We are going to adopt a method we call “Liaise”
Starting at the top “Listen” . If your staff is uneasy or frustrated, there’s normally a good reason. Invariably it’s to do with something that’s not quite right. It’s not something they can always put their finger on, but it’s uneasiness that can indicate there is an issue to be resolved. Often, we go to the same place every day, see the same things over and over and before long we become blind to what’s right in front of us. As our environment gradually changes, we lose sight of the bigger picture.
I recently came across a good example of that in my own workplace. We have a suitable wide hallway that leads to our bathroom and kitchen. We needed some extra storage space for some stationary. There is plenty of room in the hallway, so we put a set of shelves in. A week after the shelve were installed, someone placed a box of A4 print paper at the end. And then someone else put a couple of lever arch file on top of the box. There was still ample room to get by. As time went on more and more stuff got stacked up at the ends of the shelves. Today no one uses the hallway as there is another one on the other side if the meeting room. I had not even noticed until I was talking to one of the new juniors who was referring to the stationary room. “We don’t have a stationary room” I stated. She pointed to the hallway and not having any idea it was actually a main thoroughfare through the office. I do not remember when we stopped using the hallway. I remember someone saying something about it a couple of years ago but failed to listen properly. Today we have our hallway back and converted a small room to our stationary room.
Next on the list we have Information. Employees feel a sense of belonging when they are kept up to date about what is going on in the workplace. Let’s face it, they spend a third of their valuable time at the workplace. No matter how mundane the task, it’s an important role. The important thing is to provide the right information. Good or bad. With bad news we just need to give some reassurances. In any organisation, it’s hard to keep secrets. The easiest way to shut down rumours is telling the story straight. Employees appreciate the honesty and feel a part of the bigger team. And they understand there are some things that are too sensitive to share. There is a need to share safety Information as well. Regular meetings are great to get information out and in. Design your meeting so the employees feel empowered to speak up if there is something that needs improving.
Moving on to our third item, Act. You a better off to tell someone straight that you don’t believe there concerns are worth acting on than to feed them a line of “I’m on it” or “It’s the next thing on my list”. Just be straight. “I can’t deal with that until next Tuesday” but make sure when Tuesday comes around you deal with the issue then report back to your employee that it is done. Supervisors that act on requests are valued by both their managers and their staff. We are not saying let your employees walk all over you, just respect what they have to say and when appropriate, act. Because your staff will just get sick of talking to you and they are your best source of information.
Next, we have Improvement. Actually, it’s Continuous Improvement but that didn’t work with the LIAISE acronym. Safety is like anything else. You can have the best policies and procedures in place, but they get tired, complacency steps in and people forget. So, we need to continuously review, amend, discard and replace policies and procedures as new methods and new technology become available. Regular team meetings are a great source of two-way communication. Employees, no matter what their have great ideas on how to improve.
Now we get to Support. Often employees are going through issues away from the workplace. Peers, Supervisors and Manager need to keep an eye on each other for changes. People in high risk roles need to maintain focus on the task they are doing. It becomes increasingly harder if a worker is worried about a large unexpected expense, a sick relative or perhaps a relationship breakup. There are many services available to assist your employees. Some are free, others are paid such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). As employers our people need to know we care about their wellbeing. After all they are your single biggest asset.
Finally, we have Empower. That doesn’t mean we are giving our authority away to our subordinates. It simply means we are empowering people to contribute to their workplace, which is particularly important when it comes to safety. Nurture and encourage staff to speak up. Employees who are to intimidate to speak up develop and harbour resentment towards their employer which can quickly spread through an entire organisation.
To summarise LIAISE is all about open communication, trust and honesty. If you can’t discuss a certain topic with your staff for legal or commercial reasons let them know. If the situation changes tell them how much you appreciate their patients. If you follow this simple philosophy, your safety will improve, and when safety improves productivity improves.