Present, yet absent. Does this describe your employees?

By: Jude Carter

With unemployment sitting stubbornly at 9.7%, chances are you’re still scrambling to do more with less. With so much focus on cuts―costs, hours, and people, it’s easy to overlook the unintended costs that occur when employees are overworked and worried about their own job security.

We recently conducted a workplace poll that showed that 58% of respondents felt the economy was getting worse or “about the same” (which was pretty bad). 38% reported an increase in stress and anxiety among workers, while 24% cited increased fear of job loss.

Workplace stress and fear is translating to distraction on the job, leading to costly errors and mistakes. The piling on of additional responsibilities has employees taking risky shortcuts, often resulting in accidents. Consider the cost of some of the examples from our survey:
· Instead of shutting down a conveyer to reach a product, the employee stuck his hand down toward the rollers thinking he could quickly grab the item. Instead, his hand was sucked into the conveyer causing significant damage to his arm.
· A forklift driver was texting and ran into a pole, causing damage to the property and products.
· Healthcare workers cutting corners by lifting patients alone, rather than with assistance, causing back strain.
· Shipping an incorrect product to Mexico and having to pay the freight expense for the shipping, returning and re-shipping.
· A maintenance worker put weed killer in a fly spray bottle without re-labeling the container. Another worker thought he was spraying for flies when in fact he was killing all the plants and shrubs.

So what can we do? Droning on and on about proper safety procedures and quality control isn’t going to cut it.  Now more than ever our employees need to know that we care about them as people, not just workers. Employee recognition, both public and individual goes a long way. Are you rewarding workers who have helped to avoid accidents and mistakes?

Sharon Toelle
June 10, 2010

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