This article originally appeared in Occupational Health and Safety.
In trucking, shipping, and logistics industries, companies routinely invest in the performance and maintenance of the work environment. Virtual reality, scissor lifts, and robots are just a few examples of how companies have invested substantially in new hardware. These investments tend to advertise a clear, measurable upside and ROI - which makes them easy to stomach for decision-makers. Nevertheless, what if there was a business unit that was not only underinvested in, but also had the potential to increase productivity, lower costs, and unite an organization? Presented with this opportunity, any rational decision-maker would surely ask, “Where do I sign?” - yet organizations continue to miss out on potential upside by investing in hardware without making a similar investment in the frontline workforce.
The following 3 strategies will help you begin investing in your employees to positively impact your organization:
An injured worker is an unhappy worker. An unhappy worker is an unproductive worker. And an unproductive worker has difficulty delivering value to customers. Research from the Transamerica Center for Health Studies shows that lowering health risks for employees improves the productivity and performance of the workforce. It’s simple: healthy workers stay on the job and can perform their jobs better than injured workers. Not only does keeping employees healthy deliver operational upside, it also keeps employee replacement and training costs down. Employee Benefit News reports that it costs employers 1/3 of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement if that worker leaves. The importance of employee safety should be obvious, however it’s much less obvious figuring out where to start a safety initiative. Fortunately, the majority of non-fatal workplace injuries are preventable; the result of simple movements like lowering, lifting, carrying, stepping, and bending. With proper movement training, organizations can reduce over 50% of these preventable injuries and oftentimes an even greater percentage of the associated workers’ compensation costs. A renewed focus on safety within your workforce likely calls for an updated and refreshed take on employee training.
It’s simple: healthy workers stay on the job and can perform their jobs better than injured workers.
According to a 2019 research study from Gallup, when employees do the same things every day without a chance to learn something new or feel like they’re progressing, they rarely stay enthusiastic about their jobs. In contrast, when people feel like they’re growing and developing their skills, they work harder and more efficiently. Providing training opportunities for employees to learn and progress is key to maximizing their potential. Structure the training around a business goal - such as efficiency, safe work practices, or team-building - and you’ll accomplish two things at once: measurable progress towards a business objective, and a highly engaged workforce. Further proving the measurable benefits of engaging employees through training, the same Gallup study found that an engaged workforce experiences 41% lower absenteeism, 70% fewer safety incidents, 24% less turnover, 17% higher productivity, and 20% higher sales than a workforce that isn’t engaged. Training an entire workforce may seem daunting, yet it doesn’t need to be. By using microlearning methodology; bite-sized training chunks delivered on a consistent cadence, your workforce can develop the skills they need with minimal effect on operations. The light operational impact makes it a perfect training methodology for distributed workforces and organizations that leverage their efficiency.
An engaged workforce experiences 41% lower absenteeism, 70% fewer safety incidents, 24% less turnover, 17% higher productivity, and 20% higher sales than a workforce that isn’t engaged.
The previous strategies are two serious ways to produce serious business results. However, something’s missing - the secret sauce that separates good teams from great ones: a strong culture. If you’re asking yourself whether your organization’s culture is strong or not, then the answer is: probably not. Culture isn’t a tangible resource - there’s no concrete ROI. Yet there’s a reason why NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA coaches alike stress its importance: it makes all the difference. It’s not just professional sports teams, fleets see the benefits of culture too. Senior vice president of safety at Hub Group Trucking, Tim Smith, has seen how a shared vocabulary helps his drivers get on the same page and make safety adjustments. “We’ve seen drivers watching out for each other and even pointing out corrections if they see someone who could improve their (movement) form based on the Worklete techniques,” said Smith. A strong culture helped Hub Group see a 63% reduction in injuries and 85% reduction in associated costs in the 3 years after implementing the Worklete program.
Creating shared vocabulary and messaging is foundational for building a strong culture. Unite employees over the relevant job-specific words and phrases that are common within your teams. See which phrases and words are sticking with employees - and create signage to display in common areas around the facility to solidify the lexicon in your employee’s minds. Create the right culture, and it will transcend the workplace. Tim Smith from Hub Group sees his drivers take the culture home with them: “Some of our drivers have even incorporated learnings from the Worklete program into their everyday lives.” A strong culture makes hiring and retaining employees easier, and makes people want to come to work.
There have been plenty of large investments into hardware, technology, and ergonomics in the last 20 years. As the environment for working becomes increasingly optimized, successful companies will look for other areas of investment to keep the business moving forward. The well-being of the frontline workforce has been overlooked historically, and only recently have companies discovered that investing resources in their employees can deliver significant cultural, operational, and financial ROI. The managers and organizations who invest considerable resources into their human capital will be set up to win in the years to come.