In our first blog of the series, How to Make the Most out of Your Safety Metrics, we discussed why organizations are shifting their focus from lagging indicators (e.g. recordable and lost-time injuries) to leading indicators (e.g. near-miss reports and worksite observations). While safety experts have made a sound case to adopt leading safety indicators instead of relying solely on lagging safety indicators, the reality is that creating and sustaining metrics for leading safety indicators can be daunting.
While lagging indicators share a universal set of metrics driven by regulatory requirements and are frequently used globally by organizations, leading indicator metrics are varied and are often slow to be developed. As a result, leading indicator metrics are often glacial in adoption, even within a single organization.
"A metric is defined as a quantifiable measure that is used to track and assess the status of a specific process."
As a baseline, a metric is defined as a quantifiable measure that is used to track and assess the status of a specific process. Often a metric is a simple proxy or substitute for a broader and generally more complex process. Benefits from properly implemented metrics include the ability to:
- Guide stakeholders on how they are doing and whether they are meeting expectations.
- Indicate where resources need to be proactively focused on the most critical issues.
- Allow for comparisons, either to each other or to an established set of norms, such that deviations or exceptions can be readily spotted.
- Enable organizations to focus on the right things at the right times.
- Create consistent measures within an organization and communicate findings and direction.
- Identify gaps in safety processes and systems.
- Assess leadership and employee engagement.
While there are many benefits of using metrics within your organization, there are 5 key guidelines to follow to ensure your metrics are able to be utilized effectively:
- Make your metrics smart
Like a goal, a good metric must be S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Lofty and idealistic aspirations belong in vision statements, not metrics.
- Set clear expectations
For a metric to work, expectations must be set and clearly communicated. Specifically, criteria are necessary to indicate a "good" range and a "needs improvement" range or set of ranges. Ideally, these ranges have prescribed action items established to drive improvement of the process. This mandates a need to sit down and plan this out by key stakeholders to establish clear expectations.
- Manage the process, not the metric
Metrics are indicators of a process. Management of the process is the focus, not management of the metrics. Gaming of metrics can and will happen when managing to the metric. In this case, you get what you ask for.
- Diversify your metrics
Multiple metrics often provide better insight into a complex process than a single metric. Both quantitative and qualitative metrics should be established to ensure high-level KPIs are worthy of consideration. For example, the number of safety inspections is not as valuable without also considering the quality of inspections.
Collecting metrics is only part of the process. Acting on the information is necessary to drive improvement.
In the upcoming weeks, our blog series will share insights on how you can:
- Demonstrate the value in the right metrics
- Ease the transition to a leading indicator focus by helping you understand which indicators to use
- Utilize metrics for continuous improvement
- Use benchmarking so you can see how your current metrics stack up