A study by EHS Daily Advisor found that over 90% of safety professionals believe that lack of employee engagement is the biggest barrier to improving safety performance. This suggests that if safety professionals wish to improve safety performance, they need to find a way to overcome this barrier and encourage company-wide participation in their safety programs. But in at-risk, high turnover industries with multiple operating jobsites, increasing employee engagement can present its challenges.
However, in a Harvard Business Review article titled: “What Great Managers Do,” James Harter and Amy Adkins provide great tips for increasing employee engagement. Referencing a Gallup Report, Harter and Adkins argue that communication is crucial to increasing worker engagement levels. Harter and Adkins state: “Gallup has found that consistent communication – whether it occurs in person, over the phone, or electronically – is connected to higher engagement. For example, employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings with them.” Evidently, the key to increasing worker participation is for safety leaders to communicate regularly with their employees, whether it’s in person or remotely.
Harter and Adkins go even further and claim: “Gallup also finds that engagement is highest among employees who have some form (face-to-face, phone, or digital) of daily communication with their managers. Managers who use a combination of face-to-face, phone, and electronic communication are the most successful in engaging employees. And when employees attempt to contact their manager, engaged employees report that their managers return calls or messages within 24 hours. These ongoing transactions explain why engaged workers are also more likely to report their manager knows what projects or tasks they are working on.” So the key is to establish a means of 2-way communication and to communicate regularly. The concept seems simple enough, yet, cross company communication is often easier said than done.
For the most part, the reason large at-risk companies struggle with communication is because the status quo for managing safety programs is still paper processes, supported by Excel. Paper processes limit your ability to have 2-way communication. Onsite employees fill out forms and indicate the need for corrective actions, which is essentially a way of communicating hazardous conditions. The forms eventually make their way to the safety professional but with paper processes, there’s no efficient way for the safety professional to communicate back to the onsite worker. Paper processes only allow for 1-way communication and since communication plays such a vital role in increasing engagement, it’s clear why safety professionals are struggling. Even if you hold regular toolbox talks or safety meetings, if you’re using paper processes, you’re still lacking a means of immediate and consistent 2-way communication. To truly improve participation, holding regular safety meetings isn’t enough. You need constant and regular communication, especially in response to safety activities being performed if you want your workers to be engaged in them.
So how can safety leaders establish 2-way communication with all of their workers across all active jobsites? The answer is simple: technology. Harter and Adkins point out that digital or phone technology are both effective means of daily communication with regards to increasing worker participation. By moving away from the status quo and embracing user-friendly cloud and mobile support systems built for safety professionals you have the ability to create 2-way communication. Simple but powerful cloud and mobile technology allows your workers to perform routine safety activities with their mobile devices and then submit them in real-time. It also allows safety leaders to sign off on these forms immediately. This in itself is a form of 2-way communication as it allows onsite workers to see that their activities have been received and signed off by upper management. By having this transparency around corrective actions being assigned and closed, onsite workers are able to see how their routine activities are directly impacting their safety and are encouraged to be engaged in the process.
Getting employees to engage in the safety program can be challenging, especially when you are managing safety across multiple jobsites. However, when you abandon the status quo of paper processes and embrace technology, you facilitate a means of 2-way communication and break down the barriers to worker participation. The key is finding mobile and cloud technology that is easy to use and built to be used by the entire organization – not just the safety department. If the mobile technology is simple and easy-to-use, then you can establish a means of communicating with every level of your workforce and therefore improve worker engagement in safety.