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Want to Sell EHS to Your Employees? Then It’s Time to Put Your Marketing Hat On

March 6th, 2019

From managing compliance to leading employee trainings, environment, health, and safety (EHS) leaders wear many hats. However, a “marketing” hat isn’t typically part of the collection—but it should be.

Most EHS professionals have technical backgrounds, which is absolutely necessary for assessing and mitigating risks, managing compliance, and more. But ultimately, your role is rooted in marketing. After all, in order to build a health and safety culture, employee stakeholder engagement and activation is critical— you need to be able to entice and inspire employees to take action.

You’ll need to flip your thinking when it comes to communicating with and empowering employees at every level of the organization if you want them to play a meaningful role in health and safety. And these marketing best practices can help get you started.

1. Establish the EHS value proposition

Any marketer will tell you that the first step toward building a successful marketing strategy is defining the value your efforts bring to your audience. Why? Because if you can’t define value, you won’t be able to show value.

That means it’s time to define your EHS value proposition. To do this, ask yourself: What are the key benefits that EHS brings to the workplace—both to the everyday lives of employees, and to the business itself.

Some of the benefits for employees may include:

  • Professional satisfaction. Working in a happy, healthy, and safe work environment makes employees feel more comfortable, valued, and productive—which leads to better work that they can be proud of at an organization they can be proud to work for.
  • Personal satisfaction. Every employee wants to feel trusted—and being counted on to create a positive work environment is one way to make that happen. Plus, a quality work environment not only improves employees’ lives, but the lives of their coworkers.
  • Empowerment. Employees often already have the skills and desire to create a healthier and safer working environment, they just need to be empowered to use them. With an investment from EHS and leadership, they’ll be able to hone those skills to make a difference in the workplace.

When it comes to engaging the leadership team, a couple of key benefits to emphasize for the business may be:

  • Protection. Ensuring a healthy, safe, compliant work environment can help protect the business from fines or legal liability and reduce workers compensation claims. It also helps protect the business’s brand and reputation, and ultimately the bottom line.
  • Employee retention and recruiting. Current and future employees want to know their company prioritizes their well-being. By ensuring EHS is engrained in the company culture from the top-down, employee retention and recruiting efforts can be enhanced, helping the company grow and innovate.

With a clearly defined set of benefits, you’re one step closer to developing an EHS employee engagement strategy that will be relevant to your employees and resonate.

2. Define your objectives

Goals are the foundation of any successful strategy. Not only do your goals guide strategic and tactical decision-making, but they also give you a benchmark that you can measure against as you engage. So, ask yourself: What are you ultimately hoping to achieve for the business? And what exactly do you want employees to do when it comes to health and safety?

Perhaps you want to reduce the number of incidents and injuries at your workplace. Or you want to move beyond risk avoidance and into strategic competitive advantage. Or, maybe you want employees to hold one another accountable for staying safe. (After all, 45% of employees are not comfortable pointing out an unsafe act to a coworker.)

Whatever your objectives are, defining them clearly and weaving them into your benefit-oriented messaging will increase the likelihood of your team meeting them.

3. Get to know your audience

“Know your audience” is perhaps the most important rule in marketing. Without an understanding of your audience’s key pain points, attitudes, and drivers, it’s difficult to create engaging messaging that will resonate and inspire.

So, put yourself in your employees’ shoes. What do they care about most when it comes to their workplace or job? What are their common frustrations? What’s holding them back from taking a more active role in health and safety? What—or who—influences them?

In addition, what is their current level of EHS knowledge? Chances are it’s low. Our research shows that 72% of tech employees are largely unaware of their company’s EHS function—and they’re likely not aware of compliance regulations or how they play a role in meeting them.

A culture assessment could help you gain a better understanding of the current state of EHS culture in your company. A simple survey could reveal what health, safety, and environmental topics are most material to employees, identify education opportunities, and spotlight common barriers for stakeholders. Answers to these questions will hope you hone your message to your audience and what is relevant to them. If you don’t have the in-house expertise or bandwidth to get this done, consider partnering with a consulting firm to do the heavy lifting.

Once you have a better understanding of your audience(s), you’ll be able to target your messaging and facilitate more thoughtful engagements. In addition, you may be able to identify representatives from each department, facility, or internal group willing to provide ongoing feedback and help generate new ideas.

4. Develop your marketing mix

How you market EHS initiatives to your employees and executive stakeholders makes all the difference when it comes to driving engagement. That’s where the “marketing mix” comes into play.

A marketing mix is defined as anything your company controls in an attempt to influence customers—or, in this case, employees. Essentially, it’s your tactical bag of tricks for getting and holding employees’ attention and activating them.

Ask yourself: How will you communicate your EHS objectives with employees and executives so EHS stays top of mind (e.g. email, internal chat, newsletter, posters)? What kind of content will you share (e.g. progress updates, incident data, case studies)? What’s your plan for ongoing engagement (e.g. monthly rallies, regular training refreshes, surveys)?

An engaged workforce is a safe workforce. So, make sure your content, communication channels, and long-term plan are well-baked.

5. Define how and when you’ll measure success

Every marketer knows that without measurement and analysis parameters in place, you’ll never be able to prove success or ROI. And the same is true for assessing the success of any EHS engagement initiative as it relates to business outcomes.

Gone are the days of relying solely on the number of incidents reported. Instead, consider sending your employees quarterly feedback surveys to keep a pulse on their thoughts and attitudes on EHS. This will allow you to pair quantitative and qualitative data together to gauge your success.

In addition, regularly reviewing your compliance management tools to uncover additional ways to leverage them, or to simply make sure the tools are still well-suited for your needs, is a good idea. This ensures you have the right process and tools in place to effectively measure improvements and uncover risk points or opportunities.

You may also measure the financial benefit of your EHS program, so that you can qualitatively prove whether the program had a direct positive impact on things like injury rates or absenteeism, or the business’s bottom line.

6. Optimize

Optimization is a key marketing tactic—after all, there’s always room for improvement. So, after assessing your wins and opportunities in the measurement stage, it’s time to identify how you’ll take action on the opportunities to keep the momentum going.

In addition, regularly reviewing and updating your goals and objectives, as well as collecting feedback about your EHS program from employees and other stakeholders, can help you optimize your next initiative for success.

Tap Your Inner Marketer

Without successfully “selling” your employees and executive stakeholders on the importance of EHS, a safety culture will never grow to its full potential. So, now is the time to put your marketing hat on.

Define the value of EHS, set your objectives, and take steps to uncover employee insights. Then take what you’ve learned to develop the ultimate communication and content mix to inform, engage, and activate your employees at all levels.

How can you develop your key messages for your marketing mix? Get helpful tips for creating compelling employee messaging around health and safety.

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