What’s your North Star? SHE Software’s Simon Cooke looks up to the night sky to find a way to improve performance of health and safety programmes.

For centuries, sailors and other travellers in the northern hemisphere have used the North Star as a guide because it marks the way due north. In recent years, Silicon Valley companies commandeered the idea of the North Star as a guide and created the North Star Metric.

The original idea was to define the one metric that best captured the core value that a product delivers to customers.

Over time, the North Star Metric has morphed into an aspirational metric that guides a company, department, project, or team, such as “20,000 new students in three years” for the admissions department of an online university or “25% reduction in production waste” for a factory.

So, what would be a good North Star for a health and safety team? Let’s look at why we think it should be total employee engagement and what can guide you there.

Company Culture Drives Engagement

Every aspect of your operations is influenced by culture—from your processes to policies to how motivated your employees are. Having a strong, unified culture plays a major role in achieving business goals and improving overall performance.

Columbia University study  shows that the likelihood of job turnover at a business with a positive company culture is 14% compared to 48% for a company with a weak or negative company culture.

Numerous studies have shown that a unified, strong company culture increases and improves employee engagement. According to a recent Forbes article, highly engaged teams in a positive company culture increase a company’s profitability by 21%. Companies with cultures that increase and improve employee engagement reduce absenteeism by up to 41% and attrition by up to 59%.

By contrast, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost organisations £230 billion in lost productivity each year. By contrast, the Forbes article also says that engagement and wellness are closely intertwined. Healthy employees are happier and show higher rates of job satisfaction. Engaged employees show up to work with a positive attitude and are less vulnerable to stress, which is a cause of poor health. Engaged employees also have a positive effect on safety.

Engagement Drives Safety

In 2016, Gallup studied more than 1.8 million global employees and their workplaces to determine how engagement impacted safety. It found that employees and workplaces with high levels of engagement saw fewer workplace accidents than those with lower engagement.

For example, organisations rated in the top 25% for engagement had 70 percent fewer incidents than those in the bottom 25 percent.

A joint research project between HR firm Aon Hewitt and Queen’s University of Canada, which took place over 10 years and surveyed 110,000 employees, also established a link between high employee engagement and safety. Absentee rates were 20% lower and turnover was also 26% lower in businesses with strong employee engagement in health and safety.

When a workforce takes ownership of safety, productivity improves. With the threat of incidents reduced, productivity increases, and employees become even more engaged. They are committed to helping the business succeed—safely.

For this reason, total employee engagement should be your health and safety North Star!

Total Employee Engagement in Health and Safety: How to Get There

Engaged employees are more likely to buy into the importance of safety if it improves their productivity and drives increased profitability. They want your business to succeed and do not want to see anybody get hurt. You can get that buy-in and encourage engagement by:

  • Making it easy to participate: If taking part in health and safety is difficult, then people won’t do it. Remove manual, antiquated, and paper-based processes.
  • Responding to feedback: Close the feedback loop when an employee submits information, and other employees will be empowered to communicate more.
  • Delivering visibility to all: When you share safety performance reporting with everyone, they can see the difference they are making.
  • Scheduling inspections: Regular inspections go a long way toward making employees feel safe, which also facilitates engagement.

What else can you do to engage employees and leadership in safety as part of your North Star? Consider health and safety management software that eliminates barriers to participating in health and safety. It should be accessible on mobile so your employees can complete audits, inspections, and assessments as part of their daily activities, 24/7, online or offline. No more searching the office for the correct form and a pencil.

Health and safety management software can help close the feedback loop by assigning corrective and preventative actions with visibility to track progress to resolution. Stakeholders identify trends, track leading indicators and predict where preventative interventions will be most effective—so that everyone in your organisation can benefit from your health and safety programmes.

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