ZERO HARM PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEES

1. INTRODUCTION:

The question arises:  Why does the following pattern happens?

THE DREAM EMPLOYEE

A trained, competent declared, physically capable
employee displaying safe and productive behavior
for an extended period of time.

Changes to…

THE PROBLEM EMPLOYEE

An unproductive, unsafe employee.

Many years of research into identifying the underlying dynamics of the shift from DREAM to PROBLEM employee was done by the WorkWell Research Unit, which is situated at the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom.  

The research embraced the following:

Conceptualisation of psychological fitness

Reliability and validation studies (standardisation of dimensions)

Cultural sensitivity studies to ensure measurement equivalence in terms of SA demographics (compliance with legislation)`

Establishing a SA norm for psychological fitness

Developing a psychological fitness assessment instrument (PFI)

Developing sectorial benchmarks pertaining to psychological fitness (in progress)

The above research provided understanding why this change happens regularly in all organisations, especially those where production and safety is important. An operational version of the research is provided by the following “WHY” – Model and how it can be applied practically to prevent this unfortunate pattern from happening or reverse this pattern when it occurs. 

2. THE “WHY” MODEL:

  1. THE DIMENSIONS OF THE “WHY” MODEL:

3.1       GOAL:

The GOAL of any organisation where safety is a factor in the production process is to ensure a ZERO HARM PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEE.

3.2       CONTRIBUTORS:

  • TRAINED COMPETENT WORKER: The basic building block is to have a trained and competent worker, capable of performing the requirements of a specific job.
  • PHYSICALLY FIT WORKER: A worker having the minimum standard of strength, flexibility and endurance to execute a particular job, handle the tools and equipment effectively, be able to complete a full shift and recover sufficiently to do it all over during the next shift.
  • PSYCHOLOGICALLY FIT WORKER: Psychological Fitness consists of two dimensions, namely:
    • Motivational Fitness – This refers to intrinsic motivation and desire to “WILL” and “WANT” to do the job safely and well. This “WILL DO” attitude has the following three components:
        • Work devotion (Dedication to adhere to standards)
        • Vitality (Enthusiasm to tackle task with eagerness)
        • Organisational Commitment (Being loyal, feeling attached and dedicated to the organisation goals)
    • Energetic Fitness – This “CAN DO” belief results from mental, emotional, physical and cognitive energy channelled into engaging the self at work to act safely and perform well. A lack of energetic fitness manifests in the following:
        • Exhaustion, a state when an employee in unable to perform a job well due to drained energy levels
        • Cognitive Weariness, a state where the employee is unable to attend (focus) and remember (concentrate) many things at the same time resulting in mental overload, tiredness and mistakes
        • Mental Distance, a cynic state of unwillingness and indifference to perform a task or job well due to a lack of energy to cope with the demands of the job
        • Distress Symptoms, a prolonged combination of exhaustion, mental distance and cognitive weariness will eventually manifest in distress symptoms called “stress-related ill-health” and “fatigue”
  • A CONDUCIVE ORGANISATIONAL CLIMATE: A conducive organisational climate is required for “positive citizenship behaviour”. Factors such as sub-optimal industrial relationships, wide-spread dissatisfaction with certain company policies and procedures and a negative or non-caring organisational culture and climate have a negative impact on an employee’s citizenship behaviour.

In combination the four contributors determine how well an employee execute the job and how safely it is performed.

Research indicated the following:

  • Only 3% of all accidents and injuries are a result of unsafe conditions, driven by technical aspects
  • Whereas 17% of all accidents and injuries are a result of unsafe acts: human error, driven by the capability of people
  • However, 80% of all accidents and injuries are a result of the violation of safety rules and regulationswhich are driven by the Psychological Fitness states of people and the conduciveness of the organisational climate.

There is another element to the module, namely an employee’s risk propensity which acts as moderator of the contributions in the sense that it can have a positive or negative impact on how the contributors play out.  An employee with a high risk averse propensity can reduce the negative impact of contributors as inherently this person prefers to act safely.  On the other hand an employee with a high risk tolerance propensity can act even more unsafe by taking shortcuts if the impact of the contributors is negative. 

