Good safety managers know the value of having a happy team—and the cost of an unhappy one. How can you consistently create a positive environment that fosters a zero-injury safety culture? We spend a lot of time speaking with safety managers and other safety professionals, so we’ve really seen everything when it comes to how managers can effectively support their teams. We’ve compiled some tips for how to keep morale on the up and up, ranging from easy things you can implement immediately to some longer-range techniques.
But first, let’s talk about why having a happy team is important. If the work is getting done, that’s all that matters, right? Why do we need to be worried about how everyone is feeling? When employees are uncomfortable, don’t feel appreciated, or are otherwise disengaged, they are far more likely to introduce greater risk to themselves and the rest of the team. For example, if they don’t like the PPE garments they’re required to wear, they might make a few adjustments in the name of comfort and thereby seriously compromise their safety.
People are more likely to follow rules that make sense to them and that they’ve had a hand in creating because it gives them a sense of competence and autonomy. And workers who like being at work are less likely to leave to find work elsewhere. Keeping turnover low increases team cohesion and helps avoid the high cost of replacement when things go wrong, which helps the bottom line. And zero-injury safety culture doesn’t just save money; it saves lives. Including your employees in creating that culture in big and small ways can align everyone around that shared purpose: doing a good job and getting everyone home safe at the end of the day.
Quick Morale Boosters:
Sometimes it’s as simple as that. A quick Google search of ‘gratitude in the workplace’ returns pages upon pages of results extolling the virtues of expressing gratitude at your job. Research shows the benefits are wide-reaching, boosting individual wellbeing and improving team dynamics. While everybody loves when the boss brings in coffee and donuts or pays for lunch as a more overt display of appreciation, you don’t have to pull out all the stops to make a difference. Just making a conscious effort to consistently thank your employees for the work they do daily can help create a positive feedback loop in which everybody feels more appreciated. …And buying lunch for your team also can’t hurt.
Open the Door
Making sure your employees know you’re available to receive their feedback is a quick shift you can make now that will pay dividends in the long run. Let your team know that you intend to keep the lines of communication open, and then really keep them open. If the lines are a little rusty, explicitly invite feedback so your team knows that they can talk to you about issues they might be having with a particular process, or something they don’t like about their current workwear that can help you plan for the next PPE selection process.
Cancel a Meeting
Take a look at your team’s meeting schedules and see if there’s any way you can cut down on meeting frequency. “Too many meetings” is a very common complaint across most industries, and when people feel like their time isn’t being valued, it can cause simmering resentment. So besides the meeting you might add to the calendar to announce your open-door policy and invite feedback… the next time you’re about to call another meeting, ask yourself, “Could this be an email?”
Build a Happier Future
Communication Is Key
Now that you’ve established your open-door policy to invite feedback, we cannot stress enough how critical it is to maintain a focus on clear, effective communication throughout everything you do with your team. When something goes wrong, it can almost always be traced back to something that wasn’t communicated. Maybe someone wasn’t wearing their FR clothing properly because the reasoning for how it was required to be worn wasn’t explained, so they didn’t think it was a big deal to wear it differently. Or perhaps a piece of equipment malfunctioned, but nobody told the next person who touched it. Human error accounts for almost all the incidents that can occur, so control what you can with ample communication to mitigate those costly mistakes.
Collaboration Over Competition
Collaborative teams are safer teams because everyone is playing on the same side. And as they say, two heads (or more) are better than one. Sharing information and ideas creates better outcomes for everyone, strengthening processes and protocols by taking multiple perspectives into account and asking more questions than just one person could. The input that comes in through the aforementioned open lines of communication should be received with a collaborative mindset to allow for that input to be incorporated. For example, with wear trials, gathering employee feedback is essential to ensuring the success of the resulting PPE garments. With more comfortable options on the market than ever before, it’s so important to understand what garments your employees are most comfortable in, because they will only be as safe as they are comfortable.
Trust Takes Time
Building trust with your team is something that occurs over time, so it’s important to bear in mind that you are building (or eroding) trust incrementally with each action you take. The best way to build it is to consistently match your words with your actions. Under promise and overdeliver. When you ask for feedback, look for ways to incorporate it so that your team knows that their opinions are truly valued. Take the time to get to know your people as people—do they have kids? What are their names? You don’t have to be everybody’s best friend, but when you work with someone day in and day out, you probably want to know a little bit about each other and what you care about. The trust and rapport you foster will go a very long way in creating a zero-injury safety culture that gets everyone home safe at the end of the day.