Creating a Safety Culture with Employee Buy-In

I know this is a publication all about the safety and health of employees in industries across the country, but let’s take a minute to talk about IKEA. Yes, you read that right: IKEA.

If you haven’t heard of IKEA, the brand describes themselves as, “a Scandinavian chain selling ready-to-assemble furniture, plus housewares, in a warehouse-like space.” Basically, it’s a really big store full of items you can buy for your home. IKEA has been made popular, however, by its furniture that is packaged in pieces in compact boxes, which allows customers to grab-and-go and assemble themselves at their home when they have the chance.

I don’t know if you’ve ever put together a piece of IKEA furniture, but I have. Let’s just say it is not a quick process, especially depending on what you are building. While IKEA makes it as easy for the customer as possible, there are still many steps to complete, parts to sort through and mistakes that you can make along the way. Here’s an example: about two years ago, I bought a lovely side table for my entryway.

The box was easy to maneuver into my home, but once opened I could tell it was going to take a while to assemble. All in all, it took me about two hours to put this dang table together. Along the way I had some missteps, like accidentally screwing one of the legs on backwards and nearly putting the table top on upside down. In the end, when it was finished, I was proud of myself. It was something that I had set out to accomplish and I had a lot of pride in that piece of furniture. (Which still stands today in my entryway.)

What I just described is called the “IKEA Effect,” a cognitive bias in which consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created. When someone has helped to create something, they tend to care more about “the thing.”

Now, finally, let’s relate this IKEA Effect to safety. When workers and employees are able to give an opinion, be part of the process and help shape and build safety initiatives, they tend to care more about the overall safety culture of the company. They are more willing to address unsafe scenarios, be present in training and be confident in their safe work. Even if missteps are made along the way, employees feel comfortable communicating the actions that need to be made to create a solution.

This is how getting employee buy-in in safety should work, right? Are you working at a collective approach to safety in your workplace? If not, maybe you should take a stroll through IKEA and think about how you can get started today.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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