Are You Integrated?
In the 20 years I have been working, a common question seems to have always echoed in the background: “What does the future of the EHS profession look like and what does that mean to me?” Unless you have a crystal ball (mine shattered on impact after my Lehman Brothers stock plummeted in flames) or have a genie bottled up in a lamp somewhere (I personally am saving my three wishes for when things get really bad), then the future is a very difficult thing to predict.
If you want to maximize your chances for success, I offer one piece of advice: Focus your energies on integrating EHS into the operational aspects of your company. This is critical for the EHS function to deliver high value and remain relevant. I like to keep things simple so there are only three things to do:
- Admit EHS is not completely special or unique
- Identify key integration points
- Have the mindset of a good consultant
The first step is to admit that EHS is not completely special or unique – it really isn’t. That is not a bad thing; in fact, it is very positive since EHS can then be fully integrated with other functions and operations and is not left solely to a small band of “experts”. Think of it this way. If you work in a manufacturing site with 1,200 people and have 5 EHS professionals, which would you rather have: 5 EHS people or 1,200? There are certainly specialized tasks that require an EHS professional; however, there are a lot that don’t. Everybody has a role to play in making EHS a success.
The next step is to identify key integration points. Strategic plans and scorecards are a great roadmap to what is important. Find out where the company is headed. Find out what is being measured and, therefore, managed – this is generally where the money is as well because compensation, at least in part, is usually tied to metrics. Don’t only look for direct ways EHS can contribute (e.g., if lost time incident rate is a metric), but also indirect ways. Good EHS performance is often dependent on having sound underlying fundamentals – such as a management systems culture, positive relationship between management and shop floor employees, and effective risk identification and management.
The final step is to have the mindset of a good consultant. A good consultant is constantly trying to understand what problems a client is facing and what opportunities they are trying to capitalize on. They are also relentlessly focused on helping others. If an EHS professional approaches his or her job everyday with this outlook, the integration opportunities will not be difficult to find.
So how integrated are you as an EHS professional? How integrated is your function into the rest of your company?