10 Reasons Why a Safety Perception Survey Should be Your First Measurement Option

Companies that are at the top of their safety game obtain the best improvement information from their workers.

From EHStoday.com, Published December 6, 2019

Author: Dennis Ryan

Safety perception surveys are essential safety performance measurement tools. For more than 40 years renowned safety leaders such as Dan Petersen have advocated their use. Many times Petersen has been quoted as saying, “there is no better predictor of safety performance than a safety perception survey”. Surveys reveal information critical to safety improvement that is not revealed by other methods of measurement such as auditing. The purpose of this article is to explain why safety perception surveys should be considered your company’s first safety performance measurement option.

Today, incident statistics and safety system audits are the two methods of measurement most commonly used to assess company safety performance. As with all methods of performance measurement, there are pros and cons with respect to their use. For example, incident statistics are not forward looking and therefore not predictive of future safety performance. They are often used to evaluate whether or not a company’s past incident rates warrant future work contracts. This can pressure companies to find creative ways to keep the numbers low. One of the biggest limitations to the system audit measurement approach is that only a few performance indicators such as investigation, inspection, etc. are incorporated into the audit protocols. Research into what really drives safety performance confirms that other indicators of equal or greater importance such as management credibility, employee satisfaction, autonomy, work-life balance, etc. significantly influence safety performance.

In spite of all company efforts to improve worker health and safety, the persistent high number of serious incidents and fatalities suggests we still have a great deal of preventive work to do. Given the limitations of the two methods of measurement explained above, it is hard to understand why the safety profession has been so committed to them as primary measures of safety success. Companies recognized as having “best in class” safety systems, all obtain their best improvement information from their employees. Safety perception surveys are generally used to collect this information. This article will help explain what these companies know that others may not. Here are ten key reasons why companies should consider safety perception surveys as a prime measurement option.

  1. Safety Perception Surveys Assess Human Factors/Culture

In-depth investigations into serious incidents often point to unsupportive health and safety cultures as the root underlying cause of safety system failure. Safety perception surveys can help identify the human factors that adversely affect the corporate safety culture. A strong positive culture is needed in order to support an effective health and safety program. Companies waste a great deal of time and resources attempting to successfully implement traditional safety elements only to fail because the culture of their organization was not supportive. For example, if management do not demonstrate or in fact feel a strong commitment to health and safety, binders of safety policies and posters exclaiming commitment will not change the basic fact that commitment is lacking. This fact will negatively affect all efforts to succeed in implementing a safety program.

Safety perception survey and audit processes are complimentary. Typically audits assess what is in place such as are safety meetings being held and safety inspections being conducted. Safety perception surveys assess how effective they are, as perceived by the employees and provide insight into how they might be improved. Certainly there is some overlap between the two types of methods of measurement but the two should be considered both necessary and complimentary. Companies that only audit will identify weakness in safety program elements but will not identify the underlying human factors that work against safety program success. Together, the measurement methods can provide companies with a better picture of what needs to be done to continue to improve.

2. Anonymously, Employees Feel Free to Express Their Opinions

During the audit process, many employees feel uneasy about the interviews being lead by co-workers or an external consultant. Because auditors are required to maintain employee confidentiality, they have to be careful what interview information they reveal to management. Auditors cannot risk revealing interview information to management that could ever come back on an interviewee. The interview information they reveal therefore is limited. On the other hand, when employees respond to surveys anonymously, they feel free to express themselves with no fear of reprisal. In this way companies receive employee unconstrained perceptions.

Beware of surveys that do not solicit employee comments as there is generally a need to later go back to employees and ask them to justify and validate their question scores. This is an expensive process. When employee comments are collected by survey, there is little need to later interview employees in order to validate their question scores.

3. Surveys Reveal Employee Perceptions and Perceptions are Reality

Safety perception surveys identify employee perceptions which are their realities of the workplace’s health and safety culture. Some cynics suggest these perceptions are not important because they can be incorrect. However, incorrect or not, employee perceptions are an employees’ reality and they do influence employee behaviour. For example, if employees believe senior management does not wear proper PPE at the worksites, to them, that belief is their reality. Their perception could be false if company policy allows for PPE exceptions at certain distances from the work. What really matters is that the employee reality will influence them to focus less on wearing PPE as apparently it is not a management priority. Employee perceptions are important and should never be dismissed. Once these perceptions are revealed, companies have an opportunity to later influence or change them.

