Inclusivity is a Small But Impactful Way to Increasing Employee Engagement

Often, we think that employee engagement needs to be something big, like how we engage with employees during things like safety awareness week, trainings, seminars, and other formal safety activities. This is usually because we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to be a part of it!

Big engagement is important but small engagement can also make a huge difference. In fact, small engagements can often be even more impactful than large.

Let’s dive into why the above is true and some simple ways you can achieve this.

Employee Cliques are Inevitable

It is in our nature as humans to be tribal. What I mean is, we tend to group ourselves together, depending on common interests that we share. For example, people in communities form groups depending on their personalities, music tastes, sports they like, shows that they watch, games they play, and books that they read, and more. And this creates divisions within the community sometimes known as a clique.

This is also true inside of companies. Perhaps, within your company, you can also identify the group of gamers, sports lovers, shy people, outspoken people, etc.

Inclusion Brings Different People Together

Although cliques are helpful in making sure that employees satisfy their social needs while working, it also can hinder employee engagement. Often, people who are loud and outspoken are the ones that speak up and engage. While those who are quiet and shy, then to just agree and avoid engaging.

Inclusivity helps with this problem-this helps to make sure that everyone can engage in the safety activities that you’ve planned. Also, this ensures that you aren’t showing favoritism because you keep selecting the same people for safety activities.

To make this happen, of course, you’ll have to put in the work. And the first step in doing so is identifying the cliques that exist within your company and the people who are part of each one. This won’t take much time – especially if you’re the observant safety manager that I know you are – your daily interactions with them will give you hints and clues.

After identification of the groups, next plan out simple tasks that can be executed. Examples of these are area inspections, document reviews, and policy feedback.

The last step is selecting the members for each task. Make sure that in one task, there is one member from each clique. For example, in an inspection task, make sure that you take one member from the so-called sporty group, the shy group, the complainer group, and so on.

Since these are simple tasks, many of them can be completed in a short period of time. Thus, there may not be as much engagement as you were hoping for. To make up for this, you can increase the frequency of each task.

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In summary, people tend to form cliques. This is also true for employees in the company. So to make sure everyone is engaged and heard, inclusivity should be applied for the simple tasks in safety.

Small Steps Count When Increasing Employee Engagement in Safety

Safety Brye: [00:00:00] When I say you need to increase your employee engagement, what ideas come to mind? Is it a big safety awareness week or maybe a group project, or you have to do a new initiative in order to get them engaged? Well, I'm here to tell you that although those things are great to do, the small steps count just as much and sometimes even more.

Let's discuss.

Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year Safety Professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again, I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you. At The Safety Geek,

you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support, and employee engagement,

[00:01:00] all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place. Let's get to it.

Hello. Hello. Hello, my safety friends. So tell me. I want to know what means more to you, when you win an award for all of your hard work at the annual company banquet, you know that award for most accomplished, or, hey, you got the safety numbers down, or you know, the safety guy working so hard and the hardest working in our department, right?

Or when you go into work every single week and your team is always asking for your opinion on your work throughout the year. So do you want the one time award once a year, this big grand gesture? Or do you

[00:02:00] appreciate the fact that they actually want your opinion? It might be both. You might be like, yeah, I want my opinion, but I also want my recognition.

And more than like, you're also thinking I want the pay bump too. I know I would, but my point is, is that both of these are great. But which one actually makes you feel good about the company that you're working for? And I would bet that it is going to be that one where they are constantly asking for your opinion, just because that shows that they value what you're doing as opposed to you working your butt off all year.

And once a year they give you this award. Does that good feeling from that one time big gesture make you feel good about the company you're working for all year long? So when we're building engagement in our workplaces, what we need to realize is that the

[00:03:00] small gestures count just as much as those big grand gestures. And remember when we talk about engagement, what does engagement mean? I know that we defined this a couple of episodes ago, but it is the level of dedication and enthusiasm a worker has for their job. It's how much they love what they do and who they work for. It's that feeling of a sense of pride in their work and having common goals of the organization.

So like they really take on the goals of the organization. So does having that employee banquet or that employee appreciation week, or that safety awareness event or that safety committee, does that check off all of those boxes? I would say probably not, but one of the easiest ways that you can actually check off all those boxes is inclusion. It's including your employees in your processes, your decisions, and your

[00:04:00] initiatives. It's including employees and including their feedback and their opinions in your work, and it's actually seeking out their input and treating it as valuable. Those are the easiest ways to check off all of those boxes that will actually give them dedication and enthusiasm for their work.

When they're included, they will love what they do. They will love who they work for because they have a piece into that goal of that organization, and they will have pride into how it turns out because they were part of the decision. So before we go any further, let me take you down a side road for a second.

