When I was growing up, I was told that to be successful you needed to get hired by a large company, stay there, and move up. Be loyal to your company and they would be loyal to you. In those days, they didn’t need employee engagement ideas because dedication to your work was a given.
It’s not that way anymore. Very few companies show loyalty to their employees; the bottom line and profits drive their actions. I get it, if it’s a public company, they’re going to answer to their stockholders, not their workers.
The result of this is a workforce that sees their job as just that – A JOB. A means to an end.
WHAT IS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
Employee engagement means that the employees have a sense of pride, accomplishment, and passion for their work. They’re as dedicated to the company’s goals as their CEO is.
This isn’t about happiness or satisfaction. It’s having a sense of purpose in their work.
WHY IS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT IMPORTANT IN SAFETY?
Improving engagement has a positive impact on all aspects of the organization, from employee morale, quality, operations, but especially safety.
Think about it…if you like your work and see yourself working there for a long time, you don’t want to mess that up with injuries – yours or other workers.
Engaged employees will participate in safety and drive the safety culture in a positive direction. They take it personally when an unsafe act or injury happens because they see how it affects the goals of the company; their goals.
SIMPLE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT IDEAS
To build employee engagement, you have to be deliberate. Waiting for it to happen on its own, will take too long for you to reap the benefits. Here are some ideas to get you started.
DIRECTLY ASK THEM TO HELP YOU
But if you don’t have an engaged workforce, you may have to give them a little push.
Casting a wide net and asking for volunteers to help doesn’t work as well either. You know what I mean – putting up a posting asking for Safety Committee members and all you get is crickets.
Know what you need help with and go directly to specific employees and ask for their help. It’s human nature to want to help if it’s easy and convenient. It’s also harder to say no face-to-face.
So look at what you’re doing, pick one small piece of it that isn’t hard to do, and ask for help. Do this enough and you’ll have a team that is used to pitching in.
ASK FOR THEIR FEEDBACK AND BE OPEN TO CRITICISM
This relates to asking for help but has less of a time commitment from the employees. For everything you do, ask employees directly for feedback.
There are a few tricks to this.
1. You have to make sure they feel comfortable criticizing you. If they think you’ll take it personally or hold it against them, they’re less likely to be open. So you have to practice taking criticism.
a. Don’t be defensive
b. Only explain yourself if they ask for an explanation or the context is needed in a follow-up question. (example: they criticize one area and your response is “I did it that way because….” rather than “I was thinking….why do you think that doesn’t work”
2. You have to ask them specifically to pick it apart. When you ask for feedback, people are more likely to give you positive feedback. Although that feels good, it doesn’t move you towards collaboration with your employees. When you ask them to point out one thing that can be improved, you’ll get a much more productive response.
SAFETY IMPROVEMENT SUGGESTIONS WITH ROI BONUS
Many businesses have suggestion boxes and solicit ideas from the staff. Not every idea is a change to a process, in fact, most are minor improvements.
But if you throw a bonus into the game, you’ll get a lot more participation and bigger ideas.
You could give 10% of the savings as a bonus to everyone or pick one idea a month or quarter. Create a trophy that gets passed around the facility – the person with the safety idea of the month gets to keep the trophy at their workstation.
Like a Safety Stanley Cup.
COMMUNITY SERVICE PROJECT
This idea helps the management team unite with the employees on projects that employees care about that may have no benefit whatsoever to the company.
When you take an interest in what your employees care about, then they’ll return the favor and care about the company they work for.
Survey your employees and ask what charities they would want you to support. Then organize a team project that employees and management can work on together to help that organization.
It could be a fundraiser or volunteering directly for the charity.
Matching funds or hours does build engagement but not as well as the management team getting their hands dirty and doing the work for the charity.
Another one that isn’t necessarily safety-related (and I know some Safety Managers are cringing at the liability issues on this one), but it does build a team atmosphere and engagement among employees.
When you play sports together, you work better together. So create a company softball, bowling, running team.
If you can’t unite around a company goal right now, you can unite around your team winning.
Be sure to include non-players, encourage them to come out to the event, and cheer on their co-workers. Not everyone can be on the team, but everyone should be welcome to join.
“WHY I WORK SAFE” BULLETIN BOARDS
Bringing families and hobbies into the workplace will always be one of the great employee engagement ideas.
Ask your employees to bring in a picture of what is important to them. It could be their kids, family, pets, or even their motorcycle or hot rod. What is the reason they work so hard every day?
This is the same reason why they need to work safely every day.
Show off the pictures and keep them updated in an employee common area.
EMPLOYEE TO EMPLOYEE COACHING
Promote and possibly incentivize employees to coach and mentor other employees. This is similar to a “See Something, Say Something” program, but you want to encourage positive reporting as well as corrective.
When everyone is looking out for one another, it increases teamwork, morale, and safety rules get corrected at the same time.
WORK ON SAFETY ENGAGEMENT FROM THE START
I believe that you shouldn’t wait to put employee engagement ideas into action. Too many times Safety Managers think they need to have all their regulatory programs in place first.
The truth is, working on safety culture and employee engagement from the start makes getting programs in place easier and reduces re-writes in the future.
These are easy steps you can take now, every day, and over time your engagement will grow.
Pick one of these employee engagement ideas and put it into action right away.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Which idea was your favorite? Or do you have one I didn’t list? Post a comment below. I would love to know.
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.