The Most Important Aspect of Risk Management

Justin Tuttle
September 27, 2022
Risk Services

You’ve probably thought about how company culture impacts employee morale, retention, and recruiting efforts. Maybe you’ve thought about how company culture impacts your company’s performance and productivity. But, have you considered how your company culture impacts your risk management strategy?  

In my experience, culture is THE single-most important aspect of a company’s risk management strategy. A company can have all the safety procedures, training processes and incentive programs in place, but the success of a risk management strategy boils down to the people–the heartbeat of the organization. The values, attributes and characteristics of an organization–and whether they are shared or not–determine if the company can successfully control, mitigate and eliminate risk exposures.

Ready to evaluate your organization’s risk culture?

Evaluating risk culture

Time to look in the mirror. Is your company culture putting your company at risk? Does your leadership team share the same values for promoting safety, ensuring compliance, protecting employees, and mitigating risk?  

Are your employees aware and educated on your company’s safety protocols? Be honest. If I were to visit your office tomorrow, would you have to wipe dust off your safety manual before showing it to me? Is there alignment between your stated company values and employees’ actions? Are the majority of incidents behavior based? We all know that actions speak louder than words…

To start, I often recommend distributing company-wide perception surveys to gauge risk culture and determine where improvements can be made. What leadership believes to be true can be dramatically different from an employee’s perception, and that may be where you need to begin making changes.

5 key elements of a strong risk culture

A safety-first, risk aware culture promotes a shared understanding of risks and how to effectively mitigate them. A risk culture begins with having proper programs, procedures and protocols in place, but it ultimately comes down to the behavior of your team.

1. Education

If people don’t know something, how can you expect them to adhere to the policy? Ensure your organization is well-versed on risk exposures and the set safety policies. Go above and beyond handing out a safety manual during the onboarding process by holding frequent safety meetings. Safety training should also include teaching supervisors and management on how to lead behavior-based safety conversations with employees.

2. Accountability  

Building a risk culture involves holding everyone in your organization accountable. Yes, everyone–from top leadership all the way down to entry-level employees–plays a role in building a risk culture. Leadership sets the shared values and standards, but if they’re behavior isn’t consistent with the company’s, why should anyone else comply?

3. Inclusion

Is everyone included in making decisions for the betterment of safety and compliance? Inclusion not only creates a sense of pride in workers, but helps them understand why they are supposed to do things the way they do. For instance, safety committees are a great way to promote inclusion. After all, the best ideas often come from the people performing the work. I like to ask workers out in the field how things could be done differently because oftentimes they do not feel comfortable asking for things, such as better tools and technology. All in all, including workers in safety decisions gets more buy-in for safety while creating a stronger culture.

4. Engagement

Get creative with how you engage employees throughout the day and during safety meetings. Keep it interesting! For example, I like to incorporate some sort of game or activity that correlates with the topic of the safety meeting. This makes topics like, emergency action plans, a little more exciting and relatable.  

5. Empathy

Empathy and understanding go a long way. Observe, build trusting relationships and seek to understand someone’s job role prior to jumping in with corrections and criticisms. Early in my career, I visited a construction site with my boss. He told me to simply go out, observe and get to know the people, and that’s just what I did. Rather than walking in all “high and mighty” as the safety guy on the scene, I had the opportunity to form relationships and express empathy, which went a long way when it was time to advise the company on their safety practices.  

6. Positive Reinforcement

Last, but certainly not least, positive reinforcement is an important element of building a strong risk culture. Positive reinforcement not only reinforces good safety-first behavior, but builds employee morale and makes workers feel more valued. When was the last time you complemented someone’s work? I remember one time I was observing a warehouse worker named John as he operated a fork truck. After observing him for a little while, I asked to check his harness, see his ID card, etc.

When I told him he was doing a good job, he was completely floored. Two years later, I returned to the warehouse, and John still remembered me for that compliment. How simple is that?

Are you interested in evaluating your risk culture to determine if your existing culture is putting your company at risk?

Contact the Virtus Risk Solutions Team

Contact us today, and let’s work together to evaluate your risk culture. With more than 77 years of experience amongst our team, we are specialized in our fields of claims management and loss prevention. We work to optimize loss prevention strategies and claim management outcomes with our clients. Risk Services has experience in a variety of industries including food service, construction, distribution facilities, retail, manufacturing, commercial real estate, transportation, and financial institutions.