Do you know the old joke about the Buddhist hot dog vendor? A customer pays for two dogs with a fifty and asks for change, but the vendor simply shakes his head. "Change must come from within," he replies.
Jokes aside, it's a message that manufacturing and logistics companies — especially those with a mix of contract and full-time workers — should take to heart if they want to move the needle on safety today. In this article, we'll unpack a high-profile example of what happens when change management fails, then outline three best practices for overcoming similar obstacles at your organization today.
deep dive: change management challenges in focus
The $13 million settlement awarded to a janitor at Tesla Motors for injuries sustained on the job made headlines when it was announced a few months back. But the real story, at least where organizational leaders should be concerned, barely made it into print.
Lost in the coverage were two of the most interesting things about the case (Teodora Tapia v. Tesla Motors, Inc., et al., officially), both of which bear directly on workplace safety generally, and the challenge of change management in co-employment environments specifically. Let's look at them one at a time.
contractors hired through different staffing companies
When the recent settlement was announced, it was widely noted that the plaintiff and the defendant — that is, the employee operating the vehicle that injured the plaintiff — were both contractors, not permanent employees. But in the context of workplace safety, it's probably worth taking that analysis one step further: Not only were they both contractors, but they were contractors sourced and hired through different staffing companies.
more staffing partners means higher safety risks.
In other words, there were two temporary workers working the same shift, in close physical proximity, who had very likely been subject to altogether different screening, training and onboarding processes. And in the case of the defendant, unfortunately, that onboarding and training process had bypassed a key step: The defendant was operating a vehicle without having taken a company-mandated certification course.
That kind of oversight is exactly what you risk when multiple staffing partners are in the mix. And without high-level visibility into the process, it becomes hard to standardize onboarding and training for temporary and permanent workers alike.
Given the magnitude of the settlement, as well as the severity of the plaintiff's injuries, the fact that two employees sourced through different staffing companies, with different (and in at least one case inadequate) training, were working together on the same shift — that amounts to much more than a circumstantial detail. It's a key fact in understanding where things started to go wrong. It's where the risks started to cascade, setting in motion the dangerous chain of events that followed.
ineffective change management
Improving workplace safety is first and foremost an exercise in change management. So the journey to safety maturity and excellence doesn't happen overnight; rather, it's exactly that — a journey. That means you need to have the right framework in place, with buy-in across all levels of the organization, to implement any kind of lasting improvement.
But in co-employment environments, where a large volume of temporary employees frequently cycle in and out, instituting long-term change often proves difficult. The recent history of Tesla Motors demonstrates that fact with astonishing clarity.
For starters, the original accident took place in 2014. Now, it's 2019. So what steps has Tesla Motors taken to better mitigate risks and improve workplace safety in the intervening years? How effectively is the manufacturer managing change?
Not effectively at all, it would seem. A few examples:
Last year, the manufacturer's rate of serious injury was a staggering 83 percent higher than the industry average — and for recordable injuries, it was 31 percent higher. Literally, ouch!
Consequently, Tesla Motors won a top spot on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health's "Dirty Dozen 2018" — an annual report calling out "employers that put workers and communities at risk." More bad press.
Earlier this year, Tesla Motors was fined $29,000 for numerous safety violations at a new production site — and inadequate training was cited specifically. That's particularly jarring in light of the way that training noncompliance contributed to the 2014 accident.
And if all that wasn't bad enough, Tesla now faces new lawsuits (many of them, interestingly, from temporary workers who were hired via staffing firms) alleging that management was aware of a pattern of racial discrimination and harassment, but did little to stop it.
For these reasons and more, the recent rash of bad press at Tesla Motors should be instructive for manufacturing and logistics companies today: part cautionary tale, part wake-up call. It vividly illustrates that implementing and managing lasting change, even when that change is so obviously needed, isn't always easy in co-employment environments.
So let's turn to three simple best practices to help you manage change, minimize risks and prevent negative safety outcomes at your organization.
