Encouraging Employee Participation

It becomes more and more difficult to recruit, retain, reward, and motivate our employees. Doing it well and consistently is an even bigger challenge. Employee engagement must be a part of the business strategy. Without excellent employees, our businesses are doomed to failure. When management plans to engage employees, and create meaningful work, it adds value to the corporation.

In order to create meaningful work, set goals for employees. Employees are most productive when they can see measurable outcomes in their work, and are held accountable for their work.

Create a culture of participation. This is easier said than done. Make it known that employees are expected to contribute and participate on a regular basis. When encouraging participation, center activities around something everyone likes – such as food! During meetings, have coffee and donuts. If your office is small, try to have a catered lunch meeting one day. Some offices have weekend activities, such as sporting events; however, it is essential to remember that the weekends are time for your employees to relax with their families. They may not want to spend the weekend with their colleagues.

Encourage creativity to find solutions – and implement solutions that employees have suggested. Nothing kills motivation and participation than a management team unwilling to implement new ideas or suggestions from employees. Your employees are the people on the ground floor. They are the front line of your business. Trust that they have ideas to make the workplace run a little more smoothly.

The new generation of employees entering the workforce aren’t the kind to stick around if their needs aren’t being met. Hopefully, with a few of these strategies, your employees will become engaged, and their needs will be met, as well as the needs of the company. Should you find your company with excess amounts of turnover, start talking to the employees that are leaving to find out why they are leaving. If they tell you, don’t retaliate against their reasons. Nothing will alienate current employees more than an abuse of power. Instead, learn from those reasons, and make adjustments in the company. When you make changes, and allow the employees to see those changes in effect, the company is setting a good example for those employees that are still currently employed.

Good luck in creating more participation within your business. It can be done, though it can be challenging at some places. If all else fails, admit the mistakes, and keep moving forward.

Encouraging Employee Participation in Safety Programs

“I wish we could get more participation in our Safety Programs from our employees.” How many of you Safety guys have uttered this phrase? I’m willing to bet a lot that nearly every single one of you have said this or something very similar to it. Encouraging employee participation is critical for any safety program to succeed.

Employees need positive encouragement to do safe things. First, let me clarify what positive encouragement or reinforcement means. It does mean acting in a positive way at work, such as saying nice things to employees, showing that you care about their safe work, etc. However, positive reinforcement is whatever encourages safe behavior. We can give all the pats on the back that we want, but if a pat on the back doesn’t encourage safe behavior, it’s not positive encouragement or reinforcement.

Reward employees for working safely. Do not reward employees for not having accidents. If you want a particular behavior to stop, introducing a safety incentive program will not change the behavior.

Example: your company has several vehicle incidents in a short amount of time and you introduce a safety game with a prize at the end of the game for the employees that do not have a vehicle incident. What do you think the issues will be with this safety incentive program?

Rewarding the people without an incident doesn’t actually reward safe behavior or working safely. It only rewards those employees that did not have an accident, which may not be due to safe behavior. Employers must reward the employees that are working safely for the bad behaviors to cease.

Celebrating milestones in any company is exciting, but you need to make sure that those milestones aren’t misleading. Going 350 days without an accident is great, but you should take the time to quantify those 350 days. How many hours have your employees worked in those 350 days? How many miles have they driven for work? How much have you produced in those 350 days? How many jobs have your employees finished in those days? Those are all important aspects of going those 350 days without an incident. Anyone can go 350 days without an accident if they aren’t doing anything.  Little details like this show your employees that you are paying attention to what they are doing and that you care about their performance and safety. By bringing in these extra components, you can give morale a boost and make your employees feel like they are making a difference in their workplace.

Your ultimate goal for employee participation in safety programs is that the employees are actively safe all the time, and they are safe for themselves, not because of a reward. Safety is done by the employees because they know that working safely at work will get them home safely at night. This is what we, as safety professionals, want to see in every company.

Encouraging Safe Behavior (Part I)

This month, I will be focusing on encouraging safe behavior both in the home and at work. Safety begins at home, but it spills over to all aspects of our lives. When you are safe at home, you are safe at work. Today’s posting will be the first in a several part series to encourage safer behavior and what we can do, either as employers OR employees to maintain a safe environment.

In order to make a plan to fix any unsafe behavior, you need to figure out what needs to change. For example, if your worker’s compensation claims are through the roof, what is the cause of most of the claims? Make a list of all the issues that you have found from claims or incidents.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It can be easy to become overwhelmed with all the information that you have collected. Do not allow yourself to become overloaded. Once you figure out what your most pressing issues are from your list of unsafe behavior, choose the worst offender to fix first. Only choose one issue to fix at a time, especially if you are new at creating a safety plan. If you choose more than one, it can be difficult for employees to keep up with all the new goals set forth. Choosing one issue to fix and one goal to spotlight keeps employees focused on that one goal. It also keeps the one goal at the forefront of everyone’s mind, thus making it more realistic that it will be achieved.

Set SMART goals to bring the number of claims or incidents relating to your reason for the highest number of claims down to zero. Remember, SMART stands for:

Specific: Statements such as “lower claims for ankle injuries” only give a broad, generic goal. In order to really accomplish lowering claims for ankle injuries, the goal needs to be more specific. A better goal would be: “Lower ankle injuries by 40% in the next six months.” The goal states exactly what needs to happen – lower ankle injuries by 40%.

Measurable: The goal above, “Lower ankle injures by 40% in the next six months,” provides an amount that the goal setter can really analyze at the end of the time period. In this case, the goal setter has a measurable number that needs to be met during a certain time period. This goal is measurable. The setter can review the goal at the end of the six months, and determine if it was successful by asking “Did we lower ankle injuries by 40% in the last six months?”

Attainable: Make sure that your goals are not over the top. Nothing kills morale faster than unrealistic expectations. If you have had an enormous amount of accidents and injuries this year, a goal like “No accidents for the rest of the year” is not realistic or attainable. However, if you were to make a goal that says, “Decrease accidents and injuries by 50% by the end of the year,” the goal is more attainable. It gives employees a goal and time frame in which to meet said goal. Ultimately, a goal like this one is more apt to be successful because employees will believe that it is realistic and achievable.

Realistic: Again, I’m going to use the same example in the above section (Attainable) because they go hand in hand. If your goals aren’t attainable or realistic, they aren’t going to happen. “Decrease accidents and injuries by 50% by the end of the year” gives employees a challenge, but not so much of a challenge that they are discouraged and morale is lowered.

Time Measurable: The surefire way to kill a goal is to keep it open ended. Goals cannot be met if there is no end in sight. Let’s take a look at our very first goal example: Lower claims for ankle injuries. This is an open ended goal. There isn’t a really good way to measure this goal. What if we lower ankle injuries one month, but increase ankle injuries the next? Has the goal been met or not? It’s a wishy-washy way to create a goal without much success attached to it. The second example, “Lower ankle injures by 40% in the next six months,” has a time frame attached to it. At the end of six months, the goal setter can review the goal and determine if it has been met or not. At the end of the six month period, the goal setter can ask, “Did we lower ankle injuries by 40% in the last six months?” This goal has a time frame attached to it, therefore, it can be measured, and deemed either successful or not.

Setting goals can be complicated. It can be hard to determine what is realistic and attainable without being too easy. Be sure to challenge your employees when making goals. Setting goals that are too easy is just as much of a morale killer as setting goals that are too difficult to reach. So to review today’s post, figure out what needs to change in your environment. Then, make SMART goals to see small changes. Remember, a more specific small goal (Lower ankle injuries by 40% in six months) is better than a broad goal for large change (No more ankle injuries).

Be safe out there!