For some employees, safety is simply not top of mind. In a perfect world, everyone in your workplace would be just as dedicated as you are to preventing accidents and illnesses — but there are few companies where that’s the case. Safety and productivity may go hand in hand, but there will always be workers who simply don’t see the inherent value in your policies.
Fortunately, they don’t have to. Buy-in is great, but your goal is a safer workplace with fewer incidents. While plenty of workers will be motivated by the chance to reduce accidents and illnesses, others will simply need a different approach — safety incentives. In fact, setting up an incentive system is a great way to motivate everyone at your company to work toward the same safety goals. Here are a few ways you can encourage safer behavior.
Establish the Right Goals
You’ve got to know where you’re going before you can get there. What exactly do you hope to achieve with your most recent safety initiatives — and when? For many companies, the main goals will be specific reductions in accidents, illnesses and workers’ compensation payouts. A great system for establishing these goals is the S.M.A.R.T. system:
Moreover, it’s important to establish goals that focus on the process, not just the result. You may want to achieve the coveted zero-incident goal, but what actions will workers themselves have to take to get there? Track and reward good behaviors, including the use of personal protective equipment, safety class attendance and the use of mandated lockout-tagout procedures.
Your goals are long-term, but you need to reinforce good behaviors in the short term. Success is built with daily efforts, so reward your workers often. This doesn’t mean you need to hand out gift cards or extra PTO every day, nor does it mean you can’t create larger rewards for six-month or year-long goals. What it does mean is that your workers should regularly see their peers being tangibly rewarded.
Rewards must be truly meaningful and helpful to the employees who receive them. Gift cards, the chance to earn extra PTO and even bonuses may be appropriate, depending on the size of the goal and the people receiving them. Gift cards for various amounts are particularly useful for the following reasons:
- Cards redeemable at several merchants allow employees to choose their own rewards.
- They are cost-effective for the employer and typically can be purchased at little more than their face value.
- They are easy to distribute, both physically and electronically.
- They are easy for employees to use and employers to track.
Don’t discount a “pat on the back,” however, as recognition can be just as useful as monetary rewards — if not more so. Monetary rewards work well when given sporadically for specific reasons, but when employees receive the same thing for a specific action every time they do it, they often come to expect the reward regardless of outcome or performance. On the other hand, heartfelt recognition from both leaders and peers doesn’t “wear out” nearly as easily.
Get Everyone on Board
From the CEO to the janitor, everyone in your company should be on board with your safety initiatives — including your incentives programs. Executives and board members may have many reasons for encouraging safer practices: compliance, profits, public appeal and more. Likewise, most rewards programs feature small but tangible incentives for lower-tiered workers.
However, many programs fail to include management and other administrative personnel — the people who relay important safety mandates and goals to other workers, and who will ensure new policies and procedures are carried out. While any worker may be rewarded for their individual efforts, managers need to be rewarded for the performance of their teams.
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