4. Surveys More Accurately Quantify Employee Responses

Audits typically use a less accurate “all-or-none” approach to scoring employee interviews. All-or-none scoring requires the interviewer to interpret the interviewee’s response and then choose between a score of “Yes” or “No” or 0% and 100% positive. At best, the response provides a “guesstimate” of the employees’ response.

Surveys typically allow the respondent to respond to questions on a more accurate Likert scoring scale such as the scale below.

This method of scoring employee perceptions helps to ensure opportunities for improvement are not lost or concealed by an imprecise method of scoring. It is also important to note that there are surveys that employ all-or-none scoring. Our all-or-none scoring caution also applies to these surveys.

5. Surveys can Reveal Perception Gaps

The perception gap between workers, supervisory and management is important to measure. If question scores indicate that there is no gap between scores of all employee groups, strong alignment among them is indicated. If there are large gaps in scoring, misalignment in perceptions is indicated which generally suggests there are communication issues that need to be addressed.

6. Survey Comments can Identify Specific Improvement Opportunities by Location

As previously stated, employee survey comments should be collected and assessed. A good survey database should have the ability to protect a respondent’s identity but also reveal where corrective action is warranted (e.g. by department, section, location, etc.) in certain working locations (or other employee group, as discussed below). Employee comments often contain very specific nuggets of preventive information that are uniquely applicable to their area. This gives the company the ability to target specific corrective actions.

7. Survey Comments can Identify Specific Improvement Opportunities by Employee Group

A properly constructed survey used in conjunction with a good database, allows for the sorting of the question ratings and comments by a number of parameters such as by position, age, etc. This opens the door for management to engage with workers very specifically on issues identified within specific employee groups. For example, newer employees may express a need to improve the new employee orientation and training program. A proper database will have the ability to select employee comments and question scores by specific employee group such as by new employees.

8. Fear

One of the biggest reasons why companies have not conducted a safety perception survey is fear. If your management is afraid of what a safety perception survey may reveal, your company is a prime candidate for using the survey measurement method. Typically it is the management of the company that decides not to conduct a safety perception survey. Their decision may be due to a fear of what they might hear and afraid of what they may later be committed to improving. If this is the reason your management turns down the opportunity to conduct a survey, it is likely your company is one that would benefit most from this measurement approach. Do not let fear dictate the level of safety your company can achieve.

9. Cost Effective

Safety perception surveys can be inexpensive to conduct. A do-it-yourself approach is available to companies and that eliminates the need to hire expensive survey consultants. One of the most costly aspects in conducting either an audit or survey is in the collection of employee perceptions. The one on one interview process is painstaking and very expensive. A good survey database allows companies to gather employee perceptions electronically. As many employees can respond at one time as there are computers available. This significantly reduces the costs associated with auditors and/or survey consultants having to gather employee information one employee at a time.

10. Making a Real Difference

Most safety professionals want to be able to reflect back on their work career and feel they made a difference. They want to be able to say they didn’t just maintain the status quo: they helped make their employer a safer place to work. They want to be able to say they used every tool available to them to help improve safety in their company. The effectiveness of safety programs is really tested when employees are asked to rate them. There is no better test of safety program effectiveness than a safety perception survey that asks employees to rate various aspects of the health and safety program.

It is difficult for companies to conduct safety perception surveys on their own because the infrastructure for surveying is not readily available to them. For them, the most available alternative is to hire an expensive survey consultant to help them survey. This is an expense most companies cannot afford. Some of the larger companies such as ESSO and Dupont have developed their own survey infrastructure that allows them to conduct surveys economically in-house. The survey infrastructure needed is similar to what has already been provided for conducting system audits. Training is needed on how to conduct surveys and to certify survey administrators. A database is needed to share with companies enabling them to collect, manage and report out the data. Governments, safety associations, insurance companies and similar organizations have not adopted or made the survey infrastructure available to companies that would like to benefit from surveying. Compass Health & Safety Ltd. has developed this infrastructure and would gladly share it.

