Article: HR leadership: Making workplace safety a top priority in 2022

Leadership

HR leadership: Making workplace safety a top priority in 2022

Gartner's 2022 report on Top HR Priorities lists change management and redesigning the organisation to be future-ready as critical focus areas for HR leaders.
HR leadership: Making workplace safety a top priority in 2022

“Safety and health are key to the success and sustainability of businesses. If you look after your people, the returns on this investment are extremely significant,” says Jimmy Quinn, President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). 

Workplace safety has always been a priority, but since the pandemic, the term has taken on a new meaning. Accidents in the workplace can be costly for manufacturers, making it critical to implement a unified safety strategy and establish professional working relationships with the suppliers. It has also become vital to provide proper training with automated machinery, electrical devices, and moving parts equipment. To have greater visibility and transparency from supply chain stakeholders, a more streamlined process across all functions is needed. But this paints only half the picture.

The Microsoft 2022 Work Index Report stated that 18% of the workforce that quit their roles in 2021 cited imbalances in personal well-being and mental health as prime concerns in their decision-making. With attrition and talent hopping at an all-time high, it is easy to calculate the impact these reasons have on an organisation's growth and performance. While Covid19 certainly accelerated this trend, attributing the shift in employee mindset solely to the pandemic would be obfuscating from addressing the real challenge.

Defining the Challenge of Workplace Safety and Employee Well-Being

The rate of change in the workplace is at an all-time high. We all know that change is inevitable and necessary to stay ahead of the competition, but change can induce fatigue across all workforce levels. Gartner's 2022 report on Top HR Priorities lists change management and redesigning the organisation to be future-ready as critical focus areas for HR leaders. 

An excellent first step for talent leaders at organisations, both big and small, is to define what constitutes employee safety and well-being. A few parameters that can help determine this can be:

  1. The nature of work - implications of employee safety for a heavy industry manufacturing facility and a large IT firm are obviously different. The correlation between the business model and employee behavior is affected by nuances like a field workforce, travel, distributed work facilities and man-machine interaction. 
  2. The intensity of work - Some roles can be more demanding and have longer-lasting implications on people's physical and mental states. organisations need to be mindful of how much stress various roles can generate.
  3. Workplace design - The place employees occupy can have far-reaching implications on their productivity and general output. A workplace that promotes stability, peace and a pleasant work environment will consistently outperform chaotic offices.
  4. Change Management - As organisations take progressive action to amplify employee well-being, it usually accompanies changes in processes and the established mode of working. Effectively communicating change is as essential as devising the best well-being strategies for employees and needs active participation from the leadership. 

Imporance of Safety of Warehouse Employees

When we talk about the nature of work being one of the important parameters, warehouse employees top the list. Warehouses are known for their speed and efficiency, and anything that slows them down may appear counterproductive. Work activities involving warehousing pose numerous health and safety hazards. If not kept under control, high employee turnover, underperforming employees, injuries and illnesses, missed work days, legal issues, and, in the worst-case scenario, fatalities cannot be avoided.

To some, safety may appear to be a burden, wasting time and resources that could be better spent on productivity, but for most, it’s unthinkable. Workplace accidents affect not only the people involved, but also their families and co-workers. A safe and productive work environment ensures that all employees consider the full range of consequences of an incident. 

HR in the driving seat

HR leaders are at the wheel driving organisational change. organisations are investing heavily in upskilling employees to meet the demands of an increasingly challenging market. It is, therefore, also naturally incumbent on companies to enable the best work environment for their people. HR leaders are turning to digitization, employee well-being tracker suites and cutting-edge frameworks to remove obstacles that prevent employees from delivering their best. 

Most progressive organisations already have safety standard certifications and robust emergency response policies. Frequent revisits are recommended to keep pace with the rapid change in the modern-day workplace. Macro safety and well-being frameworks should be coupled with micro-level agility that decentralises well-being from one epicenter to many nodes throughout the workforce. 

The office as an oasis

The concept of Zen derived from Mahayana Buddhism is based on strict principles and virtues, and yet, it retains fluidity to allow disciples to achieve a higher state of mind. Similarly, organisations can seamlessly tie workplace safety and employee well-being with their purpose and culture— a collection of the following ideas can serve as a guiding light.

  • Diversity and Inclusion - Homogenous minds can limit the broad thinking and possibilities for workforce productivity. Diversity brings learning from multiple backgrounds like gender, life experience and empathy, leading to a more inclusive approach to creating an oasis that employees love. Leadership diversity accelerates a top-down process of adopting cultural best practices.
  • Well-being Training - Organisations must train their people to identify productivity barriers, causes of discomfort and the right approach to eliminate them. HR leaders could evaluate and implement an employee coaching or counselling practice to catch red flags about workplace toxicity, risky processes and overall work sentiment. There are a host of technology platforms that help us track data and provide early warning and data-driven recommendations.
  • Cohesive Communication - HR leaders must take the lead to ensure timely, clear and simple communication to the workforce regarding all aspects of safety, happiness and culture to foster a culture of self-accountable well-being. 
  • Listen to Redesign – To be relevant and relatable, organisations need to embrace the change and fall in line with the upcoming trends. Allowing for flexibility, welcoming personal opinions, and implementing new communication plans, benefits, and technologies, are some of the many ways to connect with employees, communities and society.

We've all been living through the most significant workplace disruption in generations, and it's not going to stop anytime soon. What will change is the variability of the disruption. organisations will need to create a workplace oasis and leaders will need to learn how to thrive in a period of disruption that occurs unevenly across their organisations to conquer any challenges in 2022 and beyond.

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Topics: Leadership, #GuestArticle, #HybridLeadership

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