Taking the Deep Dive

There have been numerous studies discussing the importance of top management understanding the day-to-day operations of their companies.  There are many great approaches such as Management by Walking Around (MBWA). Even Television has gotten in on the act with Undercover Boss.

Needless to say it is extremely important that top management understand the issues that confront employees everyday, but it is equally important that risk managers and other managers within the company take a deep dive into operations on a regular basis.  During training programs for new managers, some companies have the new employee work for a period of time in other departments.  Some companies also recruit managers from employee ranks.  These are great ways to make sure managers within the organizations understand issues from employee satisfaction, to customer satisfaction, to the risks that confront employees and managers.

Working in other divisions and jobs as a training mechanism is a great start, but how do managers continue to understand the changing environment, and new risk associated with their operations?  Management by Walking Around is one great approach.  Companies such as ASDA, have office staff taking to the stores on Christmas to restock shelves.  This annual approach called “Team Christmas” allows office management to see issues during the busiest time of the year.  They work side by side with people working in the stores daily.  I am sure they have some great conversations and are able to ask important questions.

When employees feel free to talk to management, it is amazing what can be learned.  Who knows better about safety, and customer satisfaction than the people on the floor everyday?

We worked with one company that had a number of cuts, some serious, in their distribution center.  Management tried various techniques, from safety posters, to safety incentives.  It was only after the risk manager starting asking for help from the people working in the distribution center that real change started to occur.  The solution was easy and obvious to the people opening boxes daily.  When asked why no one had ever come forward to recommend a solution, one of the older employees responded by saying “no one ever asked, we didn’t think anyone cared what we thought”

One other technique that has had some traction in companies overseas, is having their insurance account executives and safety personnel work at the store once a year for a couple of days. This is a great way for a third party to better understand the risk and issues the company faces.  They can see first hand why there may be slips and falls, back injuries and other risks.

The only way to truly understand risk is to understand the unique operations and issues occurring everyday.  An open door policy is not enough.  Risk Managers and their consultants must continually understand these changes, ask for continuous feedback and find solutions.

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