Safety perception surveys are an underutilized method of safety performance measurement. Surveys are complimentary to other methods of safety measurement such as auditing. Best-in-class companies conduct safety perception surveys for a good reason. They are on to a measurement approach that many companies have not yet had the opportunity to benefit from. They realize that they cannot succeed in safety without first engaging with their employees. They value their employee survey responses and that is why they are considered best in class.

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Will Factory Workers Need a College Degree?

Within the next few years, the number of factory workers with college degrees will outnumber those with high school degrees.

From Industryweek.com, Published December 30, 2019

By: IW Staff

Factory work, which has never been easy, continues to get more difficult, but in a different way. As jobs have moved from manual labor to automation, workers need to have higher levels of proficiency in dealing with computers and robotics.

This situation has not gone unnoticed. According to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal, currently, more than 40% of manufacturing workers have a college degree.

While that figure isn’t all that surprising, what is interesting is if this trend continues within the next few the number of factory workers with college degrees will outnumber those with high school degrees.

The WSJ report noted that in 1991, only 22% of factory workers had college degrees.

The industry has been jumping in to help current and future employees secure access to these degrees through a variety of programs. Some companies recruit high school students through internship programs, then hire them on and pay for training which can include a four-year degree. Some companies even pay the full cost of tuition.

There are also stepping stones out there that can help high school students get post-secondary training through associate degrees and industry certification.

But it seems that the end game is that college degree.

In a forceful statement, Eric Spiegel, who was the former CEO of Siemens, U.S.A. told the NYT in 2017 that at his company’s factories there is a computer every 20 or 30 feet.  “People on the plant floor need to be much more skilled than they were in the past. There are no jobs for high school graduates at Siemens today.”

Go to the original article here.

Building a Culture Around Quality

You can’t effectively call out issues without a clear process–and management must take the lead.

From Industryweek.com, Published January 06, 2020

Author: Larry Scarborough

Part of operating is running into ‘quality’ issues—things do not go as planned, whether through operation, raw material, planning, or plain human error. The way we address these issues sets apart good organizations from great. The majority of small manufacturers do not have a problem-solving process and as a result, see the same problems arise.

Philip Crosby, in his Quality Education System, has the best definition of quality: conformance to customer requirements. When establishing quality standards, often I see organizations provide a product or service that “over-delivers” on the customer expectation, feeling it gives an added value, when in reality, it cuts into an organization’s profit. While some people at the customer may appreciate it, at some level, it will be looked at as ‘If they can provide more than asked, their margins must be excellent.” When establishing quality metrics, whether, through Statistical Process Control (SPC) charts or other metrics, Mr. Crosby’s definition should be the guiding force.

Regardless, we will always have issues where we fall short. Systems and processes are required to be put in place to address these. Some are small, on-the-fly issues that can be resolved quickly, while others may take cross-departmental input.

Most importantly, management is responsible for creating a culture that embraces identifying quality issues and problems that arise daily. Inherently, people are reluctant to call out issues, especially those that stem from human error. Management should be the one to send the message directly to all personnel that the expectation is always to bring up any issue—that you (management) understand and expect issues to happen—and no one will be admonished for helping the organization improve. As entrepreneur Ray Dalio outlined in his book Principles, this was ingrained in his organization—with Mr. Dalio also being part of a team that would publicly send out their own mistakes to all employees, to set the example of transparency.

Once a culture of constant improvement is established, systems and processes need to be implemented to eliminate the issues permanently. Some problems are fixed quickly, and some take additional resources. One common denominator that must be asked, regardless of the size of the issue, is “What do we do to prevent this from recurring?” Without asking, answering, and implementing changes, the same issue will continue to hurt the organization.

Let’s look at the two different types of problem-solving processes:

1. Issues that arise ‘on the floor’ or during in-house production that can be addressed in the short-term. This may entail equipment-breakdown issues, process flow, raw material (or lack of), etc. Typically, the supervisor/manager will provide a ‘quick fix’ to ensure the process continues to move forward to meet customer requirements—and in the end, is verbally reported to management as to what was done to correct. And that is where it ends.

If the new process that was installed on the floor will be a permanent part of the operation, it needs to be reviewed, modified (if required), and adopted as part of the new standard operating procedure. If the organization is ISO certified, the systems must be updated.

