For hazardous waste generators, the unsung heroes of your organization are the men and women that handle your company health and safety programs. For many companies these are the people that are tasked with handling your hazardous waste streams.
It is easy to marginalize these workers as “the people that take out the trash,” or "the folks that do the grunt work," however the jobs that they perform are some of the most crucial in your organization. These workers impact not only the financial health of your company, but also the lives of every employee in your organization.
If they perform their jobs well, they can keep your company out of regulatory hot water and keep your employees safe, however if they are not motivated, disengaged or feel disconnected, the results can be catastrophic.
Motivating employees is a challenge for U.S. companies. Numerous studies, including this one by the Gallup Organization indicates that employees (perhaps as high as 70% of American workers) are disengaged with their current jobs and as a result are not working at optimal productivity. This lack of engagement is estimated to cost the U.S. economy $300 billion per year as disgruntled employees spread this unhappiness through an organization, polluting healthy work environments.
In order to keep your employees engaged with their jobs, here are a few ideas to motivate them so they produce at their best.
Recognize and Praise Employees Often
“Research from Wichita State University uncovered some surprising facts about praise in the workplace. Of sixty five motivating factors in the work place, the top five for employees were, in fact, praise-related and rarely used by their managers.”
81% of employees seldom or never received public praise
58% rarely or never received praise from their manager
78% rarely or never received a promotion due to exceptional performance
When employees know that their managers are paying attention to their efforts and that their work is appreciated by the organization, the quality of work significantly increases. Research shows that people that are praised for their good work are also more receptive to critical feedback, which can strengthen the overall work environment. (Source: CNN)
All things big or small should be recognized by front line managers, and praise should be immediate when recognized. As we can see from the research, money is rarely a motivating factor for employee's. Getting a pat on the back or a quick gather round of employees to acknowledge a job well done for someone, goes a lot further!
Honor Employees Publicly
Public praise should be given honestly and often and there is a significant benefit to recognizing outstanding effort at all levels of the organization. While often times people at the top receive the majority of public recognition, it is also important for those that work hard behind the scenes such as your workplace safety and cleanup crews to get this type of recognition.
When you give praise publicly, employees enjoy recognition among their peers, and this serves the additional benefit of modeling the type of behavior that the company rewards, encouraging others to engage with their work in a similar fashion.
Diversify Awards to Meet Employees Needs
Many management teams are stuck in a mentality that employee’s desire money as their primary reward. However monetary incentives lack the recognition factor and are almost immediately forgotten after the award is given.
Establishing an employee incentive program with a diverse selection of awards is a great way to recognize your employees. In order to be successful the best programs provide a mix of awards, and provide ongoing public employee recognition.
Diversity of awards is important and depending on budget can include outings, trophies and points rewards systems where people can select goods and services.
In order to be successful, it is crucial that management has bought in. These programs are not set it and forget it programs. If management is not bought in and engaged in the programs, this resonates with employees and will defeat the purpose. You are better off not having a program than having an apathetic one.
Career Development Opportunities
In addition to praise and recognition, career development opportunities for your employees may be one of the most important things that you can provide for your staff. If people’s desire is to grow and develop or if their career advancement is perceived to be limited, you may face high employee turnover.
Managers should encourage their employees to take additional training opportunities and companies should provide their employees with the tools to do their jobs better. Additional ideas include a company mentoring program where veteran employees can provide guidance on how younger or newer employees can enhance their careers and provide a perspective to growth opportunities within your company.
Poorly trained hazardous waste employees not only can lead to low morale, but can be costly or catastrophic to your company. It is vital that companies invest in training, not only at the minimum to meet federal and state guidelines and stay out of regulatory hot water, but additionally to maintain an engaged work force.
Poor training programs cause your company to miss the opportunity to fully engage your employees and, therefore, lose the opportunity to create loyal, conscientious employees that provide excellent customer service. Good training provides employees with the confidence they need to perform at high levels and increase their bottom line productivity.
Where to Start
The best way to start is to evaluate your current level of employee engagement. Ask the difficult questions.
- Are my employees engaged with their jobs?
- Is my workforce well trained and ready to perform their job duties?
- Do my managers actively praise the workforce?
- Does our incentive program (if you have one) create buzz and excitement?
- Is management bought in?
The best companies have motivated and engaged employees and once you build the infrastructure the results will come.