3 obstacles hampering the positive communication of WHS information

Communication is essential to productivity and work health and safety, there's no doubt about it. Yet, so many of Australia's and New Zealand's new leaders do have not the training they need to communicate properly in their role. Our positive communication courses are one- and two-day skill-based program for supervisors, managers and anyone who seeks to get better results by engaging well with people. While the courses use risk management in health and safety as the starting point, the content is applicable to all aspects of leadership and is relevant to all parts of their lives.

Don't get caught out by these obstacles to effective health and safety communication.

Of course, we recommend taking the course to learn these skills, but to give you a shot in the arm, we've compiled a list of three obstacles that can impact work health and safety communication.

Obstacle 1 – Too many emails

In the digital world, email has prevailed as the preeminent workplace communication platform. It allows managers to reach large swathes of workers from across an organisation and on multiple worksites. For most managers and supervisors we talk with, meetings clog up the rest of the day! Amid all those work demands, getting out onto the job or into the field is left to last and often drops out altogether.

Meetings are intended to advise, consult, agree, discuss: communicate, right? How many meetings do you and your colleagues attend that you'd describe as "useless" or "mostly useless"? Too many! Recently studies have shown that simply changing meetings from seated to standing meetings reduces their length by over 25% and increases effectiveness almost as much. Just by standing up!

A study from the University of Glasgow found that 80 per cent of emails sent were a waste of time and not valuable, The Wall Street Journal reported. Rather than email, leaders should be using other modes of communication such as tool box talks and consultation to reach and engage workers. 

Obstacle 2 – Blame game

Positive communication is also unable to grow in a WHS culture that allows blame. Pointing the finger when a problem arises or an incident occurs suppresses any desire of workers to come forward with issues and report incidents. Instead of having a "speak-up culture" many workplaces are unwittingly built a "shut-up culture" and have no idea how to break through it.

Instead, leaders must actively refrain from blaming workers when they report problems or incidents and simply listen to understand, express concern, and seek solutions from those affected. By doing this, workers slowly grow more willing to offer their insights and work together to resolve issues and fix safety hazards. The IPM Positive Communication for Leaders training program builds on the idea that there is no perfect way to communicate. Instead, there is just what's working and what's not.

If you're thinking, "I don't get any feedback!", you're missing the feedback because no-one is interested or listening, or willing to disagree with you. Communicating with staff stops being about right and wrong, and more about practical steps to fully communicating and making health and safety better.

Obstacle 3 – Failing to really listen

"You have two ears and one mouth, there's a reason for that." Have you ever noticed that the best managers, the best coaches and the best mentors listen more than telling? When we interview and survey workers on site prior to running our SafetyCircle Program, it's sadly all too rare for them to say anything like, "my supervisor really listens to us, they understands what it takes to get this job done" or "I feel okay to speak up about any issue to my manager" Why? Because they've never learned how; have never stopped long enough to listen deeply.

In the Positive Communication Course, participants learn the four Levels of Listening and begin practising these skills in the room, and then out in their lives. Participants report that they immediately hear more and understand more about what's really going on for the people they're working with. With more understanding, there's more connectedness and a greater ability to make a difference.

If you would like to know more about positive communication, and how you can overcome obstacles to it, contact the experts at IPM Consulting today.

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