 Regardless, the changes should be put in writing by the supervisor who implemented it. This does not have to be a formal system; it could be a spreadsheet with the headlines of ‘Date,’ ‘Department,’ ‘Supervisor,’ ‘Issue,’ and ‘Actions Taken,’ for clear communication. This is especially true for multiple-shift organizations. Still, it also provides a written record that can promote the behavior and actions through the organization and also be accessed for personnel reviews.

2.  Long-term or multiple department issues that require much more involvement and also can be for process improvement. For example, if we are experiencing a 20% failure rate in a specific department, there may be a short-term fix to address on the floor. (more staff, more raw material, etc.). But a structured approach needs to be executed to eliminate the problem long-term. This may entail getting many departments involved—quality, production, procurement, engineering, etc.—with all having specific steps and due dates. A formal written plan should be put together, with a spreadsheet identifying roles and responsibilities in addressing the issue. Here is an example:

Scarborough Quality Chart

Cogent Analytics

As outlined, multiple steps may or may not be performed concurrently. As management and the appropriate personnel and team implement each level, set up review dates to study the effectiveness.

The action plan should also include a review following implementation to ensure the issue/process improvement has met expectations. If not, another action plan is needed until the issue is successfully addressed. Whether a short- or long-term solution, each one needs to be measurable and communicated to the organization.

For example, if a short-term issue is fixed on the floor, look back at it and measure the result: If we are able to reduce the amount of scrap widgets by 5%, which averages 20 per week, calculate the increase in productivity on an annual basis, the reduced overhead cost and the average labor cost per unit and communicate what this means to the organization. Make an issue of how this is an example of how we want everyone in the organization to work and think, along with the measured results. If there is a bonus tied to performance, communicate the impact.

Whether a short- or long-term solution, each one needs to be measurable and communicated to the organization. For example, if a short-term issue is fixed on the floor, look back at it and measure the result—e.g., reducing the amount of scrap widgets by 5%, which averages 20 per week. Now, calculate the increase in productivity on an annual basis, reduce overhead cost and the average labor cost per unit, and communicate what this means to the organization. Make an issue of how this is an example of how we want everyone in the organization to work and think, along with the measured results. If there is a bonus tied to performance, communicate the impact.

On the more significant issues, perform the same cost-saving/production increase/profit results and how they will impact the organization and the opportunities it may provide—additional work with no other machinery or labor, etc.

Again, the biggest question that must be asked at the outset is, “What do we need to do to prevent this from recurring?” If we ask and effectively answer this, we will be able to realize continuous improvement.  

Go to the original article here.      

Does Your Family Business Have What It Takes to Endure?

Five tips for staying relevant for the next generation.

From Industryweek.com, Published January 7, 2020

By Kellogg Insight

In 1917, John D. Rockefeller was worth about $25 billion—adjusted for inflation—thanks to his stake in Standard Oil, the predecessor of ExxonMobil. He gave his son roughly half that fortune, and in 1934 John Jr. established trusts for his six children. Twenty years later, another set of trusts was left to his grandchildren. With each generation, trusts divided, splintering the fortune.

That’s how inheritance used to work,” says Jennifer Pendergast, a clinical professor at the Kellogg School and director of the Center for Family Enterprises. Either members of the succeeding generation working in the business bought out their parents; shares in the business were gifted across dozens, even hundreds, of family members; or the business itself was liquidated. “Create a trust company, manage a balanced portfolio, and spend no more than four percent of your assets year-over-year,” she says.

While these legacy models are still an option, today’s investing families are considering a range of different approaches to managing and enhancing their wealth, including ones that allow family members to actively pursue new opportunities. Pendergast describes this approach as becoming an “enterprising family.”

“Enterprising families are open to the idea of expanding beyond the legacy business,” Pendergast says. “Instead of keeping cash in the bank, you create the next entrepreneurial engine and retain the capital within the family. Businesses might come and go, but you can sustain that wealth across generations.” These families move beyond defining themselves as owning a family business to being a family in business together.

The benefits—such as the ability to pursue opportunities that align with family members’ values, as well as engage the next generation—can be huge. Not to mention that families can survive beyond a legacy business that may no longer be relevant to the marketplace. So how does an enterprising family find its footing? Prendergast offers five steps.

