It’s hard enough trying to change the mindset of people you work with every day, let alone those who are only around for short periods. But creating a consistent safety culture amongst transient populations of workers is a challenge many of our clients face.

You might be a construction company with different tradespeople required at different times. Or you could work in food and agriculture with seasonal variations in demand. Or perhaps your industry sees a high turnover of staff. Managing employees’ collective attitudes, beliefs and resultant behaviour with a varied mix of people is a rich and exciting experience. But what about when a significant part of that mix is made up of people just passing through?

Culture is instinctive

Workers queuing at a building site

We’re social animals who like to fit in. The stronger the norms, the more likely we are to adjust our behaviour so that we conform.

Suppose you’re walking down a noisy, busy street in a city centre. You may well be laughing or talking loudly with your companion but if you walk off the street into a quiet church or library it’s highly likely that your behaviour would change. You instinctively know what acceptable behaviour is in this new environment.

Do you want fries with that?

Take another example, that great bastion of Western taste, McDonalds. Whatever your opinion of the organisation and its wares you cannot fail to recognise the remarkable level of consistency when it comes to customer service. Standards that are upheld by shared attitudes, values and beliefs amongst its employees.

It’s estimated that McDonalds employs over 1.5 million staff world-wide: that’s an astonishing number of people to share such a strong culture. Even more amazing is the staff turnover rate of 60% every year! Yet the culture remains as strong as ever.

The answer lies in strong culture from day one

You must create a strong culture of shared values and beliefs leading to consistent behaviour, so that new people coming into that environment are absorbed into the culture and behave accordingly. So strong, in fact, that any dissenters feel so uncomfortable they eventually conform or won’t want to stay.

This requires very strong role models, powerful communication and timely induction, all of which make it absolutely clear what is acceptable and what will not be tolerated. Not just by managers, but by everyone in the organisation.