By: Stacey Godbold
Two Ways to Revive Disengaged Workers
In a recent podcast, Tom Carson, Founder of Sospes, talks about empathy being an essential part of a safety culture and the importance of closing the loop on communication when an employee submits an incident or close call.
Let’s expand on these topics and how safety software provides leverage to implement these concepts.
Why Employee Engagement Matters
Engagement is a critical aspect of improving employee safety. It makes the difference between a worker who will report issues and one who thinks there is no point in doing so.
Various studies have documented the importance of employee engagement and how it correlates with worker safety. Researchers have found that engaged workers are more likely to be aware of their surroundings and more invested in the best practices for safety. As a result, they are more likely to take steps to protect other employees and themselves.
On the other hand, unengaged workers are more likely to take shortcuts and participate in risky behavior. Because they may be in minimum effort mode at work, they will not take the time to report hazards, minor injuries, or near misses that could end up turning into more serious incidents.
Concentrating on engagement and making workers feel like partners makes a significant difference in company safety and health. A study at one company revealed that engaged employees were five times less likely to experience a safety-related incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident. When the company concentrated on strengthening its employee engagement, it saved over $1.7 million in safety costs after just one year. There are several important components to encouraging engagement, but an important one is to provide feedback to employees who participate in your program by sending acknowledgement of submitted reports, updates on what the company is doing about reported issues and notification when an issue is closed.
How Leaders Can Drive Engagement
Engagement is critical for safety, but it is often absent in the modern workplace. According to a Gallup poll, 36% of U.S. workers are engaged in their work, while 15% are actively disengaged.
Without active effort on the part of leadership, employees will not engage with their job, leading to potential health and safety hazards going unreported.
Empathy is a crucial contributor to safety. According to research, the empathy of workers makes them look out for each other like they would for themselves. More importantly, the empathy of leadership encourages employees to report potential hazards and incidents and become more actively involved in their safety.
A recent study showed that empathetic leaders had workers that reported higher levels of engagement. In the survey, 76% of workers reported high levels of engagement, as opposed to 32% of employees whose leaders were less empathetic. Cultivating this engagement and making workers feel like they are in a partnership with the company will help improve how they approach safety.
Empathy is a skill that any leader can cultivate. It requires taking the time to listen and understand the employee’s thoughts, emotions, and perspective, then demonstrating that you do with care and concern. The study mentioned above recommended that leaders imagine how their colleague or employee is feeling from their perspective, feeling that concern or similar emotion, then demonstrating so with active listening and asking engaged questions about their feelings, reactions, and experiences.
2. Close the communication loop
Although empathy is critical to driving engagement, employees also need to see action taken based on their suggestions or comments. If they see that a broken handrail is still broken a month after they reported it, for example, it will probably deter them from taking action on safety issues in the future.
They need to see that their actions make a difference in the workplace and improve their environment. Every worker wants to know their concern is heard, seen, validated, and addressed.
When you address and talk about an issue that an employee brings to you, even if it is not what they expect, they will start to feel like they are part of a team. It builds the trust and respect that is critical for engaged and active employees. This results in a cascade of benefits for the company: productivity improves, incidents go down, and the cost and duration of the incidents that do happen will decrease.
Using safety software closes the communication loop with employees, providing tangible proof that management is listening and appreciates input.
While this might seem intuitive and logical, it can be difficult for safety managers of larger organizations to take on additional activities when they feel their plates are overflowing. This is where effective safety software can help by freeing significant hours currently spent on administrative or clerical tasks to focus on the much higher value task of direct worker engagement. Sospes is a leading safety software provider and we have helped many companies improve their safety performance. We are here to help when you are ready – let’s get better together.