Employee Engagement in Safety

As Safety of ALL involved on a project is our #1 priority at McKenney’s, we know employee engagement in our policies and procedures is at the heart of the matter.  When an employee is TRULY engaged, they are fully invested in both their own work and the performance of their company. 

While we can say that the overwhelming majority of our workforce remains engaged, we feel that we cannot disregard the small few who might slip and become disengaged in their work.  Our continuous goal is to recognize this behavior and take steps to re-engage those who might be on “cruise control” or in a rut with their day to day actions.  So, why are people disengaged?  What sort of conditions exist which allow for this to happen?  There are many reasons – they might feel underappreciated – there is a lack of trust, or maybe they are just performing repetitive actions and lose focus?


In EHS Today, Bill Sims Jr., President of Bill Sims Co. & author of Green Beans and Ice Cream:  The Definitive Recipe for Employee Engagement, Motivation and Recognition, breaks down employee engagement and their commitment to a zero-injury culture.  He poses a rhetorical question to the reader: “How many would like to reach ZERO injuries?”

While we can presume that everyone would respond the same way with an emphatic “Yes”, Bill notes that is the desired outcome, but not necessarily the GOAL.  He believes the goal is not zero injuries – the goal is zero at-risk behaviors.  He states, “when you aim for zero at-risk behaviors you are aiming for perfection” and likens this to winning the Super Bowl of Safety!  Do you think your team will ever reach perfection in Safety?  The answer is no.  But only when your team pursues perfection can you achieve excellence (which Bill equates to zero injuries).

We at McKenney’s have been on a Safety journey for over 70 years – a journey where we’ve witnessed an “all hands on deck” quest for zero injuries.  However, we realize that zero injuries is not the END of our Safety journey – its only the BEGINNING.  By striving for a high level of employee engagement we believe we can get the commitment from each and every person to start at the beginning with a zero-injury culture in mind as they approach their work every day.

To this end, Bill Sims suggests we take a deep look at the types of employees and make adjustments to our culture to Convert those who are not as committed.  There are three types of employees:

  • Non-compliant: convinced the only way to get high production is to take risks and shortcuts
  • Compliant: “only when watched” mentality
  • Committed: perform safely even when nobody is watching – “its who I am”

To change those employees from non-compliant or just compliant to truly committed, takes effort from LEADERS.  We can’t just do the right thing on a moment of choice, it needs to be a part of the culture instilled by leadership throughout the organization.  And to truly get this level of commitment requires something rarely delivered consistently by today’s leaders:  workforce engagement through positive reinforcement.  As a final note, below are some suggestions for improving employee engagement:

  • Use of new and innovative tools and technology
  • Create an environment whereby people are comfortable voicing their opinions or providing ideas for improvement
  • Develop a high level of mutual respect
  • Provide positive feedback for positive behaviors
  • Continuing education & training
  • Crystal clear messaging and guidelines (we at McKenney’s call these “Absolutes”)
  • Give recognition and praise
  • Take ownership over Safety
  • Open communication – create an “open door” policy
  • Involve employees on EVERY step of your Safety journey


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About Jeremy Greenwell

Website: https://www.mckenneys.com

Email Address: jeremy.greenwell@mckenneys.com

Jeremy Greenwell leads the Business Development efforts at McKenney’s, sourcing and managing solid relationships and a complex pipeline across a multi-market platform. Jeremy, an engineering graduate from the University of Kentucky, began his career working in project management for a prominent general contractor, then leading a division for a worldwide real estate organization focused on the acquisition, disposition and development of commercial properties. Throughout his career, Jeremy has been involved in over $900 Million of real estate, comprising 19 Million SF and spanning over 4,000 acres. At McKenney’s, he dedicates his time to relationship building and improving the connectivity between his colleagues and their diverse customer base.

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