Businesses often see workplace safety as something that requires a lot of time and money. They worry that the extra effort may threaten existing productivity and processes. However, studies continue to show that employees that feel safe perform better on the job than those who don’t. How can leaders leverage safety as a tool that provides for business growth?
On this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, we sit down with Greg Davis, CEO of Big Leaf Networks. Davis has a 25-year record of successfully scaling business growth by creating safe environments where employees succeed.
First, we’ll talk about how unsafe environments limit productivity in the workplace. Then, we’ll discuss red flags that tend to limit growth. Finally, we’ll share why trust in the workplace is so important.
Listen to this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast or read the show notes below.
Business scalability: Unsafe environments limit productivity
Safety is paramount in the workplace. Without it, employees – and a business – simply can’t thrive. Davis experienced this first-hand. As a young professional, a weekend shooting rocked his family-owned restaurant. Two employees were killed, another critically injured. The shooter had fled the scene – and also happened to be someone Davis knew.
The damage was two-fold: not only were employees injured and killed, but trust in the restaurant sunk to an all-time low. “This was my business and it was also very personal,” Davis shared. “You had a business that was completely you, yet a place that people went because they felt safe. That Sunday, that had completely been eroded.”
Eventually, the shooter was apprehended. The restaurant had to reopen, for the sake of the employees and the community. But it wouldn’t be easy.
4 types of safety employees need
Within the restaurant kitchens, Davis’s employees were struggling. Food service is often marked by tense, fast-paced environments. The shooting had dissolved their sense of safety; they still jumped at loud noises. Quality standards, performance, and productivity fell.
Davis discovered that without certain types of safety and stability, productivity just wasn’t an option. In order to perform well, employees needed four key assurances:
- Physical safety. A workplace needs to be physically safe. For example, locked doors, employee IDs, and alarm systems offer a sense of physical security.
- Emotional safety. Employees need to be in a good mental space to do their job. This allows them to have a sense of situational awareness and work well with others.
- Professional safety. In order to do their job well, each employee should know what their responsibilities are in the workplace.
- Financial safety. A business with a shaky financial foundation creates concerns about job security for employees.
Providing these essential forms of safety allows high-quality employees to perform at their best. “When we do that, we’re going to see better yield from our workforce,” he explained. “We’re going to see, you know, better surveys and better interaction from our customers.”
Red flags that limit business scalability
When Davis enters a business for the first time, he looks for a few key things that can inhibit the growth of a business. The first is looking at who is making key business decisions.
Uninformed or overly-opinionated employees leading decisions can lead to unnecessary risk. In some situations, there are employees who simply aren’t great decision-makers. In others, a founder or entrepreneur’s vision eventually begins to hold the company back.
It’s Davis’s role to look for elements that build up trust and transparency. Are the right decision-makers in place? Do employees understand what their responsibilities are? What are the boundaries when it comes to working safely? “If you don’t have a good mechanism for making decisions, that creates a lot of risk,” he shared. “For example, if we’re doing something, we need to know that it’s strategically good for the business.”
Creating a culture of trust
Employees who trust their employers and organizations feel safer at work. In turn, that feeling of safety leads them to working more productively. Creating a culture of trust is important, no matter the industry.
According to Davis, trust tends to break down in the commercial areas of a business: production, sales, and engineering. When there is a lack of trust, businesses tend to create checks and balances, or extra verification processes. These are often labor-intensive, expensive to maintain, and inefficient. How do employers avoid this?
The importance of transparency
“I think you have to give people the opportunity to build trust, so the short answer is incremental progress,” Davis answered. In practice, employees need opportunities to lead and forecast outcomes. Managers need to buy in to the concept of transparency, communication, and conflict resolution. Many companies steward information on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. “If you scale that out, no one would really ever know anything in a lot of cases.”
Personalizing business scalability
For Davis, there is no one formula for success that works for every business he encounters. It’s essential to look at each business area and assess for strengths and weaknesses. But it’s also important for employers to take a step back and look at the environment.
Could employees benefit from being in a safer work location? Are managers prepared to help resolve conflict and communicate organizational changes? Building your business on a safe and solid foundation is the key to growing upward and outward.