Culture is one of the most significant drivers of an organization’s safety performance. It can take time to build a safety culture, and it also takes time for employees to assimilate into an existing culture after beginning work for an organization. This poses a serious challenge for organizations that regularly scale to meet project demands. An influx of short-service employees (SSEs) often coincides with an increase in incidents. While there are a number of reasons for this – such as poor hazard recognition – one significant reason is that SSEs have not yet assimilated into the existing culture’s standards of safe operations. Despite efforts to overcome this problem, many companies continue to report that it remains one of their greatest challenges. After examining SSE programs implemented by different organizations, my colleagues at The RAD Group and I have identified criteria for an SSE program that helps new employees more effectively adapt to a company’s safety culture.
The Root of the Problem
Once a strong culture is in place, it is like a hidden force guiding people’s decisions to work safely. However, it takes time for people to fall under the influence of a safety culture, and in the meantime they may work in a way that does not align with their employer’s standards. The root of the problem, of course, is that SSEs by definition have not been in the organization long.
To better understand and respond to this enduring challenge, it helps to address three questions:
1. How do people assimilate into a culture?
2. Why do some SSE programs fall short?
3. What kind of program would more effectively assimilate SSEs into a safety culture?