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The Challenge of Employee Engagement in OHS

What is Employee Engagement in OHS?

Employee engagement in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) occurs when employees understand and are personally committed to helping their organization achieve its OHS-related goals. Engaged employees take responsibility and actively promote their company's OHS objectives.

Initiatives related to the environment, health, safety, and sustainability are not only required for compliance but are essential for business. Organizations that foster a culture where OHS is deeply rooted tend to excel in other areas as well.

OHS performance depends on the organization's connection with its workforce. Leaders can promote OHS objectives. Managers can ask employees to follow rules and 'work safely'. But without clarity on its importance, it is difficult for the workforce to achieve its OHS goals.

A strategy used by a growing number of companies involves looking at OHS from a broader perspective. While historically, commitment to OHS has been synonymous with job safety, this is no longer the case. With the growing interest in topics such as the total health of the worker, environmental care, as well as sustainability, the scope of OHS is much broader than in past years. Organizations are looking for ways to engage their workforce in this broad spectrum of OHS, providing new ways for people to participate in OHS and sustainability initiatives.

As companies develop their sustainability agendas, many of the traditional avenues used for engagement in safety now offer new opportunities for engagement in sustainability.

In essence, these organizations are looking to establish what could be described as a "culture of engagement". They increase engagement by establishing a wide range of OHS-related goals and showing employees how they can support that vision.

To understand what prevents organizations from being successful in employee engagement, Wiiprot recently conducted a survey of workers from various roles and levels of OHS. If employers know that engagement is important for OHS, and are investing time and money to improve engagement rates, why do they still struggle to translate these actions into higher levels of engagement?

Respondents mentioned several reasons, but the majority of OHS professionals stated that "resistance to change" was the main barrier to better engagement.

Barriers to Employee Engagement According to Wiiprot:

The Pillars of Employee Engagement in OHS

Given these challenges, how can organizations change their approach to improve employee engagement and enhance performance in OHS?

Implementing new procedures in any industry can encounter barriers, with one of the most challenging being resistance to change by employees. Overcoming this resistance is crucial to ensure a successful transition.

The following recommendations will help you face this challenge:

Active Employee Participation

Participation is a strategy to manage resistance to change. Robbins and Coulter (2017) point out that when people are involved in the change process, they tend to be less willing to resist and more willing to cooperate.

Reference: Robbins, S. P., & Coulter, M. (2017). Management. Pearson.

Training and Development

According to Armenakis and Bedeian (1999), preparing employees for change through training reduces uncertainty and builds confidence in the change process.

Reference: Armenakis, A. A., & Bedeian, A. G. (1999). Organizational change: A review of theory and research in the 1990s. Journal of management, 25(3), 293-315.

Recognition and Positive Reinforcement

Prosci (2018) states that recognition and rewards play a vital role in consolidating change and ensuring that it is sustained over time.

Reference: Prosci. (2018). Best Practices in Change Management.

Clear and Open Communication

Kotter and Schlesinger (1979) identified that clear communication about why change is necessary can help reduce resistance. Open communication can alleviate fear and uncertainty.

Reference: Kotter, J. P., & Schlesinger, L. A. (1979). Choosing strategies for change. Harvard Business Review, 57(2), 106-114.

Support from Management

Senior management must be a role model in change. According to Beer and Nohria (2000), visible commitment from senior management is critical to the success of the change.

Reference: Beer, M., & Nohria, N. (2000). Breaking the code of change. Harvard Business School Press.

Providing Feedback

Channels Aguirre et al. (2013) from Deloitte suggest that receiving feedback is vital for adjusting and optimizing the implementation of change in an organization.

Reference: Aguirre, D., von Post, R., & Alpern, M. (2013). The change leader’s roadmap: How to navigate your organization’s transformation. Deloitte Insights.

How Technology Can Make a Difference

So, how can organizations incorporate these concepts into their employee engagement efforts? The use of technology to achieve digital transformation in OHS plays a key role in this process.

Active employee participation: implementing a Pilot

Implement a pilot of the new process that can be quickly launched and used by a limited group of collaborators. It is essential that the technology is intuitive and allows for rapid adaptation to feedback that may arise in its initial uses, so that they see their recommendations reflected in the new process.

After a first phase that includes the necessary adjustments, you can gradually extend it to larger groups and so on until you achieve general adoption.

In this entire journey, it is also indispensable that the technological solution can adapt to different devices, according to the operational needs of each process. In this regard, the use of mobile devices is increasingly important in OHS given the relevance of their use in the field.

Training and development: facilitating access to knowledge

As mentioned, it is essential to prepare employees through training. In this regard, it is important to consider that besides traditional face-to-face learning, there is a clear trend towards a preference for “Microlearning”:

According to a 2020 report by eLearning Industry, 70% of employees say they feel more motivated to learn when the content is divided into multiple short sessions (Reference: eLearning Industry. (2020). The Power of Microlearning in Corporate Training).

In his study conducted at MIT, Philip Guo examined the usage data of 6.9 million videos from 862 online courses with the goal of understanding how video production affects student engagement. One of the main conclusions was that the optimal duration for an educational video is less than 6 minutes. He observed that student engagement in videos significantly decreased after this point, regardless of the total length of the video (Source: Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. Proceedings of the First ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale Conference.)

In summary, it is essential to have a technological solution that allows for the quick and easy creation of short courses, and to easily assign them to the corresponding audiences within the company. Likewise, the possibility of accessing training from mobile devices is essential so that employees can take them according to their time and availability, whenever and wherever they wish.

Recognition and Positive Reinforcement: identifying safe behaviors

As is well known, most accidents occur due to unsafe behaviors, which need to be identified in time to raise awareness. But just as importantly, it is also necessary to identify safe behaviors, communicate them, and recognize them as part of the same process.

Therefore, another important aspect to consider in a technological solution is its ability to provide simple and efficient tools to quickly identify and communicate these types of behaviors to the necessary audience.

Like the previous points, the ability to use these solutions on mobile devices facilitates the recording of positive behaviors at the exact moment and place where they occur, which results in a higher rate of recording by not postponing them to another time and having an impact at the right moment.

Clear and Open Communication: facilitating online access to relevant information

It is important to provide the means to clearly communicate the evolution and achievements in the various OHS processes. Therefore, a technological solution that offers user-friendly analytics that can be easily accessed by employees, where they can view indicators or progress charts, is essential to keep everyone informed in a timely manner.

In this regard, it is also indispensable that such information can be accessed through various means, both PCs and mobile devices, and with simplicity.

Support from Management and Feedback Channels: providing the means

The technological solutions adopted must offer feedback channels and the possibility of visualizing management support through cases such as their use, tracking of indicators, participation in digitalized processes, and the recognitions previously mentioned.

Conclusion: Making OHS More Personal

As derived from the above points, we can create a more personalized OHS experience simply by providing workers with better access to information about their risk exposure, trainings, reports, and timely recording of various situations.

For more information on how cloud and mobile technologies can offer personalized learning paths in all aspects of OHS, talk to a Wiiprot representative today.


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