Listening to the Frontlines: The Importance of Employee Feedback in Health and Safety
26 January 2024 - Evotix
Picture this: your company’s health and safety program is in great shape. You’re complying with regulations and your total recorded incident rate (TRIR) is low. Maybe you’ve implemented a software system to streamline your health and safety processes. You might consider yourself ‘proactive,’ or even ‘excellent,’ on the Maturity Model.
You may wonder: if everything is going so well, why do I need to collect employee feedback?
When you give employee feedback the attention and consideration it deserves, it can be a uniquely useful tool for improving your health and safety management. It can offer insights into your health and safety program, drive new innovations, boost engagement and create camaraderie across your workforce.
In this post, we’ll talk about why listening to employee feedback matters, review the benefits of taking your workers’ suggestions into account and offer useful tips for gathering employee feedback.
Why do safety protocols matter in the workplace?
We’ve made meaningful progress since the big workplace safety milestones of the 1970’s, but health and safety processes, programs and regulations are still essential to protecting workers. Beyond creating safe workplace conditions, we’ve also learned that good health and safety practices can enhance every aspect of a business’s operations.
There are countless reasons for maintaining quality health and safety in your organization. Here are three:
1. Protecting workers
It’s an organization’s responsibility to provide a safe, healthy workplace for employees.
2. Complying with the law
Regulatory agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S. and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the U.K. are responsible for creating regulations and companies are required by law to comply with them.
By protecting your workers, organizations reduce absences and disruptions, creating a more productive workplace. Statistics tell us that safer workplaces boost morale, productivity and efficiency. (In other words, safety doesn’t cost, it pays.)
When it comes to safety protocols, why is it important to listen to employee feedback?
There’s a good chance that much of the content in your organization’s safety policies, processes and protocols was created by people in leadership roles within your company.
In some organizations, HR departments are responsible for creating safety programs, training employees and ensuring compliance with regulations. In others, a dedicated individual or team may manage health and safety.
Still, regardless of how advanced a company’s health and safety program might be, it will inevitably have pitfalls or shortfalls. That’s where employee feedback (or communication) steps in. Working on the shop floor, figuratively or literally, gives employees a chance to see how their organization’s health and safety practices, processes and procedures work (or don’t work).
Employees can offer unique insights, highlight weaknesses, make productive suggestions, provide clarity and share their own feelings and attitudes and those of their colleagues.
Beyond helping you improve your EHS program, listening to employee feedback can have another positive effect on your business. When workers see that their feedback makes a tangible difference, they feel heard and valued. This contributes to your employees’ sense that their concerns will be taken into consideration, paving the way for others to share feedback in the future.
4 steps to listening to employee feedback
It may sound simple, but in this case, listening to your workers’ feedback is a four-step process.
Step 1: Offer opportunities for feedback
While some employees may do the extra work involved in speaking out unprompted, you can’t expect to gather enough feedback in this way. This is why it’s necessary to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns and provide them with frequent opportunities to do so.
Step 2: Analyze
Track patterns in the feedback you receive and produce solutions to the problems employees are expressing.
Step 3: Act
Put your employees’ suggestions into practice.
Step 4: Communicate
It’s important to show your workers that their suggestions have led to improvements in your health and safety processes. Sharing the effects of your employees’ feedback will encourage them to continue sharing their thoughts.
What are the best ways to collect employee feedback?
Your goal is to provide as many opportunities as possible for employees to offer feedback. Here’s how:
1. Foster a culture that encourages feedback. You can provide countless opportunities for employees to offer feedback, but if your company’s culture discourages speaking up, you won’t receive anything honest or constructive. Create a culture that encourages feedback by avoiding blame, offering incentives and recognition and sharing any improvements made as a result of feedback with the worker who provided it (in other words, closing the feedback loop).
2. Provide anonymity. Even if you’ve created a feedback-positive culture, some employees may feel more comfortable sharing their honest feedback anonymously. Offer anonymous surveys or suggestion boxes.
3. Simplify the feedback process as much as possible. We’re creatures of convenience. If providing feedback involves submitting a six-page form or chasing the person we need to talk to, we’re unlikely to do it. Keep it stupidly simple (KISS). Think about using a software solution with a mobile app—that way, workers can submit feedback at the touch of a button.
4. Ask about feelings and attitudes. When you create survey questions, be sure to ask about your workers’ feelings and attitudes about health and safety in the workplace. Not only does this help give you a greater sense of what you need to improve, it lets workers feel heard.
5. Offer incentives and recognition. Offer rewards, like bonuses, additional time off, team celebrations or professional development opportunities for providing feedback. Recognize those who provide feedback by publicly acknowledging their contributions.
6. Maintain an open-door policy. Train managers and supervisors to encourage and listen to employees’ concerns. Encourage employees to bring their concerns to leadership whenever necessary.
7. Hold regular safety meetings. Provide a dedicated forum for sharing feedback by holding dedicated meetings to discuss and review health and safety policies.
Listening and responding to feedback from employees should be an essential part of every organization’s health and safety process. Employees can provide unique insights and make innovative suggestions that can enhance your organizational health and safety. As a leader, creating channels for your employees to share their perspectives isn’t just your responsibility; it’s an opportunity. By listening to feedback, you foster a culture where your entire team feels empowered to contribute to a secure work environment.
Interested in learning more about how you can foster a culture of strong engagement and well-being? Check out our blog: Why an Empathetic Leadership Approach Is the Key to Safety Management
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