Creativity has never been a shortcoming for director Quentin Tarantino, and his boundless imagination takes over yet again in Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood, a sprawling narrative that commingles actual and fictional characters and events from late-1960s Hollywood.

As is often the case, Tarantino takes plenty of liberties with his subject matter here. While EHS leaders shouldn’t be quite so eager to play fast-and-loose with the facts, there are many different ways to approach management of safety culture. We’ve already mentioned a few ideas, such as gamification and storytelling, but the possibilities are endless. You might even want to organize an EHS awareness day as an annual engagement event.


Parasite: Remove Barriers and Silos

This highly acclaimed South Korean film is complex in its themes, but ultimately Parasite comes down to class discrimination and the inherent societal schisms of wealth disparity.

Organizational silos are destructive forces in the business world, especially when it comes to binding directives like workplace health and safety. An effective EHS program requires universal participation, with everyone rowing in the same direction. Among the most alarming EHS statistics we surfaced a few years back: 72% of employees were largely unaware of their organization’s EHS functions.

Pinpointing barriers and friction points is pivotal in establishing a culture of health and safety. For a blueprint, check out our list of seven tactics to create a people-first workplace.


Prepare for Your Red Carpet Moment through EHS Best Practices

Whether your EHS program is making its anticipated debut, or stepping to the stage for an encore, it is paramount to ensure that every box is checked and your organization is putting forth a program that’s red-carpet ready.

By incorporating the traits of 2019’s best movies — competition, storytelling, historical perspective, emotion, progressive improvement, relationship-building, cohesiveness, creativity, and silo-smashing — you can be confident your EHS showcase is ready for the big spotlight.

Want some help getting your program where it needs to be? An EHS consulting firm can help guide you to exemplary results.


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