Our tried and tested formula has worked in the past, but continuing to do what we have always done is failing. The world is much more sophisticated, hyper-connected and ultra competitive.
We cannot ignore the harsh realities and tough choices that our economy faces. Traditional business structures and relationships are breaking down. Business leaders are having to evolve as well; from hierarchy to shared responsibility, from command and control to listening and guiding.
Safety practitioners can no longer rely on their positional or technical authority. They need to develop the skills to communicate authentically and to inspire people around them.
There has been much enthusiasm for using the net to communicate with staff and raise their awareness of health and safety. We used to publish paper policies and guidance and distribute them and place them on notice boards. Now, they are generally published on the net. We tend to think this is more effective because people are more likely to read it, after all it’s available any time and anywhere.
We were never certain that people read health and safety documents when they were on paper. Now they are on the net, we may actually be even more uncertain. One thing is certain, if they are read, they will most likely be skimmed through, rather than read carefully. People read a book line by line, sometimes skimming but certainly in a different way to how they read on line. Jakob Nielson suggest that they read a page in a way that closely resembles a F, glancing across the first line, letting their gaze drop and glancing across, then scanning down the left side of the page. Most people spend only 19 to 27 seconds looking at an internet page.
Nicholas Carr suggests that the hard wiring of people’s brains is changing to reflect this. As health and safety professionals we need to think about the implications for the way that we communicate about safety.
This has real implications for the way that we use the net to communicate about health and safety. We need to think more carefully about how we communicate the important messages that we are trying to get people to take seriously.
If this is hard wiring our brains then what impact has it already had on emerging generations. How difficult is it going to be to communicate with young people who have grown up with the net. A generation of apprentices who communicate and learn via the net, still needs to learn about health and safety. We need a whole new approach, more creative and innovative if we are to succeed in this and not enough thought is being given to this across the health and safety profession.
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr