Are you already convinced that Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools could add benefits to your organisation? Perhaps you’ve already identified some specific AI products, such as computer vision or natural language, that could take your health and safety management to the next level. You are fired with enthusiasm – but how do you convince senior management it’s a worthwhile investment? Here are the three steps to follow to successfully persuade the decision makers to invest.
Learn your audience
Before you start, make a list of everyone whose support you need. That might start with the budget approval from the head of finance. But even where a health and safety department has its own budget, it is rare for a software project to be standalone. You will need co-operation from other departments for a successful implementation. If you want a speech recognition system to help people make verbal incident reports quickly, HR support will be essential to link reports to people’s identities. For a computer vision project, you’ll have to work with the security function who manage the CCTV cameras and feeds. For any software project, the head of IT or data security is likely to have a veto as to whether the product can sit within the company infrastructure.
Once you’ve identified the decision makers, find out what makes them tick. Don’t assume the head of finance is only interested in money, or the head of IT only in software. The operations director might want to know about bottle necks in the process. The CEO might know that a proactive culture will have benefits for the organisation, but be unclear how to achieve it. Find out what aspirations management have, for their own development, and for the organisation. This will help you with the next step.
Tailor your message
Once you know what motivates the decision-makers, tailor your business case. You might get support from a senior safety manager by explaining how the AI tool will increase near miss reporting and help to reduce injuries. However, they also want to know how spending money on the software will be more cost-effective in achieving this than traditional approaches. Your initial homework might have identified that the board managers are interested in better, faster and more accurate reporting. They don’t have enough data to support their risk register, and your proposal will provide them with immediate updates of key performance indicators.
If the manager responsible for IT is considering a major upgrade, explain how your proposal could support that project. Don’t just tell senior managers about the benefits for you and your department. If computer vision reduces the time spent doing housekeeping inspections, how will the time saved be used to support them? How could the project be used to enhance the reputation of the organisation, to win new customers or clients, or to reassure shareholders?
Be realistic about any claims for benefits. Identify obstacles to acceptance from the workforce, and show you have already thought about strategies to overcome these. If you want to use speech recognition, will you need sound-proof booths to reduce workplace noise and provide confidentiality? If you’re attaching computer vision to CCTV feeds, how will you reassure workers they are not being spied upon?
Reinforce their response
We know that positive reinforcement encourages good behaviour. Parents know this about their children, teachers know this about their pupils. Good employers know this about their workers. But how often do we remember that senior decision-makers might also appreciate some positive reinforcement? For some, the satisfaction of a successful implementation might be sufficient reward. But remember who supported your project, and thank them. If you start by getting backing for a small change, explaining what the successful outcomes have been from that project will make it more likely that the senior executives will support you next time.
Taking the time to provide feedback on the pilot project might feel like time away from planning the next stage. But when linking computer vision to one CCTV camera has led to a measurable reduction in pedestrians getting too close to vehicles, share the success with the senior managers who supported you, so that they’ll back you on the expansion of the project.
Everyone talks about worker engagement, but you know how important it is to get the senior leaders engaged in improving how safety is managed. They control the resources, and set the example that other people will follow. These three steps are not a quick fix, but taking time to learn about your audience, tailor your business case, and then reinforce any support you do get, will put you on the path to a more intelligent future.