Custom Award Programs
Are you rewarding Safety or Luck in the Workplace?
An employee has worked the entire year without an injury or even a safety related write up. But was this employee really safe? Did this employee actually perform his or her duties safely, or have they simply mastered their skill set while taking unnecessary risks to improve efficiencies and timeliness. Not injured and safe have two radically different meanings.
First and foremost, it is important to remember that a Safety Incentive program is not a Safety program. Incentives can serve as powerful motivators in the workplace. That is to say that if properly structured and communicated, workplace incentives can serve as an exciting, motivating compliment to your existing safety efforts. In the same breath, workplace incentives can be equally disastrous if improperly executed, or even worse, if an incentive program is considered to be the core or foundation of your total safety activity.
Reducing accident frequency and severity is the result of an integrated combination of efforts such as training, awareness, and then recognition. The reason incentives and recognition are an integral part of safety programs is that they effectively secure an employee’s attention to management’s goals. A well-designed incentive program encourages and rewards positive safety-related behavior. It should not, however, reward on the simple fact that an employee did not have an accident. Programs structured upon this premise convey a confusing message that “you will be rewarded as long as you are not injured” instead of the more appropriate message that “you will be rewarded if you exhibit the acceptable safe behavior that will keep you injury free”. In short, recognize improvements in safety behavior… don’t just “incentivize” employees to not have accidents.
As important as the decision to implement a safety incentive or recognition program is, just as critical is the manner in which you actually execute this effort. There are several keys to proper development of a program. If followed, the results will be immediate and can be sustained well beyond the point of simply experiencing a return on your investment.
Carefully structure your incentive program to address specific performance goals. Use these goals to encourage changes in behavior. Keep your program objectives tied to truly attainable results with clear, concise qualifying rules such as no OSHA recordable injuries, perfect safety meeting attendance, etc. Avoid using objectives such as “percentages of improvement” over current numbers, indexes or injury rates. While these results can greatly impact a company’s bottom line, they are too vague and mean little or nothing to a typical worker on the plant or manufacturing floor.
Communication. Many companies do a great job kicking off an incentive program. The key to success is to continue the communication. Broadcast individual and group achievements, encourage participation and publicize awards. More importantly, tie these announcements to monthly safety meetings while covering important safety topics. The recognition will bring more excitement to the meeting AND your employees will actually begin to embrace the entire safety process. Just as importantly, involve the home as well. Families want to know that their loved ones work for competent companies that take care of their people.
Remember: Communicate frequently, consistently and positively!
Define program start and stop dates. This allows management to retain control of the budget for a specific program. Avoid programs that allow employees to earn points for an indefinite amount of time.
Cash awards should be avoided. Employees view cash as extra pay that over time actually becomes entitlement. The employee always views changing or terminating such a program negatively as “taking money out of my pocket”. Negative results and even possible tax issues truly make cash an undesirable option.
Remember that motivation is intrinsic. An individual can only be motivated by their own set of values and desire to achieve. People respond to outside stimuli and will modify behavior to earn a desirable reward and peer recognition.
Employee incentives and recognition can be an exciting, effective addition to any workplace safety program. If properly structured, you can develop a safer workforce that has much greater sense of direction, morale and company loyalty … while achieving the bottom line results that are critical to your organization.