Embracing safety for your staff – it’s more than just physical
By Rebecca Brown
With the link between employee experience and customer experience being well-established, it’s easy to understand why more and more businesses are putting their people first.
In 2020 the pandemic also pushed employee wellbeing to the top of the agenda for customers, with 71% of consumers stating that if they perceived that a business was placing profit ahead of the safety of their people, they would never shop with that business again.
So how do you keep your team safe? Is it enough to just make sure they have the correct PPE or footwear for their job?
The emotional safety of your team should be equal in priority to their physical safety, but some would argue that it is even harder to achieve.
You won’t always know if a member of staff is feeling vulnerable, but you’d probably be more likely to notice if the toaster was on fire or there was a puddle of water at the top of the stairs.
You can make it easier for you staff to feel emotionally and physically safe by taking some proactive steps and in turn make it more likely that your staff stay with the company, feel supported, and that they pass those good vibes along to each customer they meet.
Review your values
Is emotional safety on the agenda? If it is, do you spell it out that safety is more than just about physical wellbeing? Have you communicated your values in a manner that all of your team understand and feel empowered to embrace?
What about policies?
Sometimes one of the biggest barriers to emotional safety in the workplace is that not enough people know how to access support, or what support is available. 25% of the UK workforce experience bullying each year, that’s equivalent to the population of Scotland and Wales combined.
In addition, mental health problems are the leading cause of sickness absence in the workplace. A staggering 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year – and that’s only the officially recorded cost of mental health related absence. It doesn’t take into account those employees who don’t feel safe to disclose they are struggling mentally so call in sick with a cold or a headache.
Having clear and supportive policies around equality, diversity and inclusion, bullying and harassment, and mental health will help you stand out as an employer of choice, but it’s actually creating a supportive and encouraging environment where all your teams feel safe to be themselves and to show vulnerability that’s often the biggest challenge.
The first step is to proudly and prominently communicate your policies to the business, then you can train staff on how to bring those policies to life. The final stage is to make it clear that the behaviours demonstrated in your official policies are not negotiable. You want everyone in the team to help build the kind of working environment you are proud of and anyone who routinely displays bullying, discriminatory or harassing behaviour will not be welcome – regardless of their paygrade of perceived worth to the business.
Carrot not stick
It’s well-established that rewarding, acknowledging and praising staff is a more effective motivation than to chastise them when things go wrong. It sounds easy in theory, and most managers like to think that this is how they manage, but It can be easy to slip into stick mode when you aren’t being fully mindful – for example in times of stress or high pressure.
One of the most effective ways to make sure your staff feel safe is to simply be aware and acknowledge that the tendency for management, colleagues and customers to become snappier and show frustration in times of stress is very high. This factor is exacerbated by the global pandemic we are all experiencing, the increase in home-schooling, the potential loss of jobs and the uncertainty of when any of it might end, we are all more likely to feel anxious.
Prepare all of your teams for this, teach them how to react with empathy, how to protect themselves from the full weight of words said in the heat of the moment, and support them when they feel that those words are harder to move past – but crucially, make sure your management team become vigilant self-monitors and also know when to ask for help. By proactively offering them support you make it less likely that they will accidentally slide into the high stress situations where their team get less carrot and more stick.
Better safe than sorry
In unsettled times like this, it’s important to remember that sometimes those who are struggling the most are the ones who wear the biggest smiles.
Enable your teams to feedback anonymously on how safe they feel in the workplace with wellbeing and bullying surveys that will tell you if your staff are safe and happy (as you hope they are), or whether they need a little extra support right now in order to be their best selves.
Be the business who cares enough about their staff to ask how they could do better.
Rebecca is a highly experienced CX practitioner with an intense passion for customer excellence. During her career she has overseen the opening of several high-end retail art galleries, balancing the need for an exceptional experience with a drive for sales, successfully led customer experience and operations teams in the outsourcing, property and energy sectors – and was instrumental in ensuring a consistent and reliable customer experience at Purplebricks through a period of intense growth and subsequent IPO.
Her customer experience consultancy (Think Wow) which she co-owns with her husband Daniel, provides training, e-learning and the design of customer experience strategy, helping businesses to grow revenue by removing the element of chance from their customer experience.