Ehstoday 2110 Ergonomics

5 Tips to Engage Team Members in the Ergonomics Process

May 20, 2015
Your team members out on the shop floor are the real workplace improvement experts. Engage them in the ergonomics process to heighten awareness, generate improvement ideas and build a positive safety culture.

Did you know that 71 percent of the workforce is either not engaged at work or actively disengaged at work, according to Dale Carnegie?

Yes, that’s a huge number. It means that a measly 29 percent of people are engaged at work.

And it gets even worse. According to research by Quantum Workplace, the number of engaged employees in the manufacturing industry is 10 percent worse than the national average. 

Ouch. So what’s the answer to this problem?

I understand this is a multifaceted issue and the overall solution is comprehensive in nature, but I would submit to you today that engaging your team members in ergonomics can be part of the solution.

Employee engagement rarely shows up in a cost-justification analysis for an ergonomics process, but ergonomics is a perfect way to improve employee engagement.

Team members are a valuable asset to the ergonomics process. By bringing your team members into the ergonomics process, you’re bringing in the real workplace improvement expert. After all, they are the ones doing the job day in and day out, and no one is more familiar with their work.

This engagement will be empowering to workers, and can be extended to other areas of the workplace.

Benefits of Engaging Team Members in the Ergonomics Process

Beyond improving the massive employee engagement problem, engaging team members in ergonomics produces many benefits for the ergonomics process itself.

If you engage your team members in the ergonomics process, you will:

Heighten ergonomics awareness: An engagement process around ergonomics will heighten the awareness of the program and bring ergonomics top of mind.

Generate improvement ideas: Because ergonomics will be top of mind more often (and team members will be trained in ergonomics), more improvement opportunities will be identified and brought to your attention. More ideas and opportunities will lead to more ergonomic improvement projects.

Build a positive safety culture: Engaging team members in ergonomics is a perfect opportunity to shape the safety culture of your organization. The ergonomics process is about lessening fatigue and discomfort for your team members. It’s an action you can take to improve their work and life, and actions shape culture faster than any safety slogan ever can.

Ensure team members will embrace improvements: By engaging team members in ergonomics from the beginning, you greatly improve the chances they will embrace improvements when they’re made.

Ready to engage your team members in the ergonomics process? Following are five tips to get you started quickly.

5 Tips to Engage Employees

1. Invite them in

The first step is to simply invite your team members to the table. Be intentional about inviting your people to engage in ergonomics and create a marketing plan to establish buy-in. Your invitation should be a genuine expression of your desire to help make their lives easier through the ergonomics process. Tell them how ergonomics can benefit them and cast a vision they can get behind. 

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate

A general announcement, a new policy on the bulletin board and one training session won’t be enough. Constant and ongoing communication about ergonomics will be necessary to get the kind of engagement you need to be effective.

In fact, there is no such thing as over communication here. Use every communication channel you have early and often. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

3. Train team members in ergonomics

Equip your team members for success with ergonomics awareness and skills development training. When feasible, use real world examples they can relate to. Take pictures of workstations and illustrate the ergonomic risk factors present. Show case studies and examples of how ergonomics made someone’s job easier.

Training is critical for engaging your people and equipping them for success. Take every opportunity you can to develop the ergonomics skills of your workforce.

4. Celebrate wins

Celebrate successful ergonomics projects. If you don’t, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to gain traction for the ergonomics process. Highlight a team member who came up with the solution and communicate how the project made their life easier and added value to the company at the same time.  Celebrating wins shapes culture and creates momentum.

5. Respond quickly

When a team member submits a contribution to the ergonomics process, respond quickly with over-the-top enthusiasm. Supervisors should escalate the issue as soon as possible and keep the team member in the loop on where their idea is in the improvement process. If the improvement will take a long time (or isn’t feasible) set a clear expectation and provide evidence for why. Always thank them and make sure they feel appreciated.

(Bonus tip) Stay with it

Last of all, stay with it. Employee engagement, like ergonomics, is a long game. Remain consistent with engaging team members over the long haul and you will eventually reap what you sow.

Mark Middlesworth, MS, ATC/L, CEES is the founder of Ergonomics Plus, a company devoted to helping “workplace athletes” live healthy, productive lives and remain injury free.

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