Some research studies have found a significant positive correlation between employee engagement and safety outcomes. These findings indicated that engaged employees were five times less likely than non-engaged employees to have a safety-related incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time incident. The average cost of a safety incident was six times lower for engaged employees compared to non-engaged ones.
Gallup conducted a global study of over 1.8 million employees and found that organization with workers in the top quartile of engagement had 70% fewer incidents than those in the bottom quartile. So engaged employees not only have fewer incidents but those that do occur are significantly less costly and more than likely allows workers to get back to work far more quickly.
Engagement and construction .
In reality employee engagement functions somewhat differently on construction worksite and is dependent on whether the contractor self-performs the work or subcontracts it out. If the general contractor (GC) or construction manager (CM) self performs any part of the work, then the company staff has the ability to create the work climate which is conducive to fostering employee engagement. Then the discussion in part one on this subject is more directly applicable in enabling site supervision to garner the associated benefits.
Since much of the work or possibly all of the work is subcontracted out, the GC or CM should try to hire subcontractors who understand the benefits of employee engagement and utilize it on their worksites. Project staff will have to understand the ins-and-outs of implementation and utilization of effective engagement as well as be able to encourage and assist subcontractor site management in utilizing engagement enabling processes. This will make the management of the project more effective and efficient as well as beneficial to all involved.
Engagement and safety
To be effective in managing worker safety the person responsible for safety (the practitioner/manager) must have a good understanding of the role engagement plays in task performance as well as its effect on safety outcomes. The safety manager must also have a good understanding of the level of employee engagement on that project. There are instances when the safety manager may suggest that the work if done differently will be safer for the worker. The worker may perceive or it may actually take longer, require more effort, or be more difficult to perform. Because after doing the work for some time, doing it in that way becomes habitual and automatic. Changing this requires attention and effort resulting in possibly decreasing the worker’s productivity.
To eliminate or minimize this potential a discussion or demonstration may alleviate the problem. Better yet involving the worker in the task design, planning of the work, or assessing the associated risks will increase involvement, and result in a sense of ownership and engagement. The way the task is assigned and presented to the worker can make the work important and meaningful or dull and routine.
Another issue regarding work that doesn't get sufficient attention involves making task assignments, where the worker's capabilities might not match up with the task’s demand. This may make it more difficult for the worker to perform it, encouraging risk taking, whereas proper match, and/or some guidance will make performance achievable leading to a sense of accomplishment. These are just a few suggested techniques that will reduce risk and enhance safe performance.
In some instances, the way the project is planned, organized and/or the selected means and methods inherent in the project operational systems may embed risk into the work process. This may cause the workers to deviate from accepted work practices and engage in at-risk behavior in order to meet performance expectations or production goals; thereby exposing the worker to unnecessary risks. In many instances, unreasonable production goals if perceived as important may place workers in a position where they may have to choose to cut corners or to engage in at risk behavior in order to complete the work. The organizational and operational systems should be integrated so as not to create barriers to performance or conflicting demands on the worker.
The integration of safety into the operational planning process is an easy and effective form of identifying and dealing with risk. Certainly, the involvement of workers at some point in the process may foster engagement as well as have a positive effect of risk management leading to improving worker safety. Every organization should strive to map its operational processes and identify operational indicators that will provide pertinent information related to safety so that such data may be collected, evaluated and addressed in order to more effectively manage risk and safety.
Another traditional safety shortcoming involves historical metrics which do not provide "just-in-time" operational information with which to quickly and effectively manage risk. The ability to quickly address problems will make the operation more efficient, improve communication, reduce rework, diminish risk and create a more cooperative work environment. Management’s actions play a significant role in the level of worker engagement and satisfaction. Management's leadership skills and style play a critical role in fostering respectful relationships, building trust, enabling two-way communication, and creating an empowering work climate, which encourages involvement.
Management devises the organizational and operational systems, sanctions work practices, rewards compliance, manages performance, creates the work climate, and as a result impacts just about everything on site. They have to be sensitive to the” leader-member exchange”, willing to actively listen, manage by walking around, treat everyone fairly, respectfully, and involve workers as much as possible in decision-making and problem solving. Safety-related interactions must focus more on the work than the worker, even in disciplinary situations. Employee perceptions about organizational commitment to safety are often based on their interactions with supervision who are supported by the safety staff.
When there is disconnect between operational requirements and safety prognostications, employees may feel that management does not care about their well-being. The safety practitioners may be viewed as a safety cop looking to find fault with little interest in the welfare of the employees. Where the work climate is open and friendly, supervisors are fair and empathic, worker feedback sought, employees tend to believe that management is truly concerned about their well-being and respond in ways that benefit the organization’s performance as a whole.
Employee engagement can have a powerful impact on the organization by improving many of the outcomes of their business functions, including that of safety performance. The intensity and quality of employee engagement is directly related to two key elements. One, is the work climate which results from the interaction of supervision and the workforce. Involving employees in planning, task design and goal setting for the tasks they are going to be engaged in, gives them some modicum of control and a sense of ownership. Obviously, the workforce must be experienced, capable, knowledgeable, and motivated in order to be able to effectively participate in the process.
The second involves management and supervision utilizing a democratic style of leadership, with elements of servant leadership practices. This creates an open, supportive and empathic work climate enhancing open communication, encouraging employee involvement in their work practices, which builds trust and respect. This also makes the work interesting, gives the workforce a sense of ownership, reinforces engagement, leading to a safer and more efficient worksite with a win-win outcome for all.