I have learned the value of employee involvement over the years. And life is so much easier when you don’t try to do everything yourself and include employees from the very beginning. Let me show you the difference I experienced.
MANDATING A POLICY
There was a mandate by the corporate office to train all our employees in a specific back injury prevention program. We were not given a choice about it, nor did we get to be involved in the decision. Just one day – here it is, now have all employees do this training or you will be penalized.
There was push back and confusion from the very beginning. We only did it because we were forced to, so no one bought into the program. We went through the motions, got our checkmark, and then moved one.
The results: lots of money spent, lots of time spent trying to get buy-in, and no change in the results.
EMPLOYEE INVOLVEMENT IN THE PROGRAM
A few years later, we were looking at our numbers for lifting injuries and, as a management team, trying to come up with an idea for improvement. Hey! What about that training we did a few years ago?
This time we discussed it. What were our needs, what did we like, what did we not like, and what did the employees think?
We talked to the safety committee, we talked to front line supervisors, we sat in the break room and talked to employees.
Every comment, idea, and suggestion was put on the table. We revamped the program with the employee’s suggestions and relaunched it.
The results: not perfect, but better. There was more acceptance in the training tasks, it fit into the operations better, and many more workers were actually using the lifting techniques.
LESSON LEARNED ABOUT EMPLOYEE INVOLVEMENT
Collaboration takes longer but delivers a better product with greater results.
We may think, as leaders, we know the best way to do everything. This is simply not true. A great leader knows how to leverage the knowledge and experience of their entire team.
Being open about a problem, whether it is safety-related or not, and listening to ideas from all levels of workers will always produce the best solution.
HERE ARE A FEW OTHER REASONS TO INCLUDE EMPLOYEES:
- They understand the job better than management, they know what will and won’t work. They understand the nuances of the operation; even the minor ones that have a big impact.
- They are the best at finding the most efficient way to do the job. You can set the safety and quality standards and then leave increasing productivity within those standards to them.
- They can take an idea and tweak it to make it better. Having the attitude that employees will be against your idea or that you know best, won’t get you anywhere. Ask for their help to improve your idea, this makes them part of it.
- They are more likely to be on-board if they are part of the process; they won’t fight something they helped to create or had the opportunity to help with. They have ownership of its success.
- It builds a team culture and loyalty to the organization. When everyone is working towards the same goal they gain a sense of pride and purpose; key elements to self-motivation.
- It improves communication between management and employees. They will feel more comfortable speaking up if they know they will be listened to and be part of the solution.
- They become empowered to fix problems. Instead of bringing you all the fires to put out, they will bring you possible solutions or fixes, making everyone’s job easier.
- It reduces turnover. People like to work in places where they are valued and included, so they are less likely to leave.
What project are you currently working on? It could be something as simple as reviewing a job hazard analysis or more complicated as developing a safety program. Whatever it is, change your process to include employees.
Gather a few on the workroom floor for 10 minutes and talk about what you are working on. Hang out in the break room and talk to a table of employees at a time. Ask for their opinion, ask what improvements they suggest, and actively listen to them. Make the changes they suggest.
Go back to them again and again, whenever a change is made or there is new information. Maybe there isn’t the budget for their suggestion, what do they think you can do instead?
When you go to implement, have some of the employees involved speak up and be part of it. These increases buy-in from others.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Most management teams don’t want to take the time to involve employees or they think there is no need to involve them. What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear any success (or horror) stories you have had with getting employees more involved.
You know, this article may be a great conversation starter with your management team. If they are not on-board with employee involvement, share this article with them by clicking the email link. It might just be the catalyst to change their mind.
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.