The worldwide trend known as the Great Resignation is impacting almost all facets of industry, and Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) is no exception. A record number of 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021, and the trend has continued into 2022. Is your organization prepared to adapt?
The challenges of this new era of employee mobility take different shapes across the workforce—but three specific challenges are facing the EHS field. By acknowledging and addressing them in an organized way, you can better prepare your team (and your organization as a whole) to effectively manage any disruption.
There is no single unifying reason for this mass exodus though employees feeling undervalued and underappreciated is a recurring theme. Early in the pandemic, while many questions about the virus were still unanswered, the workforce was abruptly divided into ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ workers. These labels were viewed by many as dehumanizing and led some to question if they were viewed as truly essential or merely expendable. There is evidence that, in many cases, the failure to take action by employers drove their employees to quit—often over frontline health and safety concerns and the perception of indifference or lack of urgency.
When COVID-19 threw a spotlight on workplace health and safety more than ever before, many in the workforce came to the realization that they are unwilling to tolerate unsafe working conditions. They take notice when a company disregards their well-being, regardless of the form a hazard takes—a virus, substandard personal protective equipment (PPE), or a poor safety culture. Employees now want safety, security, and a good environmental track record. And with organizations now desperate for talent, the Great Resignation has put workers in the position to demand all of the above.
So, isn’t it a good thing that workers are more attuned to—and want to improve—workplace safety practices? Of course it is. But as every seasoned veteran of this profession knows, it’s not an easy thing to walk the talk when it comes to EHS. In order to address this challenge, EHS managers must:
Gain buy-in from executive management. This has traditionally been difficult, and in too many workplaces EHS is still viewed as a cost center. Amid the Great Resignation, however, managers may find it helpful to cast safety as a recruiting tool. A better safety program can be a means to attract and retain workers.
Create a proactive approach to workplace safety with clearly defined initiatives. A reactive EHS program gives workers the impression that incidents are tolerated as “business as usual.” When workers understand the steps being taken to continually improve safety, the effort will be appreciated.
Demonstrate accountability. Once a proactive program is in place, systematically test its effectiveness with compliance calendars, action items, and audits. Learn from any shortcomings or mistakes without assigning blame.
Employee turnover presents a lengthy list of challenges, but a big headache for EHS in particular is ensuring that employee training stays on track amid the churn. This is no small matter—depending on the industry and the employee’s job function, training oversights can lead to fines and citations for noncompliance at best … and life or death situations at worst.
To effectively adapt to the disruptions of turnover, EHS must be diligent about several key aspects of training:
Scheduling. Some EHS-sensitive roles (such as HazMat employees) require certain training within a certain time frame from date of hire. Maintain a schedule with an eye for compliance.
Delivery methods. Choose the right method for your audience, whether it be in person or online, adaptive learning or microlearning. Always be mindful of compliance requirements—sometimes online training alone isn’t enough.
Recordkeeping. Beyond recording when an employee has successfully completed training, some regulations require maintaining records of completion even after the employee has moved on. Know what you need to keep tabs on and you can be ready for any audit or inspection.
A learning management system (LMS) with up-to-date content is the best way to juggle all of these requirements and still maintain a high level of accuracy. EHS may also find additional support and assistance with training issues by working closely with their counterparts in human resources (HR). If anyone understands the organizational challenges brought on by the Great Resignation, it’s HR!
While the Great Resignation seems to have impacted certain industries and specific roles with greater force, no function is immune—and this turnover trend has the potential to shake the foundations of your EHS team. If key members of your crew quit tomorrow, would the pillars of your health and safety programs stand firm? Or would they collapse?
We should acknowledge that some legacy knowledge is simply irreplaceable. You can’t reproduce the intuition that comes from years of EHS experience or effective leadership honed by millions of communications with frontline workers. That said, an EHS team can still preserve as much legacy knowledge as possible and avoid failures in culture or compliance by employing a well-organized system across the department. Such a system must include:
Compliance calendars that provide visibility into key tasks and compliance status, so you can immediately see what needs to be done after an employee’s departure.
An easily accessible, comprehensive regulatory library that doesn’t rely on the encyclopedic expertise of one or two team members.
A system that allows for centralized accumulation of documentation, reports, and other recordkeeping, ensuring nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
These variables are a lot to consider, especially if an EHS team finds itself understaffed. Software solutions can help ease the burden and keep your programs on track as you bring new hires up to speed.
EHS can face the challenges posed by the Great Resignation head on by building a resilient function within the organization. With so much already being asked of them, EHS executives and managers need trusted partners to help them fortify their programs against an onslaught of change. By creating proactive EHS initiatives that go beyond compliance, providing top-notch training, and centralizing legacy knowledge to ensure no task goes overlooked, your EHS team can stay ahead of the curve at times.
Don’t resign yourself to anything less than the safest, healthiest workforce possible. Dakota Software’s solutions are up to the task—view the demo library to see for yourself.