With the confirmation of England lifting the remaining legal Covid restrictions as of next Monday, 19th July, the question that springs to mind is: how can we best ensure that our company minimises any risks but equally that we maximise any opportunities from this? Just to clarify: in this context, unlike many of my other articles on here we are not solely discussing safety risks and opportunities, but a broader overview. What does this mean in terms of risks and opportunities for the business as a whole?
A blend of new and old risks
Whilst Covid has unquestionably changed our world for the foreseeable future (probably even forever), which brings with it some new risks we must confront, the reopening of the economy will see the return – perhaps even the heightening – of traditional risks, too.
Perception is reality?
With an invisible enemy such as COVID and one where risk management mitigation advice has changed quite significantly over the last 18 months, public opinion has been fairly split on many aspects of the pandemic. It’s hard to plot any single course that will get 100% belief from the public. So, their individual perception is their reality.
Equally, the public are not experts. How many people have been wearing masks incorrectly? How many people think that fogging is cleaning surfaces to make them safe? These misunderstandings and misperceptions place a large burden on businesses to juggle competing interests and to strike the right balance of perception of safety, versus the reality.
Nervous Normans versus Reckless Rebeccas
We’ve seen throughout that a certain segment of the population is less concerned with getting or transmitting COVID than the majority. Conversely, there are also those who are extremely cautious (for example, those who’ve had to shield). I’d count myself among that group because my youngest son has bad asthma, so we’ve been doing our best to keep him safe. But, with restrictions lifting, these two groups of people will be brought together. How do you deal with that?
How do you open things up enough for the Reckless Rebeccas but not drive away the Nervous Normans of the world? Striking the right chord to please everyone may be beyond many businesses, whose addressable market, therefore, could shrink.
There are two key risks posed here: one is for customers to engender visits, sales and repeat custom. The other looks at staff, where it could be argued your duty of care may still extend beyond the simple advisory measures, taking a risk assessment approach. Whilst the legal lifting of restrictions, gives an opportunity to allow more customers through the door, it might be advisable to take a more cautious approach with how you deal with staff.
We did “this” for COVID, but what about now?
The fabric of buildings saw several changes throughout the pandemic to keep up with the various advice and regulations. As these are now being reversed, this gives us the opportunity to revert back to “normal”. But first, should that chance be taken (or should it be taken a little later on rather than straight away). And second, if it is, what challenges does that present?
The removal of screens and social distancing floor stickers may lead to inconsistencies in surface finishes, which could lead to a misperception that a building is not clean. If you have marks on the floor after repairs, for example, these could – to the untrained eye – look like the building isn’t being cleaned sufficiently. My team has been called out to several buildings recently who have removed distancing signs, but not been able to clean the floor underneath them to a consistent even finish.
There are also risks, driven by new COVID precautions, which perhaps until now have been slightly unforeseen that will, I expect, continue.
- Hand sanitizer stations dotted around buildings are leading to not only unsightly stains but also heightened slip risks. Unlike in normal times when 95% of floors wouldn’t really get wet, we now have contamination coming onto floors that were designed to be dry, therefore are more likely to be slippery-when-wet.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection is also leaving residues on floors, which is making them more slippery than they were intended to be.
These slip risks have not yet translated into consistently large amounts of accidents and claims but the trends are there from conversations with our insurance partners.
Teamwork makes the dream work?
The combination of COVID and Brexit implementation have left many businesses, from restaurants to transport and logistics companies, scrambling to fill jobs. That’s a very good chance your workforce will be quite different than it was before. But even if people are returning, they’re going to need specialist and regular retraining to be on top of the new procedures and processes in a (post?) COVID world.
When it comes to running like a well-oiled machine, a key driver is that your staff feel safe and loved. If they’re new or they’ve been out on furlough, this could be a challenge. As always, the chain of your operations and business performance is only as strong as its weakest link – you’ll need to focus more than ever on your team to ensure they are doing what’s needed.
I first saw this used by Daniel Priestley of Dent Global. How do you read the word above?
There are two ways: opportunity is nowhere… or, opportunity is now here
Unquestionably, to me, we need to believe in the latter. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the risks, particularly in the context of Covid, but opportunity is now here. Let’s dig into that…
Safety and Risk is now front of mind
Had you asked me three years ago, if risk management would be in the public consciousness, I’d certainly have said no. But now it firmly is. The move to guidance rather than legal restrictions places even greater emphasis on people’s personal responsibilities to manage risk. We’re now more acutely aware of safety and risk than we ever have been before. And this represents a fantastic opportunity for any business because the business who proactively drives, safety, and rescue improvements, is the business that succeeds.
If you can get this right, you can achieve what I call the four P’s. Because, by making stuff feel Protected. This will drive higher Performance. In turn, increasing Profits and giving you the Power to do bigger and greater things in your business. Take the well-known Alcoa example, where, over a 15-year period, an unshakeable focus on safety led to not only a 90% improvement in safety outcomes, but a seven fold increase in profits with a more engaged workforce.
Now is the time to talk to your team to understand how they on the “shop floor” can see things being done safer, and therefore better, to drive through some cultural and procedural process changes.
Go time for growth
Speaking of business opportunities, the economy should be expected to grow at an unprecedented rate over the coming years. And so we should be focusing on anything we can do to benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime chance. Think of the household spending savings that have been built up that are sitting there waiting to now be spent, for example. We need to take an optimistic mindset towards this period if we want to position ourselves in the best way as organisations. That’s a sharp mindset switch from the caution of the last 18 months but will reap rewards.
Cautious Christines versus Optimistic Ollys
We talked about the differing mindsets towards COVID in the risk section. But here, I’ve deliberately chosen to use different phraseology, to describe the same groups of people, looking in an opposing way at the opportunities that this presents.
What if you were to position your business, firmly in the camp of the Cautios Christines? How could you attract and retain them to be your customers, forsaking the Optimistic Ollys whose values are not in alignment with what you want to achieve? Or the reverse is also true. Could you cater very specifically for those people who are less cautious and keener, to get back to normal, and give them an experience that could take away some of your competitors?
Rather than playing in “the market”, define “your market”. Serve those people well. As with any form of focus and niching, you can reap significant rewards.
The way to achieve business success in any time, now moreso than ever, is to get under the skin of your target market and really understand what truly drives them. What is truly important to them and what will make the difference in them choosing you versus one of your competitors?
We live in a time where we’re so divided, in many ways (from COVID to politics to income inequality to social justice) that catering for everyone, simply put, is a recipe for failure. What can you do to grasp this opportunity, how can you better understand your target markets to serve them in the best possible way. over the months and years ahead?
Taking the discussion further
I’ll be releasing a roundtable discussion on a Safety & Risk Success Podcast episode discussing this topic in a few days. Once that episode is live, I will update this to reflect it.
What’s your view? Where do you see the risks and opportunities and what will you be doing to mitigate / capitalise as appropriate?
#safety #insurance #riskmanagement