The first steps are to establish what are you going to measure. What are the measures that you can apply that will indicate the level of safety performance? Firstly, we must eliminate the measurement of injuries and the severity of injuries because they are a byproduct of safety performance. Although they are very popular measures, eventually they will reinforce the wrong behavior because of under reporting, minimizing the effects, or just not reporting the accident and allocating the injuries to out of work situations. This means that we have to measure other things that are indicators of workplace safety. We would suggest that the presence of safe conditions and the demonstration of safe behavior would be reasonable criteria for measurements.
Once this has been established as the basis for measuring safety, then it’s necessary to include the people in the workplace to set a series of goals. This can be quite a challenging task because sometimes some people have difficulty in grasping the concept of safety after years of focus on accidents. We have found it best to engage staff members in conversation about safety and gently put forward the proposition of safety.
Most of the time it is accepted but occasionally there are people who have accepted the historical emphasis on accidents as a prime indicator of safety. One of the ways of strengthening your case is to ask this thought-provoking question, “Is it possible to work unsafely without having an accident?” You will generally find that the answer may create some discussion but eventually you will get agreement. You can then gently point out that unsafe behavior does not always result in an accident and therefore the accidents are not a good measure, but the unsafe behavior is.
Once you’ve got agreement from the majority of people, it’s worthwhile having a meeting to set some goals and standards with them. The most effective way is to ask the group what they believe the end goal should be and what are the milestones on the way to the goal. When this is been established, it is wise to review what needs to be achieved and how it is going to be achieved.
Beware of setting goals that are too difficult and ambitious. The reason is that the goal will not be positively reinforcing because it is too difficult. This will have the effect of demotivating the people which is the opposite of your objective. Make the goals achievable and then spend some time discussing what the recognition will be, how frequently will it be applied and at what point do you have a celebration.
Plan all this in advance so that there will be a degree of anticipation generated. Make sure that you put in opportunities for discussion and review during the process.
Setting Standards With Staff is a Key Leadership Responsibility
An area that troubles many people in leadership positions is the standards that they should set for performance. It is true, if you expect the worst from people you generally get their worst. If you don’t expect the best performance from your people, it’s unlikely that they will give you their best performance. The dilemma for the leader is that just expecting the best performance will not automatically produce it. The leader has to do other things as well. However, in not expecting the best usually produces a negative result. Expecting the best from people means that you have to explain what you expect and discuss how it is going to be achieved.
In the process of discussing the accountabilities of the individual, you also work with them to establish mutually acceptable standards of performance. You can use this opportunity to subtly motivate these people by involving them and letting them tell you what they think they can achieve. In many pieces of research and study, it has been stated that staff members complained their supervisors don’t expect enough from them. These studies have shown that the staff members tend to expect more and set higher standards for themselves than their managers or supervisors.
Often when leaders discuss setting goals and standards with their staff, they have to persuade them not to set their standards and their goals too high and make them achievable. Experienced leaders always follow this path of setting standards and goals with their staff because they know that people are more likely to commit themselves to decisions that they make them to decisions which are made for them or prescribed them.
Because experienced employees usually know what to do and how to do it and they normally take pride in their work, letting them set their own standards will boost their motivation.
One of the most effective ways of getting the best from people is to let them reach for increasingly higher standards, to compete against the standard rather than other people. However, restraint may be required to ensure that people do not set themselves unrealistic standards and goals because that is the way that disappointment occurs and the motivation vanishes.
As soon as the target is too difficult, people’s will to achieve it diminishes dramatically. It’s important to not only set targets but also set milestones on the way. Each milestone reached is an opportunity to celebrate. When you celebrate reaching the milestone your motivation increases. If the milestone is reached and nothing happens, your motivation will diminish rapidly.
It is very important to help your staff to emphasize that you need flexible, objective and realistic performance standards. One of the ways of achieving this is to set a range rather than a fixed point for achievement.
Leadership Influence in the Workplace is the Driver for Managing Performance
Performance management teaches managers and leaders how to influence behavior. When you think about it, the behavior of people is the only way anything gets done in business.
If leaders don’t understand behavior management methods and can’t apply them consciously and correctly they are almost certainly decreasing some behaviors, they want and increasing some behaviors they don’t want.
Every single accomplishment that takes place in any organization is dependent on behavior. Consequently, the one thing that executives, managers and supervisors should know the most about is human behavior. No business or organization can survive and grow without knowing the conditions under which people do their best.
Every management system ever devised to bring out the best in people will fail if it violates the basic laws of human behavior.
Most of us look at the behavior of other people and wonder why they do certain things. We look for the answer in what happened directly before the behavior in question. In other words, we think that the behavior was caused. It was motivated by some sort of internal or external force driving need or desire.
When you understand behavior analysis you will realize that a person does things because of what happens to them when they do it. In other words, because of the behavior is not because of the conditions prior to the behavior but what happens and immediately after the behavior.
Now, it might seem that scientific methods to change behavior are not practical for front-line leaders. But it is actually the most practical way to manage people.
Everybody knows that people don’t do what we tell them to do. Yet we run our businesses as though all the performance and productivity problems are caused by people who don’t know what to do, don’t want to do or simply don’t care. So, we try and find better ways of telling them what to do. A good example of this is training courses. We put people on training courses and tell them what to do. Then when they don’t do it, we blame the training course or the unwilling course members. We don’t understand how people learn.
When our behavior changes the environment in some way that we like, we repeat it. And when we do something that changes in the environment that we don’t like, we stop it. Every single thing we do produces a consequence for us.
If a company has got productivity problems, quality problems, cost problems then the behaviors associated with those undesirable outcomes are being reinforced. This is not theory, this is reality.
People don’t resist change provided the change delivers an immediate positive consequence for them.
We know that the best reinforcement is positive immediate and certain. Peers are the most effective source of reinforcement at work and the most underutilized. They are in the best position to deliver positive and immediate reinforcement. They can observe performance more closely and more often than managers or supervisors. The whole concept of teams has missed the concept of peer reinforcement and as a result has met with little success in improving overall organizational performance.
When peers recognize that they can and should be a major source of reinforcement for each other, improvements occur more frequently, much faster and last much longer.