A Better Approach to Safety, Risk


Are you allowing insurance premium trends to “soften” your approach to preventing injuries and accidents? Or are you following the lead of the most astute risk managers and improving your company’s financial results?

Regardless of the industry or corporate strategy, those risk managers have discovered that a culture that values employees, accompanied with a rigorous pursuit of loss prevention and safety, pays dividends through engaged, satisfied workers and low turnover. Forward-looking risk managers also are leading their organizations’ efforts to protect their reputations and brands with clearly defined strategies that prevent regulatory actions.

A key is to understand how workers truly think and work to shape their mindsets, rather than take the traditional, rules-based approach to safety.

In 2013, there were some 3.8 million recorded accidents (Bureau of Labor Statistics) for a workforce of 155 million (Department of Labor). When you consider that the average work-related injury costs $38,000 (National Safety Council) to companies, we now have losses to America’s industry around $140 billion, or almost 1% of the GDP. “Far too many people are still killed on the job – 13 workers every day taken from their families tragically and unnecessarily,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said when he commented on the 13% increase in fatalities to women and an overall workplace increase of 2% from 2013 to 2014.

Phil Walker, a national trial counsel for employers in California workers’ compensation cases, predicts that cases will double within 10 years. It should be expected that the cost of accidents is going to continue to rise. Insurers will be forced to increase premiums, and providers will raise consumer prices if we continue to approach safety from the present paradigm.

Additionally, there is the risk of criminal prosecution. A recent article by Howard Mavity and Edwin Foulke, former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from 2006 to 2008, stated: “The administration and many of its allies really do want to put employers in jail.” The authors were struck by statements from the administrator of OSHA Region 4 at the recent Georgia Safety, Health and Environmental Conference, indicating that he’s recently contacted all the U.S. attorneys in his region to encourage increased criminal prosecution of workplace fatalities and OSHA violations, and will soon do the same with state attorneys general.

While workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries have dropped more than 60% in the 40-plus years since OSHA was created, the biggest factor causing accidents has yet to be addressed – the person’s mindset. If you review the OSHA website, you will see that programs focus on the work environment and safety procedures. You will NOT see programs focused on changing the individual’s mindset that caused the accident. Years of study have proven that “rules-based behavior modification” has limited effects and is often simply confined to the modification environment.

Today’s approach, while improving results, still misses an opportunity to identify underlying mindsets that drive the behaviors leading to accidents (and errors). At the core of every individual are motivations that affect the way they seek life’s rewards. Employees who remain safe in their work environment have different motivations from those who have accidents, according to a five-year study conducted in four separate industries. In that study, 37 components of an individual’s motivations were analyzed, comparing participants who were accident-free to those who had a reportable incident. The differences were quantifiable and distinctly different in the two groups. The most interesting factor was that the counterproductive factors were remarkably similar, regardless of the industry. The study proved conclusively that there are distinct motivational differences between people who are involved in accidents and those who are not, and these differences can be quantified and used as a basis for addressing the mindset that “caused” the accident.

It should be noted that this problem is not going to be quickly resolved, because you are dealing with individuals who have taken a lifetime to formulate a value system that justifies non-productive beliefs, like:

  • “If I do not sacrifice some of my personal desires, then I will never be promoted, move ahead or improve my financial status in this company.”
  • “I realize that I should be more careful, but we are under deadlines, and if I do not meet those deadlines it is going to cost me.”
  • “The odds are against that happening to me. I have done this for a long time, and I’ve never had a problem before, therefore I will continue to do things my way.”
  • “Yes, there may be a better solution, but I have to work in this environment with my co-workers. We have bills to pay – they gut it out, and I will, too.”

To change those types of mindsets, there is no quick fix. Therefore, the sooner an organization initiates the mental benchmarks and addresses the counterproductive motivations, the sooner the impact to the organization’s bottom line. A minimum of 12 to 15 hours of workbook application, seminars or training sessions are required to implement mindset and process change. With a methodical approach using human data and people metrics, the impact will be individually targeted and last longer, producing productive environment and behavioral mindset changes.

