How Employee Engagement Impacts Safety Culture: A Survival Guide

10-things-employee-engagementemployee engagementIn the previous article of this series we looked at the first three drivers (of six) for building employee engagement to strengthen the safety culture. In this issue we’ll address the final three drivers of engagement for a stronger safety culture. Keep in mind that these drivers should not be considered in isolation. They are interrelated and intended to be integrated together to be most effective. We’ll return to this point at the end of the article, and provide an example of how this works.

As a reminder, the drivers of engagement 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

Drivers of Engagement

Since we’ve already covered the first three of these in the previous article, we’ll elaborate only on drivers 4-6 below:

4. Opportunities for development and growth: The normal learning path for moving from an Operator 1 to an Operator 2 position is one way to accomplish this, but that’s not the primary idea here. Instead, we should discover what drives each employee individually so that we can help them create a personalized development plan to reach their own personal goals. Where do their natural talents lay? What do they want to get better at? Where would they like to be in three years? Our job as leaders is to discover this and help them grow personally.

As we are doing this, we should keep in mind that many employees think in limited ways about their advancement opportunities. An Operator I can be promoted to an Operator II, and then perhaps to a senior operator position, but then they find they are stuck at that level because someone else already occupies the supervisor position. As leaders we need to help them think though an alternative route. Often the way up requires a lateral move first. Help them discover that path and the skills they might need to make themselves more marketable. Cross training is a great option for this because it helps them develop those skills while gaining a better understanding (“line of sight“) of the entire business process.

5. Regular, quality, two-way feedback with a supervisor: Your employees have a need to know what you think of their performance on the job. And it’s not fair to them to wait till the end of the year to tell them this during their performance reviews. Some of us do a pretty good job of pulling them aside and having a conversation with them while out on the floor or in the field, and that’s important for purposes of building relationships with them.

But that kind of discussion (impromptu as it is) doesn’t allow them enough preparation time to have a meaningful discussion focused on performance. That type of discussion needs to be scheduled (once a month for 15-30 minutes or so is ideal for this). Let them take some ownership for this conversation by taking the initiative to get on your calendar and decide what day and time works best for them.

Also, this should be a two-way conversation, not just you doing a lot of talking about their performance. Solicit their thoughts on how well you are doing as a leader, and make changes based on their input. This will go a long way toward establishing trust and respect, both of which are crucial for building levels of engagement.

6. Immediate recognition for achievement: The occasional team dinners or other means of recognizing team achievement are good to do, but they are no substitute for recognizing the achievements of each individual. And it doesn’t have to cost anything. By simply praising them for going above and beyond expectations makes them want to come to work the next day and do it again.

And while there doesn’t need to be a lot of pomp and ceremony around it, make recognition a public thing (in a team meeting, or in front of a senior (executive) leader in the company). Follow the principle of PPPP (Punish Privately, Praise Publicly). Some employees may tell you they don’t want you to say anything publicly about what they did to help the team. This is usually the result of telling them ahead of time what you plan to do. So don’t tell them you’re going to do it — just do it. There are more people who say they don’t want public recognition than there are people who don’t want public recognition!

Some Final Thoughts

You may have noticed as you worked through these drivers that they are interconnected to each other. If you’re doing one, it’s assumed you’re doing another. For instance, figuring out what they want to do developmentally will require regularly scheduled one-on-ones with them. That’s intentional. Integrate these drivers in a way that becomes second nature to you in your own leadership, and before you know it you will have built their levels of employee engagement.

Take a look below for the video version of this and the previous article for more information on how employee engagement impacts safety culture. That’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.




About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.