3.3       MODERATORS:

The moderating impact of Risk Propensity is determined by the following four constructs:

  • Tendency to take or avoid risk:
      • A risk-seeking individual is more likely to focus on and weigh positive outcomes and will have a tendency to overestimate the probability of gain relative to the probability of loss
      • A risk-averse individual on the other hand will focus on and weigh positive outcomes and tend to overestimate the probability of loss relative to the probability of gain.
  • Perception of inherent risk in a given situation:

An employee’s perception of the severity of the risk situation is influenced by:

  • Personal Factors, such as
      • risk preference (being attracted of repelled by a risk),
      • inertia (resulting from continued application of habits),
      • outcome history (past experiences resulting in successful
  • External Factors, such as
      • Team pressure
      • Supervisor example
      • Family context
      • Organisational reward
      • Compliance management
  • Personal Psychological Fitness Factors resulting in distress symptoms, such as:
      • Low concentration
      • Avoidance behaviour
      • Prolonged feelings of sadness or worthlessness, (an indication of depression risk)
      • Sleeping disorders
      • Fatigue
  • Risk tolerance:
      • The capability of an individual to accept or absorb risk. High-risk tolerance means that the individual tends to accept and absorb more risks, whilst low-risk tolerance means that a person shows a high aversion for risk tolerance. Meaning that a person shows a high aversion for risk.
  • Decision-making ability & behaviour in risk situations:
      • An employee’s level of Risk Propensity, Perception and Tolerance determines what kind of mitigation a person will take in a given risk situation.
  1. ASSESSMENT INSTRUMENTS:

Quantifying the human factor to determine its effectiveness and competitiveness has always been a challenge for Executives, Managers, HR, and Health and Safety specialists.  Understanding whether certain areas are doing a “good” job or whether staff is motivated and committed has always been consensus-based, subjective and “airy-fairy”: objective evidence-based metrics regarding these have not been available.

Afriforte (Pty) Ltd, the commercial arm of the research unit, converted the research into two analytic systems that generate objective norm-based and standardised metrics in real-time, namely the Psychological Fitness Index Analytics System and the Balloon Tycoon Risk Propensity Game.

The PFI human factor metrics is standardised and comparable and provide Executives, Managers HR and Health and Safety specialists with an objective score regarding the ability of staff to act safely and perform well.  However, measuring processes and results with one metric only is not a good enough strategy.  A combination of metrics is used to measure the effectiveness of organisational processes.  Therefore, human factor metrics should form part of a larger strategic, tactical, and operational process in the organisation to determine:

  • What percentage of employees is at risk?
  • Who are these employees?

4.1       The Psychological Fitness Index Analytics System (PFI):

  • The PFI is a human factor risk diagnostics tool that brings theory to practice.
  • It empowers Executive, Managers, HR, and Health and Safety specialists to answer critical human factor questions in support of:
      • Strategic (and operations) intent and capability to act,
      • Business risk management, and
      • Sustainable development
  • At a strategic level, the PFI results answer the following questions to Executive Teams:
      • Do our lower level employees function optimally? Can and are they motivated to act safely and be productive at work?  The system generates a standardised metric score for employee functioning
      • What are our risks associated with safety behaviour the psychological contract, impaired presenteeism, and turnover intention? The System predicts risks based on psychological fitness states
      • What are the work-related wellbeing risks of lower level employees? i.e. Burnout, Over-commitment, Distraction, Work Engagement Risks
      • Which areas need more support and from which areas can we learn? Based on employee functioning metric/performance score
      • What can we do to promote the safety behaviour of employees, i.e. at a Sheq level, Work Climate level, and Employee Wellbeing level? This is based on themes from Individual Feedback and Focus Groups.

At an employee level the moral case is the main driver because it is all about:

  • Promoting the work-related wellbeing of each employee.
  • Creating a work environment that optimises the potential of each staff member.
  • Getting staff input re workplace needs – Bottom-up approach, understanding the experiences of staff.

The PFI Assessment produces a report on an employee’s level of:

  • Safety Risk
  • Psychological Contract Risk
  • Turnover Risk
  • Impaired Presenteeism Risk
  • True Engagement

The four levels of risks are classified in terms of:

  • Low Risk
  • Moderate Risk
  • High Risk
  • Serious Risk

True Engagement is classified in terms of the following five levels:

  • Optimum Engagement
  • Engaged with high distress risks
  • Engaged with moderate distress risks
  • Moderate Engagement
  • Disengagement

A confidential pdf report is generated for each participant indicating vulnerability risk and appropriate interventions to ensure Psychological Fitness for Work.  The report is used as the basis for group and individual coaching.

In addition, a group management report generated indicating the psychological fitness trends of employees against South African norms. The PFI can be administered in all 11 South African languages.

4.2       Balloon Tycoon Risk Propensity Game:

The Afriforte Balloon Tycoon 3D Game provides an objective indication of the decision-making behaviour of an individual where gain potential is provided in a risky context, i.e., the Game assesses the consistency of risk-taking behaviour in a perceived gain potential context.

Consistency of risk-taking behaviour entail two distinct processes viz. adaptability to risk and rigidity in terms of risk.

  • The consistent risk-taking behaviour categories imply that individuals adapt to the environment BUT consistently base their reactions and behaviour upon the changes in the environment, for example: A consistent risk averse person will immediately adapt to new rules and stick to it; a consistent risk-taker will adapt risk taking behaviour based on reaction but will consistently apply the same risk-taking strategy.
  • The erratic risk-taking behaviour categories imply that individuals become rigid in the way they react and behave (consistently react erratic) even though they are aware of changes in the environment. This implies that individuals in these categories will carry on taking risks (carry on with the same erratic behaviour) even though they are aware of the changes in the environment.

