People - our most important asset

27th of October 2011
People - our most important asset

In this article Diversey's Pedro Chidichimo writes about the importance of protecting the lives of employees, which are one of the most important assets of any company. Based on his experience and market insights, he observes that risk management of people is a leadership responsibility that is best leveraged through 5 key areas, from walking the floor to setting clear accountability and reporting processes.

How many times have you heard the declaration “people are our most important asset”?

Although withered by over repetition, this is a concept that fits facility management companies best, where human beings do 95 per cent of the service delivery. Following the wise English proverb that says: “A pound of care will not pay a pound of debt,” I would like to focus this short article on mitigating risk among the people in our business; on the importance of protecting the lives of our most important assets and ensuring they do not turn into liabilities.

In my experience, when running an organisation with a solid people management purpose, there are five angles in which to put our focus and our money. There are specific measures for each one of those, and failing in any of these areas will put your people and your business at risk.

Leadership. It is demonstrated through actions from the top so that all managers and staff know that process safety is a serious matter. Find opportunities for top management to visit locations and engage with as many different stakeholders as possible – staff, customers, communities around them, and others. Get out on the ground, talk to people and most importantly, listen to
people. If everything sounds as though it is fine, that is when you need to start asking questions.

Clear accountability

Safety processes. Safety is a company-wide issue and requires clear accountabilities at all levels, effective measurement systems, including key performance indicators, and change readiness plans (it is during moments of change that risk levels can rise significantly). Our role as leaders of a company is to ensure that the key controls are in place and as many of them are working as effectively as possible.

Let’s remember that safety is something that can never be fixed completely and is never something that we can walk away from thinking that the job is done. But it is critical to ensure that we actually deliver on the commitments we have made, and when we say we are going to fix something, it gets fixed. Our credibility is at stake. Collaborate with your customers on site, ensuring compliance with regulations and your own internal safety procedures.

Communication and Training. To ensure that staff understand hazardous situations and the risks they create, it is critical they receive proper training and know how to react if they occur. Regular and relevant communication to all employees must be a key health and safety theme across the whole year. Set up a communication campaign, consistently and reinforce health and safety messages throughout the whole year through posters, emails and face to face sessions, posted on the intranet and cascaded through the team leaders. Using work equipment in the right way, wearing personal protective equipment and maintaining a safe place of work are things that need permanent attention and reminders. Ask your providers to work with you to facilitate training to your employees.

Future generations

Sustainability. I have always been convinced that there is no sustainable business without a focus on the long-term wellbeing of our people. To be a responsible leader, one needs to put into place sustainable business operations that will enable future generations to enjoy quality jobs. The challenge is to manage systems that take into account the needs of all stakeholders: shareholders, suppliers, business partners, communities, and most of all, our own employees. Sustainable management can be used to improve employee productivity, the environment, business atmosphere, and personal lives using technology, work-life balance measures and community engagement, among other things.

Learning curve

Reporting.  We need to definitively demystify accident reporting. Even if accidents are most of the times in our sector caused by human error, reporting them is hugely beneficial for the learning curve. A series of incidents in the same area or task may flag weak safety processes or a need to redesign the training programme. I encourage an approach that sets up an on-line reporting system, triggering 'exception calls' whenever a serious incident happens or a threshold is broken.

“A pound of care will not pay a pound of debt.” Use these five points in all health and safety reviews at highest levels of your company, challenge complacency and ask yourselves the same questions every time.

You will not pay a single pound of debt.


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