Employee engagement describes a measure of the emotional investment and commitment employees have toward their company's success. Engaged employees feel a connection and involvement with their company; they feel valued and appreciated and are an asset to the organization's overall success. Sustained employee engagement can improve innovation, communication, employee retention, productivity, quality, and safety. Companies with a high level of employee engagement have a culture where employees feel an emotional attachment to the company, and its vision, mission, ethics, goals, and objectives.
How does employee engagement impact safety?
According to a Gallup 2016 study that examined more than 82,000 business units and 1.8 million employees in 230 organizations, companies with employee engagement scores in the top 25% of Gallup's database had 70% fewer safety incidents compared with companies with engagement scores in the lowest 25%. This ties strong employee engagement with improved safety performance, which makes a lot of sense. Why? Because when people are involved and believe their work matters, especially regarding safety, they take ownership of the program and want to see it succeed. When building an effective safety culture, employee engagement is crucial toward getting employees to “want” to do the right thing when no one is watching.
How can a company strengthen employee engagement to improve safety performance?
Sustaining employee engagement might be the most challenging job for a supervisor, but it is fundamental for improving a company's safety culture. Often, supervisors become focused on production and managing a work project and neglect the responsibility of communicating with their staff as an effective safety leader. The most successful supervisors make time to regularly interact with their workers to understand them as individuals better, build trust, and involve them in the safety process.
How can supervisors increase employee engagement levels?
- Their name
- Their position in the company
- How long they have been with the company
- A little about their family. Are they married? Do they have kids? etc.
- Their hobbies, interests, and past work experience
Finally, communicating positive feedback is proven to be more effective in establishing good safety behaviors than merely providing punishment for unsafe acts. Positive reinforcement increases a worker’s self-esteem and motivation to work safely and encourages employee engagement in the safety program. When it is appropriate to apply disciplinary actions for an unsafe act or safety violation, disciplinary actions will be more powerful. An employee who has been built up on positive reinforcement will not want to disappoint their supervisor.
The concept of employee engagement can mean different things depending on the person to whom you are speaking. Some believe it means passionate employees, happy employees, or satisfied employees. For safety leaders, it means safer employees. Employees who are engaged have a “want to” versus “have to” attitude and are emotionally invested in the safety program's success.
Ultimately, the supervisor plays the key role in sustaining employee engagement and influencing safe work behaviors. Everyone wants to feel understood. The more a supervisor knows about their workforce on a personal level, the more effectively they can influence safe behaviors and inspire employees to be committed to company safety goals. When a supervisor knows what is important to a worker – what motivates them – they can better communicate the importance and value of safety. If employees are effectively engaged and involved in the safety program, it will positively contribute to the overall workplace environment and motivate them to care more about their safety and their co-workers' safety.
- Employee Engagement: The Key to a Strong Culture - AEU LEAD - Sep 23, 2019 - Joe White
- Engaged Workplaces Are Safer for Employees - Gallup Business Journal - May 24, 2016 - Brandon Rigoni and Bailey Nelson
- How Engaged Workers are Safe Employees - August 16, 2017 EHS - Michelle Boeldt