3 change management best practices for co-employment environments
Manufacturing and logistics companies, like companies in virtually all industries, are increasingly reliant on a mix of temporary and permanent workers to achieve their core business goals. In fact, U.S. businesses sourced and hired about 3.2 million employees through staffing companies during each week of 2018, according to the American Staffing Association (ASA). That's a significant milestone: It's the highest figure on record since the ASA first started keeping track in 1990.
So start with the following three best practices. They'll help you mitigate risks and move the needle on the safety-related KPIs that matter most to your company. You should also take Randstad's workplace safety assessment quiz, which is a quick way to understand where you stack up on safety best practices today.
1. standardize onboarding processes
Looking to institute enduring safety improvements across your co-employment environment right now? Look no further than onboarding and training. But the goal should be to improve the experience for all employees, not just for your permanent workforce.
Start by focusing on standardization from end to end. Simply put, your onboarding processes need to be the same for all new hires, temporary as well as permanent, no matter how they joined the company (or what staffing company technically counts at their "co-employer," an issue the safety breakdown at Tesla Motors vividly illustrated).
onboarding works if, and only if, everyone is on board.
Next, you'll need to add greater visibility into the onboarding process. Otherwise, how will you know that processes are really "standardized"? That employees and managers are going through all of the necessary steps, every single time? That corners aren't being cut?
From a reporting standpoint, the latest workforce management tools can help you keep track of where each new hire stands in the overall process. But to ensure that all supervisors have bought in and are complying, it's also a good idea to designate a single point of contact to oversee your new-hire onboarding efforts across the entire organization. That adds visibility to the process by making the chain of command — as well as responsibility for the success or failure of your new onboarding efforts — clearer to everyone involved.
Finally, bear in mind that this is an area where there's a lot of room for improvement. According to Randstad's study on the impact of technology on the workplace, for example, only 25 percent of employees today rate their most recent onboarding experience as "excellent." So even small improvements in the near term can translate to significant impact on organizational safety down the line.
2. promote knowledge sharing
As we've discussed, effective change management initiatives depend on follow-up — otherwise, they quickly fall flat. In co-employment environments where a high volume of employees are constantly cycling in and out, simply ensuring that all new hires undergo standardized, best-in-class onboarding is only the first step. From there, you also have to verify that they've internalized what they've learned and are putting it into practice every single day.
That means onboarding shouldn't be a one-off thing. You'll need to follow up, using a mix of onsite supervision and feedback, together with dedicated learning sessions for both temporary and permanent employees, to ensure everyone is up to speed, aligned and on board.
"buddy system" is the program best suited for knowledge sharing.
And while you're at it, one smart way to promote knowledge sharing is to implement a so-called "buddy system" at your organization: a program in which each new hire is paired with a more experienced (and ideally permanent) employee. Considering that temporary workers are generally less well prepared to protect themselves from workplace hazards than their permanent peers, it's an easy solution to help fix that. Plus, it means new hires have someone to turn to for best practices around the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), emergency evacuation plans and other vital safety information.
Still on the fence? Perhaps the fact that 87 percent of companies say buddy systems boost the proficiency of their new hires will help you make up your mind.
3. seek out strategic partners
Staffing partners like Randstad offer considerable value for manufacturing and logistics companies looking to move the needle on safety and effectively manage change. Our talent experts are both outcome-oriented and safety-focused, so we always ensure broad-base alignment between co-employers. Plus, we have a long track record of success designing and implementing best-in-class onboarding and training programs that can help mitigate both current and future risks from end to end.
What's more, you'll gain access to a nationwide network of qualified talent, available on demand. So whatever your specific change management objectives may be — from program redesign to dedicated onsite support, gamifying your onboarding experience or applying the latest and most sophisticated workforce management tools — we can help you get there.
for everything staffing, including safety, randstad can help.
Three quarters of companies today say they intend to increase the number of major change initiatives they undertake in the next few years, according to one recent survey. Yet for companies that operate co-employment environments, achieving the intended outcomes of those initiatives will require them to have the right strategy in place, work proactively and get out ahead of some of the unique change management challenges outlined in this article.
Hopefully, armed with these best practices, you feel empowered to mitigate risks, improve safety and maximize the benefits of your co-employment environment — effectively ensuring you avoid bad press like Tesla's, too.