You know how much I love psychology, so let's talk about that for a while. So when it comes to inclusion, you have to actually approach it a very specific way. And you can't do that until you kind of understand the employee dynamics that are going on in your workplace. So when there is a group of people,

[00:05:00] regardless of where this group of people are, right, let's just say for you, it is your employees. When you have a group of people and they are put together not by choice, because like quite honestly, they're not there by choice. They need a job and they don't get any choice into who you hire. They will automatically break off into tribes or into cliques. That is just the way that the human brain is wired.

It is human nature to be tribal. It is human nature that like attracts like, right? And that similar interests or people with similar backgrounds or people of similar ages or experience, they tend to stick together. So when you look at your group of employees, you likely have employees that are of the same age that kind of stick together, or maybe they have the same military background and they kind of stick together. Or maybe they grew up in the same neighborhood. Or maybe you have your gamers over here and your people that like

[00:06:00] sports over there. Right? So as much as a lot of people don't like cliques, that is human nature, right? That is just kind of what our human brains do. You actually have to fight that. Now, there are people that are gamers that also like sports, right?

So they can belong to both. But you have to understand that there are those cliques in there and I could totally go off on a tangent of racism and things like that, but we're not gonna do that here. We're not gonna do that now, but just understand that this is the way that the human brains work. And that we have to fight it in order for that not to be the case.

And most people are not gonna do the work to fight that. So the other thing that you need to consider is that when you have a group of people, everybody has their own communication styles as well. So you have people within your organization that are very quiet and you have those that just love to speak out. They're very

[00:07:00] opinionated or they wanna share. You also have those who are like complainers that all they wanna do is complain and nothing that you do is right. And then you have those that are cheerleaders where they don't really have an opinion. It's just whatever you do is great and it's amazing and yay.

Right? So you have all of those people too. And there's other different communication styles out there. But the problem is, is that your quiet people tend to get ignored due to the noise of your cheerleaders or the noise of your complainers. And then the people that do have the opinions end up sometimes not sharing them because you have way too many complainers.

And this is where you can see where if you have a lot of one communication style in your organization, it can kind of like take over your company culture, especially if you then combine it with the different groups as well. But like if you have a lot of complainers within your organization, it could almost look like a virus is going through your culture.

[00:08:00] Because when you have a lot of one, either one tribal group or one communication style, it influences the other people within your organization and then they tend to change. This is why if you as somebody who typically doesn't complain and then they're in a room of complainers, they start to complain as well, and that's where you kind of see it going as a virus.

This is like the dynamics of a group of people. You're gonna have this regardless, just the way the human brain kind of works. But if you're wanting to be a safety influencer, if you're wanting to actually be extremely effective in your role, then you need to understand these dynamics and you need to identify these dynamics within your organization.

And this is what can set you apart. Cuz most people don't think about this when they're working with their teams or when they're trying to get engagement or they're trying to get volunteers. They're not thinking about the dynamics of their workforce or the different in-groups or outgroups or the different tribes or cliques or communication styles. If you could

[00:09:00] start thinking that way, then you can adjust what you are doing to try to build that engagement. So instead of working against your company dynamics, what you'll do instead is go, okay, I understand this is in place, and then change up or offer different choices or different methods of communicating based on who that message is going to.

So what happens is that when we put out a call for feedback, or we put out a call for participation, It's likely that somebody who is in the group or in the communication style of the group that wants to speak out and help an opinionated group, that they are the ones that are gonna come forward first.

Your cheerleaders might be second, right? Your complainers being third. And when you do this often enough, what happens is that it's easy to work with those people because they're volunteering, they're raising their hand, they have an opinion. So then what happens is we

[00:10:00] leave out maybe the complainers or we leave out the quiet people, or we leave out the new people, right? So you do that enough, you can cause this split within your workforce and it creates what's called in groups and out groups. This is when you start hearing the terms of favoritism or the mean girls, right? Or they're the popular girls. They always get listened to. This is whenever you feel like your employees feel that there's favoritism within your workforce.

This is likely why. Because I don't believe that anybody is choosing to favor one employee over the other. It's just we do what's easy and what's easy is the person who's raising their hands saying, I have an opinion. Let me give it to you. As opposed to the quiet person who is like whatever, or the cheerleader who is just like, whatever you do is great, you know. Talking to the complainer is hard. Talking to the quiet person is hard. So it's not that

[00:11:00] we're purposely showing favoritism, but we're inadvertently doing it cuz we're creating these in groups and out groups. So to stop doing that, you need to include people from all groups within your employee dynamics in your engagement efforts.

And you may be thinking, well, I'm doing that right with my grand gesture. I'm doing that with the employee banquet. I'm doing that with the safety awareness event. I'm doing it with, you know, taco Tuesdays and Ice Cream Thursdays, right? Whatever it happens to be, I'm including everybody. But even in those cases where you include everybody, the outgroup is still not engaged.

Because the outgroup says, yeah, that's nice, but you're still outta touch because you're not specifically including them. You're not specifically including them in the decisions that led up to the grand gesture, right? So to truly stop this ingroup and Outgroup mentality, what you need to start

[00:12:00] doing is building your engagement in your program where it includes everybody, where everybody is included in the process of your safety program.

