What makes health and safety, quality and information security management ‘people issues’?

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We’ve been working with a number of organisations who are considering becoming registered under one or other of the various standards: OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001, ISO9001, ISO27001 and Lexcel for law firms. They’ve been surprised when we advised that we consult to get firms through these standards. “But this is quality management (or whatever), not people management. Surely we need a quality consultant.” Fundamentally, H&S, quality and security are people issues.

There are two things these standards have in common. First, they are a set of requirements against which the firm designs business systems and then audits to prove the systems are working. Often that is not the end and continuous incremental improvement thereafter is expected. Second and more importantly, the people in the firm must be committed to the standard or it becomes a ‘bolt-on’ to the firm’s normal operations. As a bolt on, it may satisfy the basics of the standard but it does little to enhance the profits of the firm. It gets criticised and blamed for bleeding funds when it should be contributing to the bottom line (by reducing costs, attracting more orders and the like).

In gaining registration under a standard, there are two aspects. There is the technics of the registration: the design of processes, the measurement of KPIs and the audits to prove system function. The applicant firm needs assistance in system development and expression. Often when several standards are sought simultaneously, some skill is needed to avoid duplication. Then there are the people management aspects. Communications across the firm is essential such that staff understand their evolved roles, that they understand why the firm is embarking on the health and safety, quality or information security improvement initiative. Everyone needs to buy in. Everyone needs to recognise the revised objectives and their specific individual role in gaining and keeping the registration.

The technics can be read from the standards and the plethora of documents around them. But how to implement the technics in the firm’s people eco-system is rarely discussed. Why? Because that’s the people management bit and all but a few H&S managers, quality managers or IS managers go there. Changing the way a firm works involves changing its culture, changing its people and their outlook. Only through people skills can a firm change from a poor quality firm to one that embraces quality in everything it does.

TimelessTime aids firms achieve standards and ensures that in so doing the firm improves its bottom line. Standards registration should never be a bolt-on.

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