Adequate staff resources are essential for achieving quality environmental, health, and safety (EHS) programs. The technical challenges, internal coordination difficulties, public-relations problems, and so on are rarely insurmountable—if you have sufficient fiscal and human resources to effectively deal with the issues. Without a minimum critical mass of resources, you become consumed with day-to-day firefighting and never make progress. In the worst case, an issue can erupt into a full-blown crisis, putting the company at risk and your reputation and career on the line. Conservative risk managers, wanting to be on the “safe side,” would argue for substantial resource commitments. The demand for rising profits, one of the primary drivers in a competitive marketplace, however, calls for limiting resources to the “bare bones.” How does the strategically thinking EHS manager determine the optimal EHS resource level? What is the most efficient EHS organizational structure? How is this resource level and organization justified to senior management? This is the first in a series of three articles (to be published in successive issues of EM) that provide insight into strategies to: determine EHS needs (Part 1); organize these resources effectively (Part 2); and sell the concepts to executive management (Part 3). This material is not based on theory. The authors are senior-level EHS practitioners who have successfully dealt with management executives and boards of directors in resolving these issues and, in doing so, have mastered the techniques presented. The methods are similar to those effectively employed by other functional disciplines to define and obtain resources. Written in the context of a corporate EHS group, these techniques can be modified and adapted to any functional level within a broad range of organizations. Whether you are an individual contributor or a manager, these articles can help you to better understand resource issues.
Before you can approach management about resource changes, you first have to determine the level of resources appropriate to meet the company’s objectives. It may seem obvious and straightforward, but it is not. The greatest difficulty is maintaining objectivity during this process as careers are involved. Terminating an employee is among the worst tasks a manager faces. Justifying new resources can be brutally demanding for staff functions, especially if the company is not achieving financial targets and management suspects that existing support resources are not working optimally.
In this first of three articles, we take a look at methods to objectively “rightsize” EHS organizations. The makeup and the total level of resources are dependent on management goals, organizational structure, and a number of other factors covered in this article and in the two that will follow. Right-sizing an organization is not a sequential process; you will need to integrate the information from all three articles at various stages.