New Frontiers for Safety Incentives
For years, many safety professionals openly opposed the use of safety incentive programs. This is changing.
- By Jerry Laws
- Apr 01, 2010
It's clear that U.S. safety managers understand
cash is a bad motivator of safer behaviors and
performance on the job. Nine out of 10 potential
customers he sees at industry trade shows accept
that statement as a given, said Brian Galonek, CPIM,
president of All Star Incentive Marketing of Fiskdale,
Mass. Yet the fight for his company and others in the
incentive industry is far from won, he said.
"I would say that the frontier for us now, the challenge
we have: This is not your grandfather's incentive
program any more," said
Galonek. He said older programs,
older formats that do not
work well and persuade people to
hide injuries or accidents, remain
available. They might be based on
one big-ticket giveaway — a single
prize that will be awarded to
one recipient from an entire shift.
"The three main things I always
hit on are these: The element
of chance is a terrible idea in a program,
where you throw in all the
names and pick one name out of
a hat," he explained. "It's still only
one person out of 50 or 500, and
the other 499 never thought they
had a chance anyway, so there's no
incentive there. Stop using these
big-ticket awards and just giving
them to one person, like a trip to Hawaii. Stop using
cash as the award itself. The third one is awarding in
groups. As I've told people over and over again, if I'm
being rewarded for my individual behavior and I run a
forklift into a wall, I am not going to hide that and risk
losing my job. I am being rewarded for my own behavior.
If I report that and 300 guys on my shift won't get
their safety points for that month or won't get their gift
card, I will hide it. I'm much more likely to hide it. I'm
talking about being the jerk in the lunchroom, ostracized,
what have you. So now there's more of a disincentive
to tell my manager that I put a dent in the forklift."
Galonek said about 50 percent of people he speaks
with at trade shows think all three of those practices
are fine, and many see no problem with waiting a long
time to award the incentive.
"An incentive program works because there's
action-reaction. When you do something, I reward
you for it. On the shop floor if possible, or as quickly
as possible," he said. "If you have a completely great
safety year and you were safest in April, and all you
get is a chance to win an ATV and that chance comes
in January, and then you don't win? That's not a safety
incentive program, even if the safety manager thinks,
'The guys love it. They just love it.'"
Such programs are not based on communication
and engagement, he maintained. "Those programs
are based on whether you remember enough that you
might win an ATV in 10 months if you stay safe on
the job. That's not how human nature works." Workers
from Gen X and Gen Y expect communication; if you
reward them 10 months later for something they've
done now, that's of no value, Galonek said.
Managers of the old school looked to the older
methods, thinking that incentives are negative motivators
because they encourage hiding of injuries,
agreed Heidi Chatfield, the company's vice president
of marketing and operations. The company is making
headway with a newer crop of managers, she said, explaining
that peers in various industries are now sharing
a consistent message about how properly designed
incentives only enhance a safety program.
"I always talk about an OSHA poster hanging on
a wall," Galonek said. "That's not a safety program.
What we try to get people to do is to put a little pizzazz,
a little marketing into their safety message. It's
extremely important…to think about how to spruce
up that message. And not just the message, but also
what flies underneath that message, which speaks to
manager training and what you do to make sure people
are singing off the same song card."
Industry Opposition Wanes
For years, many safety professionals
openly opposed the use of safety incentive
programs. This, too, is changing, Galonek
He cited an All Star program within
the past year that was successful and loved
by the customer, yet it was halted because
turnover issues with the customer's
middle managers caused its facilities to
be managed poorly, and the All Star program
wasn't being given the attention it
required, Galonek said he was told.
That was frustrating, he admitted. "It's
good to leave on good terms, but to say,
'We just clearly have a management training
issue we have to resolve before we can
expect this program to work for us.' …"
"We do a lot of staying in touch with
people," he added. "When they say, 'The
budgets are frozen, we should talk in October,'
that's what we do. So there's a lot of
kicking the can down the road."
Customers are not saying the programs
don't work, but some potential customers
are saying they can't aff ord them at this
time, he said.
This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.