How to Drive Employee Engagement in a Safety Culture

drivers of engagementIn our last issue we looked at the importance of building levels of employee engagement for a stronger safety culture. Simply stated, engaged employees are safer on the job and tend to lead a safety culture rather than merely comply with it.

We also saw that, in addition to driving levels of engagement, we need to create an infrastructure that’s conducive to that effort. Actions like building relationships of trust, promoting a team environment, and keeping out finger on the pulse of the workforce will go a long way toward making this effort sustainable. deesc[content_protector password=”deesc” identifier=”deesc”]

The Drivers of Engagement

There are six drivers of engagement that we can use to build levels of engagement in our employees to strengthen our safety culture. It’s important to understand that while we should be looking for direct application of these drivers to specific safety situations, even a generic application of these drivers will strengthen a safety culture.

Why? Because as we mentioned in a previous article in this series, a heightened level of engagement entails a heightened sense of ownership, and a heightened sense of ownership entails a greater commitment to safe behaviors.

Hence, if we build levels of engagement, even generically, the safety culture will benefit from that effort. Having said that, we’ll make a special effort here to apply these drivers specifically to a safety culture.

The drivers of engagement that we’ll be exploring include:

  1. Perception of job contribution and value of the job
  2. Clarity of job expectations and the ability to work well
  3. Involvement in decision making
  4. Opportunities for development and growth
  5. Regular, quality, two-way feedback with a supervisor
  6. Immediate recognition for achievement

We’ll take a look at the first three drivers here, and save the final three for the next article.

FCTC OnlineDriver 1: Perception of job contribution and value of the job: Do I as an employee understand how what I do on the job contributes to the big picture? In other words, do I have a clear “line of sight”? Line of sight refers to an employee’s ability to see the larger picture of how what they do on the job impacts the end game. Employees who have a clear line of sight make better decisions on the job and understand the value of their contribution. As an employee, the more I understand the end game of my job, the more engaged I will be as an employee.

One of the best ways to build “line of sight” and to get employees to understand how what they do impacts everything else is to cross-train them on other positions in both directions of the process — or at least let them observe that process! Where do the materials for the widget they make come from (upstream), and what happens to that widget after they make it (downstream)? How does the widget they make help build the larger machine, and how does the customer use it and perceive it?

All of this is important for establishing an employee’s line of sight and for building their level of ownership around what they do on the job. Principles of engagement dictate that as ownership for the job grows, so does their commitment to a safe work environment.

Driver 2: Clarity of job expectations and the ability to work well: Do I as am employee understand all that you expect me to do, or am I left to guess? And have you provided me the tools and training I need to do my job well, or am I left to figure that out on my own? The more I understand the expectations of my job, the more engaged I will be as an employee. 10 Things You Absolutely Must Know about Reinforcing Your Safety Culture By Building Employee Engagement

One way to verify and even build clarity of job expectations is to put them in charge of the documented safe-work procedures. You probably have a JSA (Job Safety Analysis) for each job they do, as well as SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that record what the job is supposed to be. When’s the last time these documents were updated? More importantly, who does the updating? Updating and maintaining these documents is best done by the employees who actually do those jobs. Not only does that give them a voice in what they do, but it also helps clarify job expectations for them.

Driver 3: Involvement in decision making: Do I as an employee have a voice in what I do on the job and how I do it, or are you deciding this for me? The more ownership you give me for what I do on the job, the more engaged I will be as an employee.

There’s an axiom I like to use in my workshops that goes like this: “No one disagrees with his/her own ideas.” If I as a manager or supervisor tell you as an employee what to do on the job and just how to do it, those end up being my ideas and not yours. And because they are not your ideas,you’ll never internalize them or be fully committed to them.

Another New e-Book by safetyBUILT-IN!But if I allow you to determine how you do that same job in better ways, now it’s your idea. And if it’s your idea then you won’t disagree with it later. Giving our employees a voice in what they do and how they do it fosters a sense of ownership in them, which in turn (as we’ve already shown) raises their levels of engagement and their commitment to a safe work environment.

The same principles hold true when applied specifically to a safety culture. By giving our employees a voice in that safety culture (whether through participation in safety committees, giving them the lead in safety communication in their toolbox meetings, or some other safety-leadership activity) we only strengthen that culture.

In our next issue we’ll look at three more drivers of engagement and make the connections to strengthening a safety culture. That’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS Newsletter. Until next time.

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About the Author

Eric Svendsen
Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.