It’s More the HOW than the WHAT That Matters

For safety programs, wellness initiatives, or for that matter, any other activities involving employees, the ‘HOW’ matters as much, if not more than, the ‘WHAT’ – especially for any company wanting to: be a great place to work, encourage collaboration, and/or increase employee engagement.

We say this often, but two recent workplace incidents gave us pause – and both involved companies implementing projects to benefit employees.

One incident was at a company wanting to provide ergonomic assessments while trying to save money.  Instead of continuing to pay for the assessment service, one of their employees took an online training course.

Are the assessments being done?  Yes, but on a recent visit I learned several concerns from employee, hearing for example that the setup wasn’t quite right, equipment wasn’t working or had broken, and equipment that wasn’t wanted replaced a beloved piece of equipment.

The underlying issues?  Not the fact that there were problems with equipment or the assessment, but that the employees,

didn’t feel listened to,
were afraid to discuss the issue with the person,
weren’t followed-up with to confirm comfort, and
lost trust in – as well as credibility with – the process

The ‘how’ completely negated the ‘what’.  It’s not about marking a checking the box that is important. In fact, providing this service is much more than the technical component of completing the assessments.  It’s in the ‘how’ that well-being occurs, not just that the service is offered as a component of your wellness program.

The second incident involved wellness committee members planning a lunch-n-learn program. The committee hadn’t formed as a collaborative team, but instead as individual employees given tasks to complete.  Planning was stressful for those involved and described as not fun – two characteristics that shouldn’t be front and center, especially when planning wellness or well-being initiatives.

Then, before the event start time, there was a public display of incivility that left employees uncomfortable and completely detracted from the well-being of the employee who took the brunt of the act. The WHAT – which was a beneficial awareness program for employee wellness – was lost to the HOW.

As with many services, there is both a ‘science’ and ‘art’ element to safety and wellness.  Both elements are absolutely essential to get the HOW right. It’s not WHAT is done or that a box on a checklist was completed.  It is HOW the tasks are done and the PERCEPTION – or feeling – of all involved that matters.

Always consider the process and take steps to ensure that psychological safety, positivity, and healthy interactions are fostered. Actions can negate the benefit and actually create cynicism.

To prevent this and to foster a physically, psychosocially and emotionally safe and well place to work:

Always consider how something is being done as much as what is being done

  • Encourage active participation and ownership for all involved
  • Listen and respond so that others know that they are heard
  • Welcome and encourage all to make comments including diverse ideas
  • Promote civility, positive communications and interactions, including when disagreements are voiced
  • Foster a true collaborative spirit
  • Create a social environment where no one is afraid to speak up about issues, mistakes, errors, or injuries

Safety and wellness can lead the way in creating a great place to work – and are actually foundational in doing so – not just in what we do, but also in how these services are done.