Safety programs are lucrative and renewable. Show your clients how “playing it safe” is a smart move. Here’s how.
How much do injuries or illness cost your client? It’s a question worth asking. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s estimate, employers collectively pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs.
If you think that figure only represents large companies such as manufacturers, petroleum or other dangerous worksites, reconsider. Common workplace injuries are slips, falls, repetitive motion, strains from lifting and falling objects; these can – and do – occur in professional offices, at schools and in grocery stores.
Who To Target
Look at your entire client list as potential targets for a safety program. Think of customized solutions. Safety is a broad category, and can vary widely depending on industry type. Ashley Moss, a marketing specialist at Geiger (asi/202900), highlights some differences. “Manufacturing has its own set of safety issues and guidelines as compared to a hospital or an office environment or construction, and so forth,” she says.
“But regardless of the industry, it’s important to manage and promote safety to create a safe work environment for employees. Companies that recognize and promote safe work environments cite reduced costs in a number of categories including health-care costs, lost time or shutdowns as the motivation behind promoting safety and wellness initiatives.
“Some of the more apparent markets include high-risk categories like construction or manufacturing. However, companies with as few as 100 employees can be a great client for a safety program if they have a budget and don’t mind spending it to reward their employees,” Moss says. “Sometimes larger clients are actually more difficult to work with because their programs can become complicated or cumbersome.”
They also have more potential for greater sales. Michele Adams, owner of Proforma Global Sourcing (asi/490971), specializes in safety programs. She notes the contrast between smaller and larger companies: “Since most of our clients are in the refinery or manufacturing industry, their safety programs encompass all departments within their organization. Some rewards might be dynamic, based on an employee’s job requirements. Results-based awards for safety in a plant might have a lower level of benefit for the office staff, a higher benefit for the operations crew and still higher for the ‘highest risk’ employee, but everyone is included.”
You can make a good case to clients regardless of their size or industry, though you must tailor your recommendations to their specific needs.
Build It Up
So what does a typical program look like? “We have run hundreds of programs ranging from weekly, task-oriented programs to some that we have worked for more than two decades,” says Guy Achtzehn, president of The Marketing & Sales Group. “We are constantly tweaking them to keep them fresh and fun, and more importantly, relevant. We use themes, special award opportunities and always try to provide ways for workers to earn more points for doing extra.” A few program examples from his repertoire: trucking companies with points per mile driven; mine safety for days worked without a Lost Time Accident (LTA); and driver safety for insurance companies.
“There’s no right or wrong way to implement a safety program,” Moss says. “The first steps involve the client identifying the areas they want to improve or reward, and then getting buy-in from their executive and management teams. I do see that the more successful safety programs I work with are the ones that have support from management.”
Gaining “buy-in” must be built into the campaign structure. It varies by program. However, Moss outlines two categories that cover most campaigns: “The work I do with companies in regards to safety falls into incentives or rewards. I tend to think that they serve two different purposes.”
She suggests safety incentives on the front end of a safety or wellness initiative to increase employee awareness, or to educate, or to incent employees to buy into the initiative. These items can be simple and inexpensive used to educate or introduce the program; or they can be more substantial if they are intended to be an incentive to participate.
Examining the larger picture of what a client wants to achieve through a safety program is imperative. The program must clearly define what the company’s goals are and what proactive techniques can be used to achieve those goals. “Defining the desired outcome, and the specific metrics that will indicate movement toward that outcome, must be determined before deciding what is going to be rewarded to participants who achieve those metrics,” says Adams.
The plan may or may not involve an e-company store. For larger clients with more employees and locations, managing a program online might make more sense. Adams uses Proforma’s e-commerce platform, which has a point-based online incentive program for clients’ reporting capabilities. It includes training videos, quizzes, on-the-spot recognition, calendars to document events and newsletters.
“The challenge is to focus on which behaviors and habits can be changed and which best practices can be encouraged,” Adams says. “At the same time, the program should encourage only the activities that positively change the overall corporate culture and how the company as a whole views safety. As with any plan, starting with an understanding of where you are today and where you want to end up will reveal the steps to take to get there.”
Act Rather Than React When It Comes To Safety
Proactive programs are a fresh approach to keeping employees safe. This includes, for example, “spot” awards and recognition for the completion of training. Make people conscious about safety, rather than reacting after employees have already suffered from injuries.
“Essentially, we’re seeing clients want programs that reward behavior that results in safe work,” says Colin Eagen, founder and chief business development officer of the employee and customer engagement agency E Group. “Particularly ‘Near Miss’ programs that identify a potential hazard.” It could be a driver or a maintenance person concerned about equipment. They fill out three reports for legitimate hazards and are rewarded.
According to Eagen, a good safety program always includes:
- Defined objectives
- Training to meet those objectives
- Recognition of performance and feedback
Lastly, he stresses, “There must be alignment from the top down. Managers must be aligned to the employees.” Keep these tips in mind and present forward-thinking solutions to your client’s safety concerns. They might have not yet realized a safety program is a good idea.
Rewarding employees early in the process will get the safety program off to a good start. You want participants to immediately feel involved and excited about the program. Adams lists ways to do so, including initial sign-up point bonuses, promotional products, a lunch or picnic promoting the project, signage and printed materials to excite the participants.
“Some companies use the ‘fast’ marketing approach by having some easy-to-win contests or quizzes to put enough points into participants’ accounts that they almost immediately can see some award as being within their grasp or how they can bank points for higher valued lifestyle merchandise,” she says.
