In today’s global marketplace, many companies are seizing opportunities to expand their businesses’ footprint through new partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions. But as these companies work to bring their new assets or partnerships into the company fold, many aren’t prepared to integrate their environment, health and safety (EHS) programs.
In our experience, EHS programs are most successful when they’re embedded in company culture, where employees feel encouraged and compelled to play an active role in program initiatives.
Below are a few steps corporate EHS managers and teams can take to intertwine and strengthen EHS culture across all offices and facilities after a new acquisition.
1. Get a deep understanding of local EHS regulations and local culture
If a new venture brings your company to a new country, taking time to understand local and federal EHS regulations, and local culture will allow you to weave compliance and your corporate EHS values together.
Start by making contact with your local embassy. Embassies can help you find important information on legal compliance requirements, whether it’s organizations you can work with or contacts who can answer questions.
Next, do some research to see if there are cultural nuances that might affect EHS programs and communications, such as women in the workplace, maternity and paternity leave expectations, religious holidays, local language barriers, and the culture of time.
If you don’t have the expertise or manpower to research local requirements and expectations, engage a global EHS consulting firm with trustworthy and knowledgeable contacts around the world. While hiring an EHS consulting firm is an additional cost, they offer independent and objective third-party perspectives, as well as broad-based knowledge and expertise.
2. Get buy-in from the top
Getting your company’s top leaders to support and contribute to your EHS culture lends credibility that will trickle down.
Lock down leadership support by connecting EHS to business value. In-country regulatory agencies, such as the United States Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) and the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive, often offer resources for making the business case for EHS. From reducing workers’ compensation costs and medical expenses to avoiding regulatory violation penalties and improving employee productivity, regulatory agency websites can be great tools for uncovering compelling data about why leaders should care about EHS.
3. Assess the current EHS culture of the newly acquired business
Understanding your new employees’ attitudes, motivations and perceptions of EHS will allow you to understand how EHS is currently ingrained in their culture.
Find out what makes employees tick by conducting a culture assessment. Culture assessments allow you to gather employee feedback and uncover improvement opportunities that could be implemented company-wide.
If the newly acquired company is in a different country, also conduct cultural research to learn about the country’s history and get up to speed on current events. Use government websites and information portals, and news publications to learn more about the country’s history, politics, economics, culture, and hot-button issues. The information you discover can serve as a foundation for understanding who your employees are and what matters to them.
4. Open the lines of communication
Your new employees are undoubtedly anxious about what the future holds. As a result, taking an active role in EHS may not be at the top of their to-do list. In addition, the integration process can be very hazardous. Since operations and processes often change while you’re working to integrate programs people may not be as attentive to EHS during that time.
Identify key EHS stakeholders at the senior level and local level within the acquired organization and designate a corporate and local liaison to bring as much honesty and transparency about all company happenings to new employees. Open and honest communication will ensure that information is accurately and quickly disseminated, while also building a bridge from corporate to local offices.
According to our research, 45% of employees don’t feel comfortable pointing out potentially unsafe behavior to their peers or supervisors. So when it comes to EHS, make it easy for employees to give feedback anonymously, especially as changes are occurring around them. If they don’t feel comfortable talking about their concerns or taking action, the integration process can be more hazardous regardless of any EHS programs that are in place.
5. Provide support
Your employees need to know they have your support in everything they do. Consider providing someone from your corporate EHS staff to be on-site to answer questions and provide encouragement. This will help you build a positive relationship with employees and positive EHS engagement.
Again, if you don’t have the in-house resources, consider hiring an EHS consulting firm to be your on-site expert and liaison. Employees of a newly acquired company may feel more comfortable initially with a neutral third-party that can provide anonymous feedback and insights.
6. Make EHS training a priority
When employees are in the know, they feel more empowered to contribute to environment, health and safety initiatives.
Start with an EHS training program that gets all new employees up to speed on EHS compliance requirements, corporate values on the importance of EHS, and company expectations. You should also create a detailed workflow that maps who is responsible for keeping on top of changing regulations, updating your program guidelines and then communicating changes to employees.
In addition, consider holding an annual EHS Awareness Day. This kind of event is a great way to encourage engagement, make EHS more visible and reinforce best practices.
7. Lead by example
As the old adage goes, you have to walk the walk. If you want employees to be active in your EHS culture, you have to be an active leader.
Don’t be shy about promoting your EHS programs and promoting EHS champions. By consistently showing concern for employees’ well-being and acknowledging good practices in action, your employees will feel more valued and compelled to participate.
To find more EHS tips and best practices for growing companies, explore more posts on the Antea Group blog.
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