Is your safety rewards program dying a slow death?
A commitment to safety must be a core value for any utility. In addition to being a critical business practice, safety programs also have a profound impact on employee motivation and morale. The necessity to put safety first must drive everything a utility does and create an understanding among employees that their actions must reflect that priority.
Forgetting what you’ve already learned and know about safety rewards (aka incentive programs) is a perfect first step. Accepting that this is a common issue among utilities is another step in the right direction. So often, we hear utilities say “our stale program just isn’t working” or “our program really needs a facelift.” Or perhaps, it is simply nonexistent.
The key to a successful and sustainable Safety Rewards Program is simple: take the time to customize the program. In addition to putting in place a well-documented safety program that focuses on risks and mitigation methods as well as proper training, it is important to incentivize employee behavior with an effective rewards program.
A good first step is to get input and buy-in from the program’s end users to ensure that the right safety behaviors are incentivized with the right rewards. Emphasize safety ideas, team communication, safe processes, safer tools, proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and equipment handling safety. Engage a cross-section of employees to identify rewards that are meaningful. Frankly, who needs another company logo’d coffee mug to throw in a cabinet? Demonstrate that you care enough to tailor rewards to the people who will earn them.
How the rewards are named and how they are presented to employees must be fun. Yes, we said “fun” in connection with safety. A rewards program is meant to inspire positive attitude change toward safe behavior. Making it fun fosters a dynamic and constructive atmosphere to motivate employees (even the hard-to-reach employees) to be positive about safety.
A pipeline for consistent feedback and dialogue about the program helps keep it fresh, fun, and worth it. Create an environment that allows teams to discuss near misses and close calls without fear of retaliation. Incident reduction improves when there is open dialogue to discuss near misses. Most humans are driven by gratification. The sooner we reward employees for taking positive action, the bigger impact we will have.
Set up program metrics to provide visibility into successes and areas that require adjustment. Metrics also help you evaluate return on investment. One utility, for example, reported an increase in corrective actions put in place for training, equipment, tools, and procedures. They received a tangible “return” and saw the value that was added.
A dedicated kickoff sets the stage for formal program recognition. Don’t mix it in with another company meeting, staff meeting, or safety meeting. It might come across as an afterthought or simply not important. Designating a special event for the launch signals the uniqueness and importance that the program deserves.
Make it hard to resist. Healthy peer pressure can benefit workplace safety programs. Group incentives are a great method of creating a “we’re all in this together” culture. Positive reinforcement is an age-old practice that still works with rewards programs. Getting the least safe employees to be more compliant and to embrace good safety behaviors will create positive behavioral change throughout your organization.
Keeping the program easy to manage drives success and sustainability. Without daily or weekly administration, it will lose impact. Those appointed to manage the program must be approachable, good listeners, and capable of adapting to changes as the program matures.
Flexibility plays a key role in maintaining program momentum. It’s easy to have enthusiasm at the launch of the program, but as we get used to something, we can grow bored and detached. To keep morale high, keep employees engaged and reminded consistently through recognition, announcements, and surveys. Demonstrate willingness to adjust or update the program based on feedback – taking an iterative approach to the program leads to continuous program improvement.
Objective assessments at routine intervals will keep the program sustainable, spirited, and successful. Staying open minded when a team member suggests a new reward that is a big hit with the employees – and even rewarding that suggestion – demonstrates the program’s growth and fluidity. For example, a lineman makes a recommendation for new and improved safety glasses that are cost-effective, and the suggestion makes it all the way through procurement and materials management. Reward that!
Leidos works with its utility customers to provide the customization that safety rewards programs need and deserve. We walk through an extensive and focused evaluation process that most utility employees do not have the time or energy to perform. Our team provides recommendations tailored to the utility’s culture and each department’s personalities, with an eye for shaping successful programs that stand the test of time.
A strong and successful safety rewards program can positively change a company’s culture – demonstrating that it is a place where safety and safe behaviors are embraced by employees and upper management alike.
With more than 70 years of experience providing reliable power expertise to investor-owned utilities, municipal, and coops, Leidos helps utilities develop and implement solutions to their unique challenges by evaluating existing systems, assessing where improvements need to be made, and developing solutions that are uniquely tailored to meeting the challenges that each utility faces. To learn more about how Leidos can help integrate new or updated strategies for Safety Rewards Programs, contact our team.