COVID-19 changed the way companies do business.
Like many companies, Compass Group, faced worker plenty of challenges, including staffing shortages, employee turnover, sporadic reopenings, adjusted schedules and staffing needs, new equipment and required training, accelerated onboarding of new hires, and evolving compliance regimens. Many of these are not 100% within the domain of safety, but they served as additional impediments to creating a safe workplace. That meant the safety team had to navigate these challenges while also rebuilding its industry-leading safety culture.
Compass Group turned to safety technology to drive its post-pandemic recovery. The results were expected—and surprising. But one thing is for sure: Compass Group is not going back to the way things were before COVID-19 arrived on the scene.
EHS Today spoke with Scott Echerd, director of strategic initiatives for legal, safety and risk management at Compass Group, who will share his company’s journey at the 2023 Safety Leadership Conference, being held from September 18-20 in Orlando, Florida.
More information about the conference, including registration, can be found at www.safetyleadershipconference.com. Below is a preview of what to expect from Echerd’s presentation.
EHS Today: COVID-19 took a toll on businesses. Can you explain what challenges Compass Group has faced since December 2019?
I'm guessing many of these challenges you’ve faced the past few years have not been confined to safety. They're part of larger organizational challenges, but they still affect safety. Can you explain how safety was involved in those organizational discussions?
We had to completely reassess how we approached staffing and expectations around what that looks like.We were faced with the challenge that much of our safety culture was built through long-tenured employees and management, who found new jobs during and after the pandemic, along with difficulties in finding needed staff for open positions. We had to adapt our training programs, schedules and operations based on this new reality.
Whenever you make changes to onboarding, job functions/duties, oversight, etc., you have to keep safety as a top priority and consider carefully the impacts any of those decisions may have on keeping your staff and customers safe.
How has safety technology assisted with post-pandemic recovery?
Technology has been instrumental in assisting our post-pandemic recovery. Whether it is through being able to get critical information into the hands of our operators faster, creating more efficient processes or converting manual duties to connected/automated solutions, these are now necessities and not nice-to-haves.
Companies adjusted or altogether changed procedures during the pandemic. What are some safety changes that you expect will continue?
I think technology-centered solutions that either make safety processes more efficient or can provide solutions that facilitate identifying and tracking risks in a more timely and robust manner will only continue to grow.
What was safety technology use or adoption like before the pandemic? Where is it now?
At Compass Group, we were fortunate that prior to the pandemic we were already in the process of applying technology to various aspects of our safety programs; nonetheless, the pandemic has definitely expedited our approach and options.
What role would you like to see technology have in safety?
We use technology to further every area of business today. For everyone who wants to see their associates go home in just as good as—if not better—condition than they arrived at work, then we need to continue to evolve safety in any way we can.
What have you been surprised most by on your safety technology journey? Have employees used technology in unexpected ways? Have they made suggestions you didn't anticipate?
Sometimes, we take it for granted that folks will be slow to adapt to technology when it comes to safety; however, in everyday life, they use technology in the cars they drive, ordering the foods they eat, and obtaining the services and products they want.
We need to make sure we use technology to show employees that safety is important, and their personal safety is important. We will continue to get better by listening to employees and adopting their suggestions for making improvements as well as through our own ongoing research and development in this area.
Has technology uncovered unknown problems? Or, has technology helped to steer future decision-making about safety?
Technology has enabled us to identify, review and confirm opportunities to drive safety improvements—as well as obstacles to safety improvement. It also provides us with the tools that enhance our ability to make informed decisions, develop and assess new solutions, and drive continuous improvements in our processes, practices and cultural initiatives related to safety.
What’s one thing you hope attendees learn from your session at the Safety Leadership Conference?
I hope attendees can learn that when it comes to safety, we must be willing to do whatever it takes, partner with whomever we can, and develop whatever programs are needed to overcome the various issues we face post-pandemic with the ultimate goal of keeping our employees, products and customers safe.