1. Establish a Shared Vision

The most important step for a family business transitioning to the “enterprise” model is agreeing on a common purpose and shared vision of the future. Diversification into new businesses and industries for its own sake is not enough; there has to be a coherent set of values, goals, and principles that guide the process.

“The family needs to ask itself: What is the purpose of this wealth? How do we want to use it for the next several generations?” Pendergast says. “The goal, after all, is continuity—one of the great benefits of a family enterprise is that you can think longer term.”

Families stand to gain huge financial and psychic benefits from adopting the enterprise model—but only if they’re united. Establishing a shared vision allows a family enterprise to bring its unique vision to the marketplace. So families need to proactively set their own parameters before considering the more practical and financial concerns.

One agricultural and real estate development family sums up its vision as “Growing together.” While simple, this phrase holds a wealth of meaning for them: as the family grows, its members will stick together; they will continue to grow things on the farm, and they will consider other opportunities to grow the business. A frank discussion of purpose and priorities might also lead families to conclude the opposite: that it’s better not to stay together. After all, families bring their complicated histories to the enterprise.

“Sometimes it can make more sense to sell your chips and go home. That’s why it’s so important to ask: Why do we want to be in business together? You need a good answer to that before you step down this path.”

2. Stay Relevant to the Market

One benefit of becoming an enterprising family is finding a way to move beyond the legacy business and invest in more promising ventures.

“Families have rich histories, of which they are understandably proud, and sometimes they hold onto legacy assets simply because they’ve been in the family forever and shaped its identity,” Pendergast says. “But to succeed as an enterprising family, you have to be relevant in the marketplace.”

Pendergast sees the transformation of Carlson as an example of continued relevance. Founded in 1938 as a gold bond stamp company, Carlson evolved into a travel, restaurant, and hotel business, with Radisson and TGI Friday’s among the brand portfolio. After selling off the restaurant group and, more recently, the hotel group, the family created its own private equity fund, Carlson Private Capital Partners, which they use to invest in newer, promising businesses.

Family enterprises looking to make these kinds of transformations are advised to incorporate outside counsel. Once a family has determined the basic parameters of its strategy, a mix of family and nonfamily advisors can help them leverage their assets, skills, and expertise to expand their current holdings.

“Being good at running a manufacturing firm doesn’t mean you’ll be good at running a service business,” she says. “Those who follow this path have to think of investing as their new business, and the ones who do it well usually find someone who can help guide them in the right direction.”

Such transitions can also be an opportunity for next-generation leaders to build their own reputations, rather than live in their ancestors’ shadows. “People want to make their own mark, which can certainly be more fulfilling. But they need to do it with purpose and strategy.”

3. Be Relevant to the Family

With a family business, however, the criteria for success isn’t only financial. This is especially true as young leaders take ownership of legacy companies.

“Millennials view family business differently. For them, it’s not just about making a good return. It may be about investing in environmentally sustainable, socially acceptable businesses, building a company with more flexible workplace policies, and so on. Ultimately, it’s their capital, and they’re not going to invest it in something they don’t believe in,” says Pendergast.

As families decide how to transform themselves, and which opportunities to pursue, they should think about what it will take to achieve consensus on these nonfinancial factors.

“It’s important to have the whole family on board,” Pendergast says. “It’s kind of like doing a roadshow before an IPO. Your job is to convince the owners why they want to stay owners—why they should want to go on this journey of being an enterprising family.”

In some cases, this may require having difficult conversations about family priorities. Families may struggle to reconcile generational priorities. For example, members of elder generations are often more risk adverse, whereas the younger generations may be interested in making bets on new technologies or new business models. These differences need to be resolved before the family can move forward.

Pendergast describes a family that owns a large agriculture business. They recognized that the best financial move for them would be to grow marijuana, but they decided against it because they felt it sent the wrong message to their kids.

“Sometimes achieving family consensus can take a lot of patience,” Pendergast says. “But it’s worth it.” The process of achieving consensus helps the family get to know each other’s priorities, educates the family on opportunities, and presents family members with options they may not previously have considered.

4. Create a Strong Governance Structure

Once the family has achieved that consensus on which business opportunities to pursue, it needs to determine how to govern this new enterprise. Some families move to a holding company structure, with a board that oversees all activities and capital allocation; others govern entities separately.

