Health & Safety professionals are in high demand. But especially for smaller companies, talent is hard to find. 

The Health & Safety profession globally has seen a change in direction over the last few years.  The time that a H&S professional’s job is to tell employees what they should and shouldn´t do is long gone. “That is the traditional way of how health & safety policies were implemented”, explains Wim Schryvers, manager of the Engineering Division with Michael Page Antwerp. “But the new generation of specialists use a more collaborative approach. Instead of telling people what to do, they work together with them to change their behaviour.”

People skills

This Behavior Based Safety (BBS) approach has seen some remarkable results. It uses a number of techniques and strategies, which are based on behavioral psychology, to reduce high-risk behavior of staff members. Health & Safety specialists are trained to observe the way employees are working, and give immediate feedback.

“Therefore people management skills became extremely important for these kind of positions”, explains Wim. “Health & Safety professionals need to able to engage both with management and with the people on the ground. They need to be good communicators and to know how to coach people rather than tell people.”

In high demand

This skill set is therefore in high demand, especially with small and medium sized companies. But they are hard to find.  “The specialists who have all the right qualifications and the right experience, usually work with the larger corporations”, says Wim. “They are not likely to go a smaller company, because for them that would be a step down. So SMEs need to be creative in order to find the right candidates.”

One of the reasons why there is still a lack of good candidates is because of the image that profession still has. Wim Schryvers: “Especially among younger candidates it´s still perceived it as being a slightly boring job. But nothing could be further from the truth. Because of the constant interaction with people on all levels in the company, it´s a very dynamic position.”

How to find the right candidate

So how do you find the right candidate, when talent is scarce? “There is no perfect answer but I would advise companies not to always focus too much on whether a candidate has the right qualifications or not”, says Wim. “There are always situations where a qualification is legally necessary for the business and that needs a solution in the form of interim support or a specialist consult.  But if you can find a short term solution for the legal requirements or you do not need the qualification then I recommend to my clients to hire talented candidates, who have the personality and the right skill set for the position. You can invest in the right qualifications and training, but it´s far more difficult to teach someone how to engage with people. That´s a personality trait. If you don´t have it, it will never come natural to you”.

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