How to get employees to buy into the company’s safety program? In an ideal world, all our employees would use common sense, be accountable, look out for each other, look after machinery and work towards common goals –a ‘shared sense of purpose and shared alignment to the mission’ (Navy Seal culture).
Most people are willing and capable of doing this in the right environment. We all know that it is important to have a company culture that supports employees and empowers them, so how do we actually create this? What happens if you have provided training, have policies and procedures in place, your management are onboard but some of your staff are still not following safety guidelines? We aim to give you some practical tips on how to create a more effective culture in your business.
The impact of workplace injuries and diseases
Fortunately, research shows that companies that create a culture of safety in the workplace have demonstrated a reduction in workplace illness and injury by up to 40%.
This is significant as workplace injury and illness obviously affects a company’s bottom line. The cost to the Australian community, employers and workers, according to Safe Work Australia, is shown in the figure below.
The importance of creating a great company culture with a focus on safety
A company’s workplace culture is vital in influencing the organisation’s production output and safety protocol. You can have all the right systems in place but without the right culture in your organisation, you can run into resistance and lack of buy-in to procedures and policies. A positive workplace culture recognises that staff need to know they are supported; which training, systems and structure will provide. With clear guidelines and intent that is well articulated, employees can become more autonomous, rather than being micromanaged. Employees work best when they feel valued, have a purpose and can make an impact on something and usually respond to recognition and reward when it considers who they are - their likes and interests.
The employer and management also need to demonstrate the company values and beliefs regarding safety, it is not just enough to write policies and guidelines - they must lead by example. For example, the employees need to be sure that it is a priority for management to value safety over speed.
DHL Express are considered a leader in creating a positive workplace culture. The following article is worth a read to gain some insight into how they went about this.
Disney is also considered to have a great work culture and they attribute much of their success to the engagement of their employees. They are known for genuinely showing that the company values and cares for their employees.
Why employees ignore safety guidelines
It is useful to look at why employees do not respond to safety guidelines and take risks. It is important to get to the root of the problems and understand the assumptions and values that are in place to create this work environment. As stated in Hazmat School
It could be related to the following:
What is required is a shift in these beliefs and values before the culture will change. As a manager or employer, you might be saying to yourself that you do all the right things, provide training, policies and procedures, and the staff know that they need to follow the safety guidelines, yet it still doesn’t happen.
Interestingly, a study by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield showed that many companies display significant discrepancies between the company culture that management want, and think is in place, compared to how the employees see the company culture.
“They found while leaders say they want innovation, initiative, candour and teamwork; what employees feel is really valued, is obedience, predictability, deference to authority and competition with peers. Employees say their leaders hype one set of behaviours but reward another.”
Check out Part 2 of this blog for tips on how to change the safety culture.