Environment, health and safety (EHS) managers spend a significant amount of time developing, implementing, auditing and managing their EHS programs—all while training employees, monitoring and measuring performance, and reporting on progress.

But despite their best efforts, many EHS managers still find their programs fail to drive best-in-class performance. Why? In our experience, the lack of a strong and supportive EHS culture is a common culprit. Every company has a distinct corporate culture, and integrating EHS into that culture can be an effective way to create a sustained awareness around a safer, healthier and more productive work environment.

1. Define your desired culture

The first step in creating a culture of EHS is defining your vision. What are the desired employee beliefs, values and perceptions that will bring our policies to life? Then review corporate EHS and sustainability policies to refresh your knowledge and guide your next steps.

Identify and engage a small group of internal and external stakeholders--talking with stakeholders can help you uncover direct insights and ideas, as well as lay the foundation for the relationships that will be important in bolstering your EHS culture in the future.

2. Determine if you have the resources to move forward (and if not, get help!)

Your role as an EHS manager extends far beyond compliance, and you’re likely asked to do much with limited time, budget and resources. If even thinking about undertaking a cultural assessment process given your number of facilities or your geographies seems daunting, don't despair.

One possible solution is Antea Group's EHS FleX, a low-cost, customized solution aimed at uncovering enterprise-level EHS gaps in compliance and culture to deliver actionable insights. The steps below are the same ones our consultants take when conducting an EHS FleX culture assessment, which allow our clients to gather meaningful insights, build relationships, and drive improvements without having to expend valuable internal resources or spend heavily on travel.  

3. Design a culture assessment survey

Asking the right culture assessment questions is critical to helping you determine your organization’s cultural maturity by uncovering your employees’ EHS insights, attitudes, ideas and perceptions. Begin by engaging your stakeholders in the planning process to determine the framework and boundaries of the assessment.

Some questions we would use to address the scope and scale of the process are:

  • Which aspects of EHS will be included in the survey?
  • How will survey questions be asked?
  • How will results be quantified and compared? What scoring methodology will you use?
  • Which employee demographics will be included in the survey?

4. Conduct your survey

Once you’ve established a survey framework, it’s time to invite employees to take your survey. This process includes training employees and regional managers on the exercise, how the data will be used, and expectations on deadlines. 

Through our own research, we’ve discovered that many employees are largely unaware of their company’s EHS function. With that said, make sure you communicate that this process will draw on their insights to ultimately make improvements that will benefit them and company culture.

Furthermore, the key here is to show employees that their opinions are greatly valued, and that you want to make it easy for them to participate.

5. Analyze your survey results

You’ve worked hard to collect these survey insights, and now it’s time to quantify the results and analyze the data to find gaps, trends and opportunities.

Use the scoring methodology you’ve developed in the design phase to organize the data in a graph or map. If you want to see gaps between various employee demographics, consider using a spider graph. If you want to look at strengths and weaknesses across topic areas, consider creating a color coded map. Also make sure to review any comments as this is where you’ll often find the most value.

In addition, remember that objectivity is of the utmost importance when analyzing your results. You want to get a clear baseline of where you are so you can drive meaningful change to drive performance.

6. Share what you’ve discovered

World-class manufacturing and business operations ensure that when a lesson is learned, it is spread laterally throughout the organization. By conducting the survey, you’ve showed employees that their input matters, so don’t leave them hanging. Share the results with them, and encourage them to share additional thoughts and insights. Ongoing communication and engagement will help foster that cultural EHS foundation.

7. Turn insights into action

Now that you’ve established your vision, conducted an assessment and analyzed the results, you’ve already gotten a powerful start on reshaping your company culture. Now it’s time to take action.

Develop short- and long-term plans to improve your current policies, programs and procedures based on the gaps and opportunities you uncovered. Make sure your action plans consider needs at the facility, regional and corporate level. In addition, don’t try to do too much at once. Focus on a select number of topics and develop detailed action plans. (This is another area where consultants and tools like EHS FleX can be of service--helping you sort through and prioritize your action plan to keep things manageable and streamlined based on your organizational realities.)

Nobody said it would be easy, but taking a systematic look at your organization's culture can really open doors to substantial improvements in health and safety performance, which will pay off in spades. And even if your organization doesn't have the personnel or budget to do all of this in-house, there are alternatives that will allow you to reap the benefits nonetheless.

To learn more about EHS FleX, check out our service page.

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