Increasing Employee Safety Commitment: Considerations for Leaders
By Josh Williams, Ph.D.
Effective leaders continuously look for ways to increase employee safety commitment. Employees who feel committed to the organization are more likely to work safely, caution others for safety, and get actively involved in safety efforts. Those who aren’t committed rarely go beyond the call of duty for safety or anything else. In fact, they may have more serious issues such as non-compliance, absenteeism/tardiness, and confrontations with others. Organizational commitment consists of (Saal & Knight,1995):
• Strong support and acceptance of the organization’s values and goals.
• The willingness to put forward considerable effort for the organization.
• A strong desire to maintain membership within the organization.
The challenge for organizational leaders is to find ways to increase organizational commitment with employees. Research demonstrates that certain factors are strongly correlated with organizational commitment, including: Perceived Personal Competence, Leader Communication, and Job Scope/Variety (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990).
• Perceived Personal Competence- For most employees, feelings of competence extend beyond job expertise and involve recognition for one’s ability and performance. This is particularly true with safety, where employees may go for extended periods of time without hearing one-on-one praise for their safety behaviors, activities, and achievements. Safety professionals enhance employees’ feelings of personal competence by more frequently noticing and then praising individuals’ safe work practices.
• Leader Communication- Strong leaders provide effective safety communication to work groups and individuals. This involves sincere, personal praise with safe behaviors and non-threatening corrective feedback with risky ones. Effective communication also requires active listening, where leaders genuinely empathize with employees’ safety concerns, issues, and feelings.
• Job Scope/Variety- Employees who are involved in a variety of challenging tasks generally have a stronger sense of organizational commitment than those who aren’t. Leaders should encourage cross training and employee-designed safety initiatives to encourage employee commitment.
Leaders should seek out behaviors they can develop into habits to increase these three factors associated with employee commitment. Increasing perceived competence, improving leadership communication, and increasing job scope will increase employee participation in safety efforts. This, in turn, increases individual ownership to stay safe and keep others safe as well.