An Individual Report is generated indicating preference behaviour according to the following four categories:

  • Consistent Risk Averse
  • Consistent Risk Taker
  • Erratic Risk Averse
  • Erratic Risk Taker

In addition, a group management report is generated indicating the risk propensity trends of employees.  The Balloon Risk Propensity Game can be administered in 6 South African languages.

  1. IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS:

The following process needs to be implemented once a client has contracted to assess employee vulnerability for risk:

Step 1:  Contracting

  • Management buy-in
  • Finalisation of the contract with the service provider

Step 2:  Project Set-up

  • Access to employees
  • Time schedules

Step 3:  Project Communication

  • Employee Orientation on Measurement Instruments

Step 4:  Assessment Administration

  • Ensure reliable assessment tool implementation
  • Immediate Individual follow-up for high-risk cases
  • Focus Groups to obtain information on workplace experience

Step 5:  Reporting and Feedback

  • Group Report Generation and Interpretation
  • Management Feedback

Step 6:  Intervention Planning and Implementation

  • Contracting for Focused Interventions based on results
  • Finalisation of the contract with the service provider
  1. IMPLEMENTATION OPTIONS

The benefit of the above-mentioned knowledge base and assessment tools can be realised via two different implementation options, namely

  1. To identify what is the risk profile of a representative sample of employees to determine If the employing company is at risk for unsafe and unproductive work due to the lack of motivational fitness, energetic fitness, inappropriate risk propensity of the employees and a vulnerable organisation climate
  2. To select those employees involved in incidents and accidents during the last 6 months as well as their supervisors and those directly involved in the incident/accident to determine their risk profile and ascertain if their lack of Motivational Fitness, Energetic Fitness, and Inappropriate Risk Propensity, contributed to the incident/accident.

6.1       OPTION ONE: To identify what is the risk profile of a representative sample of employees to determine if the employing company is at risk for unsafe and unproductive work due to the lack of motivational fitness, energetic fitness, inappropriate risk propensity of the employees and a vulnerable organisation climate

 A representative sample of at least 20 percent of the population involved in an environment where safety and production are the focus be selected to be involved in the assessment of their risk profiles.

Their results can then be compared against South African norms to determine the risk profile of the company. Internal bench marking can also be done to determine the risk profile of specific areas as compared to one another.

Appropriate interventions will then be designed to

  • Maintain a positive risk profile of the company if that is the outcome,

or

  • Mitigate the vulnerable profile of the company if that is the outcome of the assessment.

The following system is used to mitigate the vulnerability of the employees and the organisation:

 

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6.2       OPTION TWO: To select those employees involved in incidents and accidents during the last 6 months as well as their supervisors and those directly involved in the incident/accident to determine their risk profile and ascertain if their lack of motivational fitness, energetic fitness, and inappropriate risk propensity, contributed to the incident/accident

In most incident and accident investigations the following elements of human errors and risk-taking behaviour are assessed:

  • Slip/laps of mind
  • Rule-based mistakes
  • Knowledge-based mistakes
  • Inability/incapacity
  • Gross negligence
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Risk underestimated
  • Risk overlooked
  • Risk accepted/ignored
  • Risk underestimated

If these elements are assessed as part of a root cause analysis through interviews or any other subjective means, the result can only be speculative, consensus-based, and subjective.

The PFI and Risk propensity assessment however provides objective evidence-based metrics on the above-mentioned elements that could verify if the employees involved in the incident/accident displayed behaviour resulting in violation of safety rules and regulations which are driven by the Psychological Fitness and Risk Propensity states of these employees and the role played by the level of conduciveness of the organisational climate.

The outcome of Option Two will then be used to assess if the Incident Accident Investigation SOP can be improved to include objective evidence-based metrics to ascertain if the incident or accident was the result of:

  • unsafe conditions, driven by technical aspects
  • unsafe acts related to human error, driven by the lack of capability of people, or
  • violation of safety rules and regulations which are driven by the Psychological Fitness and Risk Propensity states of the employees and the conduciveness of the organisational climate.

In addition, preventative and remedial interventions will be recommended and implemented to improve the overall risk profile of the company and its employees.

  1. Contact us

Please contact us if you require a presentation on our approach to facilitate Zero Harm Production.

Dr Willem Mostert

Mobile:  +27 (0) 82 800 8469

Email:   willem@brain-fit.net

Hester-Mari Joubert M.A. (Soc. Sc.)

Cell:  +27 (0) 82 777 6297

Email:  hestermari@brain-fit.net

Accredited as:

  • PFI Consultant
  • Risk Propensity Consultant
  • Fatigue Management Consultant
  • Brain-based Coach
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