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Behavior-Based Safety Teams: Part 1

The foundation components of Behavior Based Safety (BBS) are well known: Leadership support and involvement, Steering Committee, Observers, Systematic Data collection and Analysis, and Feedback. The methods for organizing and administering these functional components vary broadly. Many companies adhere to a model acquired from one of the well-known consulting providers while others put together a home-grown model which usually excludes one or more of these key components. An example of the latter would be a company that puts together their own system which includes only observations without any special leadership training, an employee based steering committee, or a reliable data system.

There are problems in establishing commitment to the process that occur quite frequently; one problem is the absence of employee participation. Inadequate employee participation derails a great many BBS processes. Causes for low levels of employee participation include the inability of frontline supervisors to deliver recognition, the inability of observers to provide feedback properly, and the absence of senior leadership involvement and support. Without leadership attention and visible involvement, BBS is put on the back burner. It may start out strong, but it will drift as more pressing production problems arise. Under these circumstances, frontline employees find little reason to engage in the process.

So the question is, how do motivate frontline employees to participate in and engage with BBS? My answer is by creating BBS teams. The motivational element of teams is intuitive. Teams provides employees with several positive qualities: The team provides the employee with an identity as a member of a group, positive peer pressure, an increased level of feedback and positive reinforcement (from other team members and leadership), and enhanced discussion and learning. When appropriately incentivized individual teams are motivated to improve their team data above their past performance and to excel against their own goals.

The team structure itself will create a high level of individual motivation; participants want to acquit themselves well in support of their team members. Team structure encourages mutual commitment – commitment to other team members and commitment to the goals that the team seeks to reach. Teams encourage members to experience positive emotions toward their team members and a desire to avoid disappointing them.

Having worked with teams for over 40 years, I can confidently say that upgrading your BBS process to include teams will provide the “shot-in-the-arm” that so many companies seek to find; something that will reenergize their BBS process and get it back on track. The principle results teams produce is increased employee engagement, employee job satisfaction, and employee retention. Putting your BBS process into a team structure is really a no-brainer; instinct tells us it is the missing link to enhancing and institutionalizing your BBS process. In the second part of “Behavior Based Safety Teams,” we will review the organizations, structure, and functional elements of enhancing your existing BBS process to include the powerful addition of team structure. We will also discuss the most common mistakes made by those who seek to design incentive systems for teams and individuals – mistakes that dilute all the benefits of creating teams.