IN OCTOBER, AIHA debuted its newly restructured Fall Conference at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio. True to its new “leadership and management” theme, the conference presented several revealing stories from men and women in leadership positions that can resonate with IH/OH professionals at every career stage. LEADERSHIP QUALITIES What kind of leaders do people want to follow? In his opening keynote address at the Fall Conference, John Spence, a business consultant recognized as one of the top 500 leadership development experts in the world, discussed the qualities of a good leader based on his own research and discussions with his clients, with emphasis on the traits that millennials find most appealing.
While most of the qualities Spence mentioned—honesty, character, strong communication skills, a high degree of competence—appeal to all generations, millennials are looking for leaders who also exhibit values such as compassion and who are committed to collaboration and teamwork. Spence, who is 59, said that when his generation entered the workplace they were advised to work long hours and do what the boss said, and eventually they would find success. Millennials, by contrast, highly value work-life balance. Spence described the millennial attitude toward leaders as, “I’ll work hard for you, but you have to give me some freedom. I need you to support me and I need you to be fair, and you need to allow me to have a life outside of here.” They want their leaders to be partners, too—people who will spend time collaborating with them and working beside them.
And at least compared to older generations, millennials seek opportunities for rapid advancement. To stay with an organization, millennials need to feel that they will have a new opportunity within five to seven years, Spence said. Otherwise, they will move on to another company.
Spence devoted the second half of his presentation to the potential effects of rapid technological change on the workplace and society at large. Ever-more-capable machines will soon replace workers in large numbers. Spence cited predictions that, by 2020, computers and algorithms will replace 20 million jobs in the U.S. alone; by 2040, 45 percent of all current jobs will be handled by machines, he said. In previous eras, workers displaced by technology could be retrained to manage the technology, but Spence warned that technological capacity is increasing so rapidly that even many management jobs could be rendered obsolete.
Leaders need to be attuned to these challenges because the people they hire today will live through these changes. But not all jobs are equally vulnerable to replacement by technology: “Jobs that require empathy and person-to-person interaction and complex judgment on values will never go away,” Spence said. THE PROCESS OF RISK MANAGEMENT In 1989, Ken Daigle was hired as a mechanical engineer at a chemical plant. On his second day on the job, an explosion severely injured two workers. The next day he was assigned to help put the plant back together.
Seven years later, while working offsite, Daigle felt the rumble of another explosion. Once again, something had gone terribly wrong: the same unit at the same plant had experienced another catastrophic failure. During the investigation of this incident, Daigle discovered that a fire had occurred at the same unit in 1982. This made three major incidents in a little more than two decades, or once every seven years.
The bottom line, Daigle said, was “we just didn’t know how to evaluate and manage risk.” Following the 1996 explosion he was invited to implement a risk management program at the company. Since then, the plant has not had a serious accident.
Fall Conference Asks: What Makes Good OHS Leaders?