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Building H&S culture in banks

Gideon Bernto

In preparation for an introductory call with one of the big banks, I trawled the web looking for information about the state of Health and Safety (H&S) in banks. One thing that struck me were the many tragic headlines that popped up about suicide; drug use; domestic abuse involving people working in the sector. This made me question how banks are tackling the challenge of developing an effective health and safety culture that really cares about the well-being of their employees?

Of course, only a very few tragedies are caused by people’s working environments and the stress and pressure they’re under, but it begs the question…

My assumption is that H&S is not traditionally front of mind for many leaders in an industry that has a very target driven working culture and where people are encouraged to take risks (albeit calculated).

So how can organisations like banks, which are often perceived as having low risk work environments, ensure that their leaders are giving attention to the culture of care they create in their teams?  How can they ensure leaders understand the importance of identifying and managing workplace hazards that can cause both physical and mental harm to their people?

The starting point has to be ensuring leaders understand why taking care of H&S is so important and why it is important for them to take responsibility for it. Beyond the moral duty to not harm anybody, having an effective H&S culture makes sound business sense. Injuries at work and employee ill-health inevitably lead to lost time, lost business opportunities, lost innovation, lost creativity and ultimately, more cost.  Poor health and safety effects a company’s reputation impacting negatively on recruitment of talent and customer acquisition.

If H&S is to become as important a priority to business leaders as customer service, profit and quality, H&S colleagues must speak the language of those leaders, engaging them in a compelling case for change. Ensuring leaders understand that the culture of care comes from them and not from their health and safety department. 

While banks and financial organisations appear culturally sophisticated in so many ways, when it comes to H&S culture, they may be able to learn a lot from the approach many industrial and manufacturing organisations take to health and safety culture. Many of which put their leaders front and centre in ensuring a true culture of care permeates their whole organisation.  

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