OSHA’s gains over the past four decades have been a positive beginning. However, if the insurance industry and Corporate America want to continue to improve the risk and productivity factors affecting safe working environments and profitability, they must address the mental source of accidents, not just the environment in which they occur. This will require a focus on the employee’s motivations and how they get their “rewards.” Reducing reportable incidents, increasing employee engagement and improving the organization’s bottom line will only occur when the factors affecting an employee’s motivations are addressed.

While each organizational culture is distinct, the process for reducing accidents requires reducing counterproductive mindsets. For example, some people may view love and attention as much more powerful than a $100 bonus for being safe the past month. Being pampered, receiving special attention and meals and having people you love visit you while you are injured can be a powerful incentive: To someone who feels isolated, it’s priceless! A common belief in our society is, “No pain, no gain,” and, in this case, the reward for this counterproductive mindset is worth the agony.

Define yourself (and others) with personal formation

  When people leave school and enter the workforce they are rarely prepared psychologically.  The only thing they can relate to is some sort of schooling, which may have brought them personal satisfaction within their studies.  For many individuals it brought about a level of dissatisfaction with the people they encountered during their studies.  This is why you find cliques, clubs, fraternities and sororities, associations and support groups.

People find ways to “hide” with people like themselves because it provides them with a sense of security and belonging.  When they arrive at your company’s front door those feelings do not change, unless you take the steps to do something about it.  Let's look at a solution the organizations we work with have found is highly successful as well as how to integrate it into your culture.

Personal Formation is the process of defining individuals to themselves and others.   It requires that the person’s identity include a sense of uniqueness from others, continuity in their life path, and some sort of affiliation with which they can identify. Normally educations teaches specific knowledge, but without the benefit of how it can help you interact with others in a corporate environment or how it establishes your uniqueness. Once your individual uniqueness is established, the knowledge and skill sets can be applied with freedom and joy.

It does not matter whether you are a 5- or 5,000-person company.  People everywhere ask the same questions, regardless of where they live or what their calling is in life:

  1. “Will I be accepted for who I am?”
  2. “Is there a path for me that will allow me to use what I have to offer?”
  3. “Will I be a part of something bigger than me that matters?”

When any of these questions go unanswered there are holes in a person’s psyche.  The greater the holes the higher the level of dissatisfaction and the greater propensity to turnover.  Let us look at the Personal Formation steps and how they can be implemented with the data you have gathered.

Setting the stage for personal formation

After an employee is hired, they are ready for the LifeThrive on-boarding process. During this time you will schedule a preliminary session for them to meet with other new employees who are also new or relatively new.  If you are a small company this can be done with the entire employee base (if the process has not been previously conducted) or the employee can meet with the facilitator of this process.  During this time you want to help them understand that the personal formations process will provide them with the following information:

  • With information they will need (through validated assessments) to help them achieve more and gain greater satisfaction with their work.
  • That the assessments are NOT designed to “weed people out,” but rather to help them develop shortcuts to success.
  • The assessments will help each person understand and clarify their corporate culture, which includes your skills, your values and your attributes.
  • Individualize time will be provided by a facilitator to debrief you on your results and how they benefit the company.
  • How you will be trained to use these assessments for your own, as well as with your fellow employees’ personal formation and professional development.

The data produced by these assessments will form a basis for your communication and interaction with others to expedite everyone's growth and development as an organization. We will also use this information to build team chemistry and increase your capacity to grow and develop, both personally and professionally.

Likewise, your objectives established during this process will help us help you achieve those objectives as well as set appropriate performance expectations.

As mentioned earlier, some individuals may be test-adverse.  Though you have results in hand, this anxiety may still exist.  Once you see the value in how this will help your success patterns, you will want to dismiss that anxiety as you see how the process is helpful, not harmful.  Once this concept is established all employees should be ready to embrace personal formation.