Now, I know you can't include everybody in your program because you mean you just can't. Once you get after about five or 10 people, it's like it's done. I can't include anybody else. Too many opinions means no work is getting done. But what you can do is include different people every single time, making that effort of not just picking the people who are raising their hands, not just picking the people that are the loudest, but going, okay, I have these dynamics within my workplace.

I want one person from each group. I want a complainer. I want a popular person. I want a gamer. I want a sports fanatic, right? Whatever it happens to be in your workplace, you pick from the different tribes and you pick from the different communication styles, and you pick a different person each time. So instead of picking whoever raises their hand, you actually pick them from that

[00:13:00] group. It become that whole elementary school awards thing, right? I'm always thinking about that when I don't actually pick who wants to be there, that I just randomly pick somebody. It's like that's what the elementary school awards used to be of who got the, what was it, the community award for the month, and they basically just went through all the students in the class.

That's what I want you doing. I want you going through all the students in the class. In your engagement stuff and you want to understand that small frequent asks are going to build engagement, but only if you are doing it in the right way, so you have a new checklist that you want to implement. Instead of it going out there, you run it by two or three employees from different tribes or different communication style.

You want, uh, feedback on a new policy or you're updating a policy, you run it by two or three different employees. Keep it small, but that little extra step of

[00:14:00] including them and being very specific of going, okay, I have this communication style I'm drawing from, I have this tribe that I'm drawing from. Will end up making everybody feel included in the long run. So you can include them in your do-it-yourself safety posters if you do those, if you make your own safety posters or make your own safety training or anything like that, you can include their image, their picture. If you have, you know, we used to do these dynamic PowerPoint presentations and we would choose different employees for that.

You can ask them to do quick assessments or inspections, you know, take 10 minutes and assess the workers in this area for me, I truly appreciate it. That is much more helpful in building engagement than at the end of the year or at maybe even once a quarter at the pizza party. You mentioned how they've been safe for, you know, 90 days or something like that. Because

[00:15:00] at the end, all of these tiny, small steps of safety management engagement is gonna build and it will change how you do business. It actually like builds all these different opportunities for engagement. And then when you don't do it, they're gonna be like, yeah, this, this manager never includes anybody. You know, this manager over here includes everybody , and that's what you want it to be. It's very easy to mess this up because it's so easy to just go with whoever's popping in your office or saying hi to you as you walk through.

You have to make an effort to seek out the people who are being quiet, to seek out the people who have nothing but complaints and include them as well. So half of it, I guess, will be easy because you have your people who are raising their hand and speaking up, and then half of it would be difficult. And sometimes they say no, right? They don't wanna give their opinion. So you have to kind of change your approach in

[00:16:00] order to eventually include them. So hopefully this leaves you thinking about your employee dynamics at your workplace and looking at it a different way. Cause I will tell you, most people do not do this. Most people just kind of go, yeah, they're really quiet and just ignore it from there.

If you actually make this effort, it definitely changes your safety program because you are becoming more of the influencer. So in our next episode, I'm actually gonna give you some practical steps that you can try as well for some small steps for safety engagement. But knowing these dynamics, will actually give you a leg up in that process so that as you are picking people for these small steps, you're picking them in the right manner.

So I want you to think about it over the next week. Maybe even draw it out and be like, okay, what kind of groups do I have? It's really interesting when you sit in the break room and you see like who sits with

[00:17:00] who and who's, who does stuff outside of work with who. And who sits by themselves and, and I mean it's really easy to kind of recognize your complainers and your quiet people cuz people that never talk to you.

Right. But it's really interesting when you break it up into tribes and you go, okay, my gamers over here, my gamers are mainly made up of like cheerleaders. Right? Or I have my sports people over here and they're mainly made up of my people who speak out. Right. And I have you know my crochet group over here, and there are people who are very quiet or whatever.

I have no idea what you have in your workplace, but it's very interesting to look at it. So think about it this week, see what you have, and then we, we'll chat again next week. Thank you so much, my safety friend. Talk to you later. Bye for now. Hey, if you're just getting

[00:18:00] started in safety or you've been out this for a while and are hitting a roadblock. Then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support and employee participation throughout your processes.

Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellows Safety Scholars over at Safety Management Academy, just go to to learn more and to get started. That's and I will see you in our next students only live session.

Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Small Steps In Safety Management Can Be An Opportunity For Engagement
  • Understanding The Different Employee Dynamics In The Workplace
  • Including All Employees In Your Safety Processes and Decisions Can Boost Your Employee Engagement
  • Different Communication Styles and Specific Approach To Company Dynamics
  • Simple Ways To Involved All Employees In Your Safety Goals

Links Mentioned:


Hopefully this leaves you thinking about your employee dynamics and how small gestures can have bigger impact on your employee engagement.

In our next episode in this series, I will give you some practical steps you can try. Knowing these dynamics will give you a leg up in the process.

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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.

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