Download The State of Safety Leadership to learn the full results of the study, which includes 535 leaders and 8212 employees across heavy industry.

Only 1 In 10 leaders demonstrate effective reward and recognition

The fact is, only 1 in 10 workers held positive perceptions of their leader’s recognising ability. Leaders’ own perceptions of their competency in recognising is noticeably higher than that of the people they lead. If you think you’re doing this well, you could be falling into the cognitive bias trap—the human tendency to positively inflate our ability.

On the other hand, it’s possible that leaders do recognise and reward workers, but use these strategies ineffectually. A pat on the back or generic “good job” is well intentioned, but doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to behaviour change. Secondly, leaders may inadvertently use recognition in a way that drives counterproductive safety behaviours. For example, praising a team for meeting a tight deadline when that outcome was achieved by cutting corners or skipping some safety procedures is likely to reward and encourage that specific behaviour.

Reward and recognition are powerful tools, but we must wield them wisely.

How to Implement Reward and Recognition Effectively

Be strategic

Many leaders use reward and recognition in a generic, off-the-cuff way that has no greater effect than making workers feel good for a brief moment. Be strategic by being conscious of the behaviours and attitudes you want to see. Have a clear vision of the safety culture you are working towards, and use reward and recognition intentionally to drive that culture. Reward and recognition can be employed to ‘hunt for the good stuff’ and used to guide and encourage more of the behaviours you want to see in your team.

Be specific

A word of thanks or a simple “good job” is certainly appreciated. But to leverage its effectiveness, recognition should clearly address the specific behaviours or attitudes that were appreciated, as well as their impact on the job. For example, “Hey Bob, well done on completing this task by the deadline without compromising our safety standards. Your dedication to quality has helped us all go home safe today”. Being specific not only has a more sustainable impact on behaviour change, but also gives workers a clear picture of the attitudes and behaviours you’re looking for.

Be targeted

When it comes to rewards, don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. To be effective long-term, rewards should tap into the intrinsic motivators of individual team members. Get to know your people. Find out what is valuable to them. For some, it might be the opportunity to learn a new skill or attend a development program. For others, it may be an opportunity to consider a future leadership pathway or take on tasks that will broaden their career horizon. The more targeted your reward and recognition, the more likely you’ll encourage a culture of intrinsically motivated people who choose to work safely of their own volition–without you standing over them cracking the whip!

Excellence in safety leadership cannot be achieved by wielding carrots and sticks in a generic and overhanded manner. Strong safety leadership rests on the ability to influence a safety culture driven by the intrinsic motivation of every individual team member. Engaged, motivated workers take personal ownership for safety and work together to achieve the organisational safety vision. Reward and recognition, used effectively, may well be the most powerful tools in driving towards that result.

1 Day Masterclass: Reward and Recognition in Safety

22 April 2020 — Pullman Quay Grand, Sydney | $500+GST

Uncover the psychology of influence and explore leadership techniques that drive positive team attitudes and behaviours through conscious reward and recognition strategies.

Use code VIP100 to save $100. Offer valid until 8/4/2020.

Register now to secure your place.

Dr Vanessa Thiele
BASc(Hons), DPsych(Health)

Vanessa holds a Doctoral degree in Health Psychology and a Certificate in Training and Assessment, and has been providing counselling, training and consulting for 13 years. Vanessa has expertise in designing and developing training around resilience, health behaviour change, positive psychology and motivation and engagement. She has worked alongside change management projects to assist organisations to optimise performance of their teams and enable effective adaptation to change. Vanessa is passionate about delivering practical neuroscience-backed training that not only improves safety performance within organisations, but also has a lasting impact on people’s lives.

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