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The COVID pandemic and the emerging “great resignation” have resulted in some serious challenges for employers trying to retain employees. But what if your safety program was the cause of employees leaving rather than a pandemic?

The plan for employee retention

First, the importance of management and supervision’s role in your safety program to keep employees from the current “quiet quitting” trend can’t be overstated. Companies that suffer from ineffective or toxic leadership will see a regular exodus of workers. Workers that choose to stay can be unhappy, will likely decrease their productivity, and can become complacent toward health and safety. Leadership must recognize these indicators, communicate with workers, and come to a resolve that works for both employer and employees.

Unfortunately, statistics also demonstrate a lack of leadership engagement even when employees openly share their concerns. According to the Work Institute, 78 percent of employees said their resignation could have been prevented by the employer. About one-third of former employees said they had a conversation with their manager about their dissatisfaction before they quit, but nothing was done.

The best kept secrets to the best kept employees include:

  • Making health and safety a core value. Workers are hesitant to stay with companies that don’t “walk the talk.” Employee retention starts with a strong commitment to safety and not just productivity or profit. Health and safety discussions should be part of everyday communication in the workplace with management leading by example.
  • A sense of safety. Workers will also leave a company when they feel unsafe. Personal safety may be of concern due to a lack of protective measures (machine guards, personal protective equipment, etc.).
  • Feeling adequately trained to perform tasks. A 2018 Gallup poll revealed only 12 percent of employees felt their company provided good onboarding training. Good training is not only about the type of information presented, but the pace in which it’s presented. Employers must be careful not to overload new employees with too much information, too quickly.
  • Being involved in decision-making. Employees that remain with an employer are those that feel valued. One of the best ways to show they are valued is to allow employees to help troubleshoot, design, implement, and improve the way they work. This includes not just machine guarding or safety remediations, but setting safety goals, sitting on committees, being consulted during the procurement stage of machinery or equipment, or creating and performing inspection checklists.
  • A healthy work-life balance. Stress and burnout also play a key role in employee resignations. To appease a world that craves instant gratification, companies continue to shift to around-the-clock productivity. This places a lot of pressure on employees to work longer hours and at a quicker pace. Employers must be mindful of the toll 24/7 operations have on their employees. Salaried workers must not be left out of the equation either. They can be expected to work extra hours for the same pay, often being expected to be available by cell phone at all hours of the day or night. The routine expectation of more work for equal pay can quickly lead to dissatisfaction and turnover.

Whose responsibility is employee safety and retention?

Employee retention starts and ends with leadership, but employees also play a leading role. Management should really listen to employee safety concerns or feedback and follow through to improve and refine their safety programs. Management should support and encourage employee growth, while promoting work-life balance. Similarly, employees should be engaged in the safety program, communicate concerns, and take accountability for their safety and the safety of others.

Remember, employee turnover affects more than just the bottom line. When companies lose good workers, everyone is negatively impacted. When there is continual turnover, there is a lack of stability that opens the door to incidents that can be more costly than the money saved trying to do more with fewer workers.

Keys to Remember

Workplace safety programs play a key role in worker retention and can be used to entice other qualified individuals to join your team. Take a moment to survey employees to get a pulse on how they truly feel about the workplace safety program. Evaluate if they sense they can trust management, feel valued and appreciated, and have a healthy work-life balance. If not, make necessary changes. There is no better return on investment than a satisfied, safe workforce!