Does HOP improve engagement in safety?

A central focus of Human & Organisational Performance is improving engagement with frontline workers. Imagine a workforce that asks to be involved in the process of safety improvement! Here’s how it happens with HOP.

One of the greatest challenges for safety professionals is keeping the workforce engaged with safety. Checklists, policies, procedures, manuals, codes of practice, regulations and legislation are all vitally important to the safety framework, but they rarely invoke a sense of collaboration, innovation, or allow for variability.

These are the ‘rules’ of safety, which for decades have driven the compliance-based approach to safety. Follow the rules, or be punished. Follow the rules, or an accident will occur.

Within the new view of safety, we know that mistakes happen. That the rules will sometimes get broken. That those same rules are designed by people who – most of the time – don’t do the work, but they can often be impractical to those who actually do the work.

When safety is perceived as a one-way street, it’s no wonder that the challenge of engagement exists. Every new memo, program, poster or meeting just adds to the safety noise.

At its core, HOP is a key driver of engagement with frontline workers. HOP acknowledges – first and foremost – that frontline workers are the experts in how work gets done, and therefore hold the most valuable insights into how it could be improved.

When the focus of safety shifts from minimising error – or avoiding things going wrong – to understanding why things go right, it opens the door for broader engagement and participation in organisational resilience.

Rather than undergoing a lengthy investigation, or submitting a form that ends up at the bottom of a pile, what if a worker who has been involved in an incident is given the opportunity to be responsible for instigating an improvement to the process or task?

HOP enables a sense of ownership to emerge and take hold within an organisation. Operational learning tools such as Field Insights and Learning Teams can be used to engage workers at the coal face or in facilitated conversations that dive into the context and conditions of everyday operations. These platforms allow workers to be heard, understood and included; encouraging the sharing of stories and experiences with the goal to understand and improve – not blame or punish.

Want better answers? Ask better questions.

When we consider what it means to have a workforce engaged in safety, we think of workers first understanding, then applying, and finally promoting, the approach to safety.

While every organisation would like to think this is happening at every level, often that’s not the case. While safety is a priority for workers in high-risk environments, adapting to the constraints and conditions of everyday work will almost always take priority over following the rule book.

With HOP, the aim is to find the reasons why these deviations and variations occur and how the innovative and adaptive actions taken to maintain normal operations can help build more resilient systems.

So, how do you extract this valuable information from workers without fear of repercussion?

By asking better questions.

Rather than asking a worker if they used a tool correctly, the HOP approach is to instead ask, ‘Do you have the right tools?’

Opening this dialogue immediately invokes a sense of collaboration and engagement by ensuring the worker feels heard, understood and included, and will inevitably provide more valuable information around adequate resourcing.

Becoming a Learning Organisation

HOP creates an environment where workers are seen as the experts in the work that they perform. Within HOP, frontline workers are invited to collaborate with management to make work better – using their expertise and knowledge of tasks to suggest improvements or create innovative solutions, essentially flipping the traditional model on its head.

Learning Teams are one of the tools used by organisations adopting HOP to understand how work is really done, with a view to improving it. These informal, facilitated conversations allow field experts to share their insights, experiences and stories about their work – providing context-rich information on how they navigate everyday operations and adapt to the ever-changing demands and conditions in their working environment.

During a Learning Team, the Facilitator’s role is to listen without judgement, ensuring the psychological safety of the group and allowing all to share openly and honestly. Supervisors and managers are usually not involved at the conversation level – further preventing any fear of repercussion. This also allows for the topics raised to be de-identified before they are shared with management.

Overall, Learning Teams enable better comprehension of problems to allow for more informed decision making, and in many cases, the most effective solutions are developed by the workers themselves. This is why organisations that run Learning Teams are often inundated with requests for frontline workers to be involved.

How many other safety functions or programs have a wait list to join?

Want to increase engagement and enhance performance across your organisation?

There are a number of ways we can help you get started, from HOP courses to build your knowledge, to running a Learning Teams Pilot within your organisation.

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