Pendergast advises families to think carefully about two things: where the family’s voice will reside in the chosen structure, and how best to incorporate independent expertise. Some families choose to have a family-only board at the holding company level. Others want independent directors to support them.

Some prefer to have independent directors at the entity level, but no formal governing mechanism over the larger enterprise, a move Pendergast advises against.

“The problem with having family members oversee each business without independent advice is that no one is able to make fully informed decisions,” Pendergast says. “They may not see the whole picture, so it can be hard to assess risk or know how to allocate capital.”

While building a strong board is critical, successful family enterprises also need to find a way to engage all members who want to play an active role, even those who are not on the board or leading a business. Whether that means creating a family council or another advisory body, titles should matter less than the fact that family members feel that their voices are being heard.

“It’s important to move beyond thinking that the only way the family adds value to the business is through management,” Pendergast says. “That’s not the ‘enterprising family’ mentality. The governance structure is important, of course, but people shouldn’t worry about the org chart before they have a sense that everyone’s in it together.”

5. Create Transparency and Build for the Future

Enterprising families are always works in process, so dynamic decision-making processes should be built into the organizational model.

“It’s an evolution,” Pendergast says. “Market realities constantly change, so the more flexible, adaptive, and reactive you are, the better.”

Meeting as a group once or twice a year allows families to get updates from management and consider new investment opportunities. When these enterprises begin diversifying into new opportunities, sharing the strategy with the broader family can eliminate surprises, manage expectations, and engender family support.

“The best owners are informed owners,” Pendergast says. “And to achieve that kind of transparency, you need to proactively educate the broad family ownership group on the opportunities and challenges at hand, so they can decide how the enterprise should evolve.”

And because every family enterprise is only as strong as the next generation, the company needs to find ways to keep its young members engaged.

For example, one enterprise took the opportunity to survey its broader family about how they would like to see cash from the sale of a resort redeployed. While building out industrial parks with warehouses for companies like Amazon promised the best returns, next-generation family members wanted investments they could point to as their own. So management turned to more visible retail and hospitality properties.

“Twenty years ago, people didn’t really think about whether the legacy business they inherited was ‘engaging,’” Pendergast says. “You either stuck with it, or you sold the shares. But this new generation has different ideas about work and purpose, and the factors that make the business relevant to them are very different.”

Go to the original article here.

Spokane manufacturing facility to relocate to Nampa, bringing 80 jobs

CXT Inc. is a national provider of highly customized, modular building and concrete infrastructure products.

From KTVB.com

Author: Shirah Matsuzawa, Published: 5:04 PM MDT November 1, 2019 Updated: 7:34 PM MDT November 1, 2019

NAMPA, Idaho — In just a couple of months, concrete restrooms and storage buildings manufacturing company, CXT Inc., will relocate its Northwest plant operations from Spokane to Nampa.

“What we wanted to do is centralize manufacturing at a closer location to CXT’s existing and prospective customer base,” said L.B. Foster’s marketing and communications manager, Jake Fuellhart.  

CXT is a subsidiary of L.B. Foster Company. Their move here will bring 80 jobs to the Treasure Valley. 

“We’re pleased that our economy continues to grow, and we are continuing to create new jobs that really have a high quality of pay and be a good investment in the community,” said City of Nampa’s Economic Development Director, Beth Ineck. “These jobs pay above our county average wage so their wage rates are above $42,000 a year on average, so they’ll be a quality investment for our city.”

It’s an investment, the city hopes will pay off for the people who live in Nampa. 

“Our goal from an economic development in the city is to help our existing businesses first… but then also be a really attractive location for new investment,” Ineck said. “So we want to make sure that our residents have the opportunity to live and work in the city. We still have a lot of residents who leave the city for work every day, so when we can bring in new companies and help our existing companies grow, it keeps more people in Nampa.”  

The plant will have 79,000 square feet dedicated for manufacturing, and 5,000 square feet for offices and employee areas.

They hope to start production in January 2020. 

“We’re just very excited to join the Treasure Valley business community,” Fuellhart said. “We look forward to developing strong business alliances in that area with businesses around the region for years to come.”