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Employee Learning Teams: Group of smiling builders with tablet pc outdoors

Employee Learning Teams

By Josh Williams, Ph.D.

Leaders need to get more input from employees about safety. Better decisions are made and practical improvements are made when employee input is solicited and used. Participation rates are also higher. Years ago, a behavioural safety process was implemented in a manufacturing firm as part of a NIOSH grant. Half of the group designed their own card and rules for use (“participation group”). The other half were given a card with instructions to follow (“compliance group”). The participation group that designed their own process completed 7 times as many observations as the passive compliance group. And employees appreciated being a part of the designing and running the process. This type of engagement is good for both safety and morale.

Employee Learning Teams

Employee learning teams are a great way to get and use field input with safety improvements. A group of 4-6 team members walk the site and talk with coworkers about safety challenges and suggestions. This normally occurs 1-2 times per month for 30 minutes to 2 hours (depending on the size of the location and scheduling availability). These improvement conversations focus on safety training, tools, equipment, procedures, scheduling, manpower and other key issues. These teams then:

Brainstorm solutions based on their team observations and conversations

Share their findings and recommendations with a senior team

Report back to the workforce when improvements (based on employee suggestions) have been made

When done correctly, learning teams are an outstanding way to get and use employee feedback to make process improvements on an ongoing basis.

Real Life Example:

Several mechanics at a manufacturing facility shared that the corporate policy of wearing lanyards, harnesses, and hardhats at all times in certain areas was a problem. They acknowledged the critical need of these procedures with certain jobs but said the blanket policy created tripping hazards (and cut lines) and actually put them at risk in certain areas. Through a process very similar to learning teams, they were able to have representatives work with leaders to amend the policy and better enforce fall protection when it was appropriate. Employees appreciated the change and leaders realized they actually made the workforce safer by reducing tripping hazards and cut lines.

Bottom Line:

Getting and using field input is smart business. Employee learning teams provide practical safety solutions that improve safety and boost morale. At Propulo, we help organizations implement and manage successful employee learning teams to improve safety performance.

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