Knowing Who Is Involved in Your Aviation SMS
For every aviation safety management system (SMS), the accountable executive must ensure the SMS is properly implemented and performing in all areas of the organization. To achieve this end, safety management teams work to ensure that all personnel participate in the aviation SMS.
Wishes and reality are two different ideas. The reality is that most employees care about the SMS about as much as the company's traditional safety program.
You may remember the traditional safety program where
- management had no accountability;
- employees were not afforded management protections against self-reporting; and
- little information passed between management regarding hazards and the efficacy of risk controls.
Yet unlike traditional safety programs, modern aviation SMS requires involvement from both management and employees. Did you catch this? All employees are expected to participate in the SMS, including management. This means:
- SMS training based on the role employees play in the SMS;
- Understanding their duties and responsibilities to the SMS; and
- Reading and acknowledging important safety communications.
Have You Read
- Why Employees Don’t Care about Your Aviation SMS – and How to Fix It!
- Aviation SMS: What’s in It for the Employee?
- How to Engage Difficult Employees in Aviation SMS
Does Management Really Want Employee SMS Participation?
How can the accountable executive be assured that all employees are involved in the SMS?
Before you read further, a question to ask is "Does the accountable executive really want SMS participation?" This is a fair question to ask because a small subset of companies are interested in standing up a "paper SMS" designed to simply "check the SMS compliance" box. Yes, I understand this will raise some eyebrows, but I've never been a "politically correct" type of person.
There are parts of the world where regulatory oversight is inadequate and a "paper SMS" remains a valid business decision. Furthermore, there are aviation industry segments that are not as heavily scrutinized for SMS compliance as the major airlines.
So while there are valid business reasons to implement a paper SMS, I'm guessing your SMS does not fall into this category. Otherwise, you would not be reading an article about improving aviation SMS participation.
How to Measure Employee Participation in Aviation SMS?
Senior management needs tools to monitor SMS performance. When we typically speak of SMS performance monitoring, we are considering:
- Number of safety reports submitted within past three months;
- How many safety newsletters have been published (for safety promotion)?
- How many days does it take to push reported safety issues through the risk management process?
- Is the number of overdue safety tasks increasing or decreasing?
- What are the top hazards affecting operations?
Another way to measure SMS performance is by monitoring whether "employees are actually involved in their SMS."
The Logins by Division chart is an extremely valuable tool for assessing which employee segments are participating in the aviation SMS, and which sections are not.
The precondition of this chart is that the SMS must have a modern data management strategy that goes beyond simple spreadsheets. To efficiently track employee behaviors, you will need aviation SMS database software or a computer server that can track user activity.
We will show how to create this chart. We also discuss how to uncover some insights that may help you increase employee activity within the SMS.
Related Aviation SMS Database Articles
- How to Choose the Best Aviation Safety Database Software
- When to Design Your Own Aviation SMS Database
- 7 Signs You Need an Aviation Safety Management (SMS) Database
Understanding Employee Performance Monitoring Chart
You will notice this chart is called "Logins by Division." Divisions are a way to logically organize SMS data according to how an organization operates, either functionally or by region.
Divisions are how organizations using the SMS Pro database group users and data in the SMS database. The concept of "divisions" affords security and a way to isolate data from other organizational units.
Divisions are commonly different departments or different organizational locations. For more information about the division in a safety program, see these articles discussing what divisions are in aviation SMS.
What the Logins By Division chart shows is a breakdown of:
- The number of users who have logged into the SMS database for each division within the past 30 days;
- Out of the total number of users in each division.
In our example chart, we can see that in the Flight Ops division, 14 out of a total of 40 users logged into their SMS database within the past 30 days. This information is critical because if an employee is not logging into the SMS, then they are not:
- Reporting safety issues;
- Reading safety messages;
- Dealing with assigned safety tasks;
- Viewing current safety concerns; or
- Or directly participating in the SMS.
Uncovering Resistance to Your SMS
The main concern for safety managers and front-line employees alike is participation. Aviation safety cultures with involved employees tend to have high-quality risk management processes with healthy participation activity. The Logins By Division chart shows us exactly this: how involved employees are.
But this chart shows even more than that, as it breaks down logins by division. This information is extremely helpful for safety management teams on several levels, as it:
- Shows which employee groups are involved;
- Shows which employee groups need to become more involved;
- Where possible areas of resistance to the SMS are; and
- Acts as a reference point for engagement levels vs perceived risk for each division.
The last two points are rather subtle implications of this chart, but are an invaluable tool for aviation safety managers. If managers see that one division, in particular, has substandard login activity, then they know that their safety promotional efforts need to be focused there.
Safety managers can also compare the aggregated risk of reported hazards against the level of involvement for each division – as involvement increases we would expect to see less risk with reported safety hazards.