Motivation is the key and should be matched to the participants’ roles within a company. Incentives need not break the budget, particularly if the intent is to introduce the program, its safety slogan, etc. If, however, the reward must motivate employees to participate, Moss recommends a product that is a little nicer – something that will encourage people to attend monthly safety meetings or to recognize other employees’ safe behaviors.
Moss has sold “everything from magnets and pens and tumblers to hats, calendars, T-shirts and more,” Moss says. “I think the key to finding the right item is to talk with your client about their program and how it works. The more you know about the structure of their safety program and their budget, the better you’re able to suggest products that will tie in with their goals or desired results.”
Promote Safety with Social Media
Most companies have at least some presence on social media to build their brand and develop customer relationships. It’s less likely, though, that they use social media for safety programs. Cathy Cain-Blank of CC Marketing and Communications encourages businesses to use their Facebook pages to announce and share updates about a safety program. “It is a great way to engage the employees directly involved, and, possibly, customers and prospects,” she says. “Managers can post updates at regular intervals; employees can comment in return. A company can include information about the program, photos of team members, links to pages where stats/reports are posted, information about prizes and a celebration when the program ends.”
Cain says a Facebook page can be used “to involve family members who want to see photos of their loved ones and be able to participate with the program through social media. It might increase their comfort with the company, and lead to more social visibility, which would lead to more engagement.”
A company can also use email to alert customers and prospects about the safety program, and periodically update them on how the program is going. Cain says, “Customers would appreciate hearing about the steps in place to ensure a safe environment and ultimately how reduced accidents, etc. benefit them.”
The challenge is to figure out what has the potential to motivate employees to stay safe. Achtzehn recommends incentives that will make the target audience take notice. Offering name-brand merchandise that employees can earn, use or even gift to a friend or family member could increase buy-in.
“Providing the opportunity for someone to earn something they may not buy for themselves, or be able to buy for themselves, will pay off greatly,” Achtzehn says. “While it may not be feasible to offer a 70” LED TV as a quarterly gift, it may be feasible to offer awards such as that TV for an annual program. Learn to understand and sell ‘point-based’ incentive programs, and your sales and profits will skyrocket.”
It is also important to make participants take ownership of the program. One of the most fun programs Moss recalls was with a smaller manufacturing company. “They were working on putting a safety campaign in place in order to generate interest in a full safety program,” she says. “They were focusing on safe behaviors in their office and warehouse. To kick off the safety campaign, they wanted employee input.”
Moss recommended a clever way to invite participation while gaining buy-in. Wall clings with a write-on/wipe-off surface were placed in the company’s hallway leading to the cafeteria. Employees were asked to write their safety ideas and slogans on the clings.
“At the end of a three-week period, employees voted on the top three safety slogans and the three employees whose slogans got the most votes each won a $25 gas card,” Moss says. “This was a great way to introduce the idea that the company wanted to start focusing on a safer work environment, and to get employee participation and feedback.”
The full safety program kicked off at the start of this year. The top safety slogan was worked into the manufacturer’s safety messages, which were reinforced at quarterly safety meetings. So far, the year has been successful. “They are looking at a third-quarter safety reward for their employees if they can meet certain safety criteria that they have spent the first part of the year identifying,” Moss says.
You must also consider timing and duration. “I always steer clients clear of implementing quarterly programs whenever possible,” Achtzehn says. “They usually fail to capture the interest of employees until the final week or two of a quarter. We find that implementing a daily reward for efforts is a far better way to get the desired results for the client.” That could be points or peer acknowledgment, rather than a prize.”
Adams goes back to the initial planning being a key to track success so that measurable results can be built into a reporting system: “Our program tracks when a person signs on, completes a quiz accurately, watches a training video, whether or not the individual received on-the-spot recognition, completion of OSHA courses and even if the individual identified a potential hazard through recommendations they can make online. This is extremely important because our system can be used as a reporting mechanism to measure results.”
For example, she cites a current program for a company that was faced with the challenge of participation in their prior safety program. “They were experiencing only 10% participation,” Adams says. “We worked with them to understand their desired outcome and to understand how to set goals and how they could be measured. Together we created a ‘buzz’ where everyone wanted to join and participate. As a result one of their other plant locations got word of the success and also wanted to jump on the program. We are in the process of rolling it out to that plant as well.”
This is a good reminder that successful safety programs have the potential to evolve and grow as a company sees a return on investment. The program might begin in one department, such as the production floor, and then spread to another department, such as shipping, or be replicated at another location. Provided that you track results, safety campaigns can also renew annually to keep a company on track.
Achtzehn believes that there is no such thing as a bad program, just poorly designed and implemented programs. “Safety is big business,” he says. “It is an area that I feel the industry we work in misses. Our firm’s focus is on human nature, and the specific info from the companies we are working with to design a program that will ensure success. Our programs nearly run themselves. It is the set-up, a program that the target audience can relate to, and easy-to-understand instructions that are key. Then provide the incentives that the target audience would want. Easy, right?”
It’s an important concern whether your client is a large or small business. A 2014 survey conducted by EMPLOYERS, a small-business insurance provider, showed that workplace safety is top of mind for small businesses: 35% are concerned about workplace safety risks – more than professional liability risks (26%), cyber security risks (25%) and natural disasters (10%).
Give it a try.
Tonia Kimbrough is a FL-based contributor to Advantages.