For Operations Professionals, efficiency is the name of the game. The more efficiently you produce, the greater your output, which increases margins and ultimately improves your business.
Since production efficiency has such a direct impact on a company’s bottom line, not surprisingly, management tends to incentivize efficiency for workers. In other words, companies reward and celebrate employees who work more efficiently.
Adverse Effects of Incentivizing Efficiency
While this may seem like a logical and practical way to improve operational efficiency, it can actually be counterproductive. Incentivizing efficiency over all else may give your employees the unintended incentive to forego safe behaviors. While this could be something as simple as skipping a step on the stairs, it can also lead to drastic consequences such as unreported near misses, improper use of PPE, damaged equipment and injuries. All of these issues could result in a significant amount of time loss, OSHA fines and injuries. Simply, incentivizing efficiency might seem like a surefire way to improve productivity, but by doing so, you increase the likelihood of adverse effects that could not only harm your operational productivity, but increase the risk of incident for your workers.
So if incentivizing efficiency isn’t the most effective way to increase operational productivity, then what is?
How Valuing Employees Enhances Productivity
A study done by the University of Melbourne: “Workplace Health and Safety, Business Productivity and Sustainability” and a study completed jointly by Canada’s Queen’s University and Simon Fraser University: “High-Performance Work Systems and Occupational Safety,” both show that employees are more productive when upper management has made it abundantly clear that they value each and every employee. Furthermore, in work environments where management trust exists, these businesses tend to perform better overall than businesses where there is distrust between management and employees. These findings prove that if you value your employees and treat them with respect, then they will value your time and treat you with respect by giving their best and most efficient effort.
One of the most effective ways to establish trust and show your employees that you value them is by choosing to promote employee safety over all other corporate goals by rewarding safe behaviors, which in turn can actually improve long-term margins by decreasing the likelihood of adverse events. Celebrate employees who make an extra effort to practice safe behaviors and encourage them to speak out about any workplace hazards or ideas they have for keeping the work environment safer. When the VP of Operations values safety, you tell your employees that what matters most to you is them: their health and their safety. In turn, your employees will be inspired to work harder for you because they will trust management and believe that management has their best interests at heart.
Additionally, by valuing safety, you will create a safer work environment with fewer incidents and injuries. Not only can you improve operational efficiency by valuing your employees’ safety, but you also reduce lost time to workplace incidents.
If you want to prove your commitment to safety to your employees, you need to work with senior management to ensure your health and safety management system not only creates a safer work environment but your company is using the tools necessary that improves safety without disruption to your daily operations.
 Barling, Julian, Roderick D. Iverson, Zacharatos Anthea, “High Performance Work Systems and Occupational Safety,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 2005, Vol.90, No1, pp. 88-89