Have You Read
- 4 Tools to Find Resistance to Your Boss' Aviation SMS
- Checklist to Quantify Resistance to Your Aviation SMS
- Overcoming Resistance to Change through Transparency in Aviation SMS
Important Things to Remember When Looking at This Chart
This chart displays meaningful data regarding employee participation levels as a whole and within each part of the organization – however, this data also hinges on WHO an organization’s users are.
For example, an SMS may have 100 total users in a particular division. However, it’s possible that some of those employees:
- Are only temporary employees;
- Are seasonal workers;
- Are part-time; or
- Are on leave of some kind.
In other words, it’s possible that the total number of users is not an accurate reflection of the working number of users. Every organization will differ on this – it’s simply up to the safety managers to have a good idea of how many regular users there are in each division.
The point here for safety managers is to ensure that you can explain the reason for any substandard performance activity, including login activity.
How to Access This Data
As said, having access to this chart entails either a company-wide server that can track user logins or company-wide SMS database software that can track logins. Each employee in the SMS would have a unique username to log in with, and the software would simply tally the unique number of user logins in the last 30 days out of the total number of users.
Moreover, since this chart specifically shows us user logins per division, those numbers would be tallied for each division rather than the company as a whole.
A note of caution: some companies use generic usernames and passwords for their SMS database. For example, we routinely see usernames like
- Chief Pilot;
- DOM (director of maintenance); or
The reason that safety managers use common or generic usernames is to share the SMS software account with multiple users. Their reasons are usually financial, especially when SMS software companies charge subscription costs based on the number of employees in a company.
To reduce costs, or to "game the system," safety managers create generic user accounts that do not track individual user access, but all user activity associated with the account. Therefore, if you have ten employees using the same account, this report does not accurately reflect the reality of the SMS' operations.
Additional problems may surface when users share accounts. Consider for example that you want to track employee training using an SMS database. When ten different employees share an account, it becomes impossible to track each individual employee's training records in the SMS database. Another instance where problems occur is sending important safety messages through the SMS database. When ten users share the same account, all employees must be accessing the same email account for safety communications.
To avoid these problems, best practices will have one user to each user account in the SMS database software. Otherwise, performance monitoring charts are not accurate.
Related Aviation SMS Software Articles
- How to Choose Aviation SMS Software - Educating SMS Professionals
- How Does Aviation Safety Software Improve Safety? - Aviation SMS
- Spreadsheets vs Software for Aviation Safety Management
How Does This Chart Relate to SMS Requirements?
Depending on how this chart is used, it can be used to fulfill many different aspects of aviation SMS requirements. For example:
- Safety Assurance pillar of aviation safety: this chart allows safety managers to ensure performance monitoring of their safety program;
- Safety Promotion pillar of aviation safety: it directs managers to where they do/don’t need to focus on promotion; and
- Continuous Improvement: knowing who is participating in your safety program is critical for improving aviation SMS performance.
In many ways, this chart is a powerful tool where the organization's safety management needs to focus their safety efforts.
Who Should Care about This Chart
Directly, this chart is most pertinent to safety management - including safety managers and department heads. Both areas of management have direct oversight over cultivating employee involvement in the safety program - both in the program as a whole and in each division.
Moreover, this chart has subtle but far-reaching implications for everyone in the safety program:
- All employees who are and aren't practicing proper involvement should be adequately acknowledged; and
- Safety executives will want to ensure that the allotted safety budget is being used efficiently.
Final Thought: Other Related Charts
Several other charts can expand the information found in the Logins By Division chart. The first is the All Issues By Division chart, which shows the total number of reported issues within a specified time frame. This chart allows safety management to assess the quality of active users. In other words, a safety manager can verify that the number of Logins By Division corresponds to the reported issues from each division.
If logins are high, but reported numbers are low, then safety managers should investigate further. Likewise, if login numbers are low but the number of reported issues is unnaturally high, then that is an indication that only a few employees in that division are fairly involved.
There are other creative ways in which safety management can correspond to the two charts to find more useful information about their aviation safety management system, such as by looking at proactive issues or audit issues as they correspond to employee involvement in the SMS program for each division.
Interested in Learning about Other Safety Charts?
- Safety Chart: Current Aviation Risk Management Priorities
- Safety Chart: Track Safety Performance in Aviation SMS Programs
- Safety Chart: Where to Focus Hazard Identification
Every employee has safety responsibilities. How do you track whether all employees understand their duties and responsibilities toward safety? Do you need help?
We believe a best practice for SMS is for all employees to understand their duties and responsibilities. This activity should be documented in your SMS. If you need help with your SMS, it may be you lack the tools to effectively manage your SMS.
Please watch these short demo videos to learn how you can benefit from using modern SMS database software.
Live SMS Pro Demo
Do we seem like a good fit for you? Want to see SMS Pro live? Sign up for a live demo.
Last updated January 2023.