printech, March, 2004
Great Article On Employee Involvement Part II

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From: Gary Jones( )
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 2004 18:15:05

FYI - From Occupational Safety and Health eNews at

The Secrets of Involvement, Part II

Create a cultural expectation that safety is enjoyable, rewarding, and practical. Fully involve yourself in magnetizing commitment and you can realize amazing results. by Robert Pater

There are three keys to eliciting involvement, as follows.

The First Key

Mentally, design the safety approach to be practical, so that everyone sees it as reasonable and useful. Get input from everyone. Develop strong and active safety committees that have a mission and high expectations, are highly trained, and actually have a reasonable budget for furthering their plans.

Too often, safety committee members really don't have much to do. Their role becomes one of reviewing accident reports, doing audits, and generally complaining that things and people aren't as they should be. Instead, highly train safety committee members to deliver innovative, powerful training that excites their peers. Then, to reinforce the training and individually coach workers to improve acceptance and behavioral performance. Be sure to rotate people through the safety committee so many workers get to sit in on the action within a short time.

The Second Key

Emotionally, help others become truly enthusiastic/excited about safety based upon their getting positive benefits--this has to go beyond "do this so you don't get hurt."

Real safety is not just about preventing bad things from happening that they never think are really going to happen to them. ("I'm too old/young/smart/experienced/alert to get hurt.") That is, until they do. It is not enough to preach prevention. Too many know that they've gotten away with doing it the "unsafe" way too many times in the past. In general, threatening people with dire results rarely engenders interest or a positive response; this approach is especially likely to result in lowered credibility when others know inside they have taken many shortcuts without loss.

Real safety, to me at least, is about living your life alive, full of energy and interest, feeling good about yourself and what you do, getting better at what's important to you. Motivate people positively, not negatively, in safety. Our general rule is, the more "uneven" morale is in an organization, the more we focus off-work in our motivational approach. ("Would you be interested in getting better at your favorite sports or home activities? Protecting those you care about? Having more peace of mind? Feeling more relaxed everywhere? Becoming stronger? More in control?") Then comes showing them how what they practice at work can help them with what's important to them off the job.

Many people long to be a functional part of a high-performance, cutting edge team, one that is making a positive difference in the world. Focus on your organizational mission. Remind people that everyone's work goes toward furthering that mission. Just as in baking bread, no ingredients are more important than others. Flour, water, oil, yeast, and baking powder are essential to forming a flavorful and nourishing result.

Too often, best intents backfire. Don't inadvertently create a push-back by trying to force consensus or involvement. Someone once said that the way to control wild horses is to give them a very large field in which to roam. The more freedom you allow people--within organizational bounds, of course--the more likely they will create, generate ideas, and feel part of the company's mission. The keys here are to spend more time listening and less talking, and to respect others' opinions as well as their initial decision to sit back, watch, and wait. Invite and draw involvement rather than pushing it.

The Third Key

Strategically, activate top-down and bottom-up. Too many people get involved in debating the advantages of having safety efforts led by top managers or forged by grass-roots staff. They're both right and both limited.

You can maximize your leverage by employing a "scissors" approach that simultaneously enlists management top-down and line workers bottom-up. A sharp knife might cut through a sheet of paper, but two edges coming together can more easily slice through an obstacle. Similarly, on one hand excite managers by the true potential power of safety as a catalyst for overall organizational strength. And simultaneously, enthuse workers by the personal benefits of becoming more effective in what's important to them--at home and in individual hobbies, as well as at work. And by strongly training workers as peer trainers and coaches, you can effectively create a grass-roots swell of safety involvement.

Always plan beyond an initial intervention. Even a strongly accepted rollout has to be fed and maintained in order to build momentum and enhance credibility. As the sage Lao Tzu said, that which is not growing is dying. Plan on fanning involvement from a small flicker to a well-established flame, one that can burn away apathy, spark morale, and ignite a culture of safety and high performance.

The Art & the Science

Many have been disappointed to find that cookbook techniques can't successfully bake a cohesive loaf of involvement. People are not linear and less and less take to being controlled. Eliciting involvement is as much art as science. But it starts in the mind of you, the change agent. Involve yourself in a process of tuning into true forces that block involvement. Analyze which forces you can strategically affect that will provide maximum change with minimal effort.

Create a receptive and interesting atmosphere where people want to become more involved. Allow others to come to you by drawing rather than driving. A strong sincere invitation--where it's clear that everyone has the option to disengage--is among the most powerful ways of eliciting interest, developing trust, and then creating commitment. For example, rather than telling an experienced employee he should change his work procedures, offer several good alternatives where he can choose what works best for him.

It always helps to acknowledge the workers' power over themselves--you let them know that you know all you can do is hope they will keep their mind open in case you say something they think worthwhile. But, ultimately, only they have the power to adjust their own ways.

The power of safety lies in changing the paradigm of "too few doing it for too many" into creating an atmosphere where people embrace they are the safety directors of their own lives. Where they understand that by actively working with others, they can accomplish much more for themselves. Where there is a cultural expectation that safety is enjoyable, rewarding, and practical. Fully involve yourself in magnetizing commitment and you can realize amazing results.

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