Hardly 15 minutes pass in any meeting that I’m in without mention of KPIs or ROI. Without question, the two measurement terms are part of the leadership lexicon at our company and likely yours—and for good reason. KPIs and ROI are the litmus test for each goal, project and business opportunity, with KPIs serving as the GPS on our journey and ROI showing us the results in the rearview. In a world full of unknowns, these two key metrics serve as the wingman for gut instinct and undoubtedly will always have a place in our boardroom and yours.
But what if all worthwhile business efforts can’t be validated by key benchmarks captured on a spreadsheet or shown on a pie graph? What if they lack the traditional definition of ROI but protect our greatest investment—people? As a leader, would you give this hard-to-quantify expenditure thought or simply move on to the next agenda item with more obvious, immediate financial rewards?
It’s a tough question to answer—and yet, as leaders, we know that our legacy often hinges on the tough choices that we make. Safety is one of those tough decisions.
As a spouse, parent, caregiver or friend, keeping our loved ones safe isn’t a difficult decision. But once we enter the office, sit at our remote desks or attend an investor meeting, our safety resolve weakens. Why is that?
The Data Is There
Why is it that when the FBI tells us acts of violence are on the rise across the nation, we choose to disregard this well-informed data? Why is it that even though our news feeds regularly show that schools, public events and job sites have been the settings for unthinkable violence, we aren’t inspired to take whatever measures possible to protect people in our own environments?
Why is it acceptable that my company’s research shows workplaces are lagging on safety procedures for critical incidents like workplace violence (43%), system outages or cyberattacks (43%), active shooters (42%) and hazardous materials incidents (41%), with manufacturing, healthcare and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) showing the greatest need for improved crisis communication? The National Safety Council (NSC) tells us that workplace violence is on the rise and nearly half of U.S. employers are unprepared to prevent or respond to incidents. Why isn’t corporate America listening?
Duty Of Care
As leaders, we have a duty of care—a responsibility to safeguard our employees and visitors. Why? Because when safety measures are lacking in places of business, lives are at risk. When tragedies occur, conversations abound about increasing training, improving communication, investing in holistic safety solutions and ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to protect lives. It’s time those conversations become actions.
Leaders listen to numbers. So, why is the business world so reluctant to invest in safety when the metrics speak for themselves? Researchers for Liberty Mutual and National Safety Council reported that the top causes of on-the-job injuries cost U.S. employers more than $1 billion per week and work-related injuries and death cost U.S. employers and individuals a whopping $171 billion in 2019, respectively. Investing in workplace safety now is a concrete action that businesses can take to not only protect their employees’ lives—the right thing to do—but also to avoid the exorbitant costs that come from workplace safety incidents.
Mishaps on the job not only come with a big price tag, but they can also lead to poor public relations. The cost per medically consulted injury to a worker in 2020 was $44,000, with the death cost listed as $1.3 million in hard costs—and yet that figure doesn’t factor in any lawsuits or increased insurance costs. If organizations don’t take prudent and common steps to avoid horrific workplace incidents, it can affect both their bottom line and brand reputation.
Investing in safety is also critical for business continuity. Today’s leaders uniquely understand how quickly business operations can be turned upside down if companies aren’t prepared for disruptions, including acts of violence, severe weather and other crisis events.
When it comes to business continuity, corporate reputations and company profitability are both at risk. Investing in safety can help businesses:
- Lower personnel injury costs.
- Prevent property damage.
- Avoid lost or decreased employee productivity.
- Reduce liability exposure.
- Minimize losses from business interruption.
- Mitigate public relations fallout.
It’s no secret that cyber threats have become an increasingly large concern for businesses. Results of a 2021 study show that 44% of security leaders expected to increase their budgets in 2022, and Gartner analysts estimate that information security spending will reach $172 billion this year. This is a clear example of business investment increasing alongside risk.
It’s time for the investment in workplace safety to follow suit.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we frequently used the word “resilient” to describe the way different groups persevered in the face of adversity. In every corner of our nation, people showed the resolve to recover quickly from tough situations.
Executives should strive to bring that same level of resilience to their organizations and take proactive steps to be prepared for whatever workplace disaster comes next. When leaders prioritize preparedness practices, crisis communications and safety technology, they show that they’re committed to protecting their best assets and business operations.
There’s no greater ROI than that.