Management with “Heart"

18117874_s Is management an art or a science? Can good management skills be learned or must there be innate personality factors? Are there essential constants from one company to another? Business schools and colleges teach management as a science. Management approaches, processes, procedures and even theories abound – some successful in one environment and total failures in a different workplace. One manager acquires wealth with an iron hand while another excels through employee empowerment. There doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason from one company to another. Additionally, today’s rapidly changing workplace offers little time for trial and error. The facts are in. The number of employees with management experience and proven skills (Dr. Ira Wolfe, SPS, Lancaster PA) will fall 27 percent short this year. The days of churning and burning employees to “keep wages low” and improve profitability are long since gone. Even the fast food industry knows it costs thousands to train an unskilled laborer. The average upper-level manager is a minimum six-figure investment before getting started. Now multiple generations proliferate the workforce providing serious challenges we have never faced before. Each generation has its own expectations and responds differently to whatever theory or approach is in place. The workforce shortage further complicates the picture. The next twenty years will be painful for numerous industries that have already begun to feel the pinch. In 1998, according to the USA Today, 69 percent of America’s corporations had unfilled positions. 1999 saw further increases and the trend continued in 2000. Supervision and management have the largest single impact on employee retention. And employee retention will be one of the single biggest factors to corporate success for many companies in the next few years – especially the IT, services, construction and transportation industries. How does a company of any size meet this challenge? In the past several decades, with the help of technology, tremendous productivity and efficiency increases have been achieved. That success has been based on continuous quality and process improvement (TQM, reengineering, etc.). While there will be continued efficiencies in quality and processes there will be a lack of loyal people to meet the needs of many companies. The task is still important, but the approach to the task must change. New generations remember the layoffs, downsizing, etc., and feel no loyalties to companies the way older generations did. They desire a more balanced lifestyle and want to have radio station WIIFM playing 24/7. Management must develop a people-orientation to supplement excellence in task-orientation or today’s employees will find new opportunities. Management with a “heart” will become an essential element in tomorrow’s workplace. The skills necessary to develop corporate synergy must include training approaches that include the human factors. People skills appear to be woefully lacking in many organizations. This has had a profound effect on employee as well as customer satisfaction. Media has already begun to identify and promote companies that provide a positive work environment. Magazines such as Fast Company have developed a large audience because it provides a superior approach to people concepts. The WSJ provides the traditional corporate information and data. People skills must be introduced early in the management development process for a company to have any chance at turnover reduction and employee satisfaction. Corporate training must change from traditional skills-based to a behavior base for any reasonable chance of success. Training programs can no longer rely on skills dissemination and forget the behavior of the employee being trained to execute the skill. Statistics illustrate resounding failure with the present approach.(USA Today) A recent program at Harvard provided the design for the following concepts of management development: 1. Corporate culture – Mission, vision and values statements are an important part of any company’s development. However, these concepts cannot be passed on to each employee the same way. They must be communicated in a way that is understandable to the behavior- not just the position. Different learning and behavior styles interpret the message from diverse perspectives, which dilutes the message and neutralizes effectiveness. 2. Specific position – Skill and industry-related competencies provide the basis for over 90 percent of the hiring decisions made yet are only 14 percent effective (UM, USI studies.) Competencies must be reconsidered from a behavioral perspective rather than purely by skills. Studies illustrate that 65 percent of people hate their job because they are not behaviorally suited for the position, causing the individual stress and little job satisfaction. 3. Individual – Behavior is the largest single factor affecting an individual’s success in his or her position. How he or she relates to other employees has a profound effect on their job satisfaction. Without the training and ability to communicate with other behaviors, especially interdepartmentally, the chance of job satisfaction and personal growth are drastically reduced. Individual growth must include the ability to communicate in the hearer’s language. That language must have universal roots for all employees from the CEO to the janitor. Future management success and employee development must include “heart.” That heart is the basis for successful people skills. A manager, supervisor or the CEO needs the ability to communicate in multiple behavioral languages or his subordinates will never “hear” him or her. This can only be achieved with something other than skills, task and process-orientated training. Small companies are finding the greatest success in model-based communication training for performance and productivity enhancement because it provides the basis for growth and individual development. Once the model is in place, each employee finds a greater degree of personal and professional success as well as gratification in their ability to promote their work as it relates to the company’s overall success.