ELYRIA, Ohio—If you want an effective environmental, health and safety program at your business, make sure to inspire your employees to take part, as a matter of both personal interest and group pride.
This was the message two speakers had for attendees at the Environmental, Health & Safety Summit of the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers, held April 26-27 at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio.
Workers can't be expected to get excited about EHS programs if they're not excited about their jobs, said Alex Pollock, founder and president of Equipping You L.L.C.
“Not too many people talk about loving Mondays,” Pollock said, citing surveys showing that 80 percent of workers dread going to work at the beginning of the week.
Many employees suffer from what Pollock called “60 Minutes Syndrome.”
“Around 7 p.m. on a Sunday night, people suddenly aren't feeling so good,” he said. “There's a peak of seeking medical help on Sunday nights.”
What employers need to do, according to Pollock, is to “move people from tired to inspired.” While money and perks are good motivators, he said, it is even more important to instill in employees a sense of passion, excitement and purpose about their work. They need to feel uplifted by company management and inspired by its sense of mission.
A great workplace, he said, is one in which workers know what is expected of them, have the opportunity to do what they do best, feel they get recognition for good work, and feel their supervisors care about them as people.
The last part, Pollock said, is indispensable. “The Gallup Organization found that no single factor more clearly predicts the productivity of an employee than his or her relationship with his or her direct supervisor,” he said. “You need to promote people who can empower and engage the passion of people.”
Employers need to create a workplace culture in which employees feel they “own” the company's safety program, according to Anne French, founding member and senior partner at Safety Performance Solutions.
“You need to instill a 'want to,' rather than a 'have to,' attitude in your employees,” she said. “The safety culture has an overwhelming impact on safety performance.”
Rather than enforcing safety rules from above, employers need to get employees to feel they have a personal stake in the program, according to French. That way, they will not only obey the rules but participate over and above what's absolutely necessary, she said.
She gave the example of two Domino's Pizza franchises in the same city that wanted to make sure their delivery drivers came to complete stops before leaving the parking lots.
The drivers at one store, she said, were told simply that closed-circuit cameras would record whether they came to a full stop. At the second store, the manager held a little ceremony every week and handed out gold stars to drivers who obeyed the full-stop rule.
“The drivers were all still young enough that this was an incentive,” she said.
What the drivers weren't told, French said, was that Domino's was also testing to see how well they obeyed other safety rules as well, such as buckling their seat belts and using their turn signals. At the end of the experiment, she said, both sets of drivers had increased their compliance with the full-stop rule, but only the drivers who received recognition had stepped up their observance of all driving safety rules.
“Getting employees involved matters,” French said. “We feel different when we have a choice.”