By: Keith Green, CSP, CIH, and Shannon Barr
In this article, we explore how to achieve additional value in your portfolio company post-acquisition by improving the company’s Health & Safety (H&S) culture.
Why is it important to focus on H&S culture in your newly acquired portfolio company, or when integrating an add-on?
Not accounting for differences in workforce H&S culture can lead to declines in employee morale and collaboration efforts, potentially increasing H&S incidents.
As in many areas of an integration, when creating an H&S program, the intangible “human” aspects of a merger are often overlooked. H&S planning and execution that does not account for differences in business practices and workforce culture can lead to irreparable declines in employee morale and collaboration efforts, potentially causing H&S incidents to skyrocket. In addition, when H&S integration plans only focus on programmatic and policy matters, without consideration of how companies actually operate, key personnel may become disgruntled and start seeking other places of employment. This can be avoided with a H&S plan that focuses on culture.
What are some steps you should consider when implementing or integrating an H&S program?
1. Evaluate and develop a firm understanding of the corporate culture of the business and the attitude toward H&S activities as a whole.
In developing or integrating H&S programs, it is first important to have a firm understanding of the corporate culture of the business as a whole and what drives operational decisions. For example, many management teams place a minor focus on the health and safety aspects of a business, allocating very little time, effort and funds to their H&S programs. In an integration situation, this type of viewpoint may cause roadblocks if the other entity is one with a management team and employees who are strongly unified around the H&S culture.
2. Create one H&S program all employees can unite around and adhere to.
Next, when merging two organizations, it is necessary to evaluate how best to bring the different H&S compliance approaches together into one program the employees can unite around and adhere to. This applies to enhancing the H&S culture of a standalone platform company as well. Establishing H&S best practices upfront has many benefits including:
- Improvement in employee collaboration, engagement and participation
- Reduction in risk of potential fines, injury, and lost work time
- Increase in the ongoing buy-in of new compliance and safety procedures
3. Ensure there is representation from both sides.
It is often difficult to meld two completely different H&S cultures, especially when relying upon stakeholders with pre-conceived notions of how their side operated in the past. Be sure to include decision makers from both teams and listen to what they have to say. In a situation involving a standalone portfolio company, it is particularly important to include representation from both the buyer and seller in the integration process to help everyone feel at ease.
4. Develop measurable benchmarks and guidelines to monitor progress.
Unlike, for example, the financial aspects of a deal, integrating two separate H&S cultures can be difficult to measure and manage throughout the hold period. Thus, few organizations apply the same consistency to managing and navigating the cultural H&S integration that they apply to, for example, financial strategy and benchmarks. It is important to develop a strong H&S program that holds specific individuals accountable with ongoing measurable benchmarks and attainable guidelines.
5. Encourage participation through engagement.
Be sure to involve all employees in the H&S initiatives through suggestion boxes, pre-work discussions, strategy planning and during incident investigations and corrective action implementation and recognize employees who go above and beyond.
6. Consider cultural and regulatory differences between international locations.
It is also important to note that international locations may require an understanding of different regulatory obligations and societal differences when aligning with corporate guidelines. It is important to hire a H&S consultant with adequate international knowledge, resources, and networks to support international integration.
For questions on how to instill H&S as part of your team’s culture and how to leverage these programs to build employee engagement, improve productivity and increase cost savings, please reach out to Keith Green, CSP, CIH, Shannon Barr, or Monica Meyer, H&S Service Line Leader today.