5 steps for getting problem workers to comply

You know who they are. That handful of workers who repeatedly violate standard operating procedures, outright defy their supervisors and prevent the achievement of organizational safety goals.

The actions of these individuals can lead to near misses, work stoppages, equipment damage, citations and even fatalities.

But it’s not necessarily their fault. According to TalentClick, a Vancouver-based workforce assessment company, some individuals’ personality traits may make them hardwired to not comply. 

“At work behaviours of even the most challenging employee are often a result of natural personality traits or what we call default settings. We always drift back to our natural default settings, said Greg Ford, CEO of TalentClick. “You can think of these settings as our innate urges or impulses or natural responses to our environment.” 

To encourage these individuals to comply, TalentClick recommends the following five steps. 

Step 1: Understanding 

Safety professionals first need to understand who the problem worker is, what motivates him and why he doesn’t comply with safety policies. This can be done in three ways: observing the worker’s behaviours; listening for the meaning behind what he says; and analyzing information about him, such as his employee profile and performance reviews. 

Step 2: Education 

Ask the worker a variety of questions to determine if there are any obstacles that are in his way of compliance. For example, ask him if he knows how to report an incident and if there is anything keeping explicit keeping him from following procedures.

Communicate frankly with the worker and clearly explain the consequences of non-compliance and why the rules are in place.

Step 3: Commitment

The problem worker needs to work with you to develop a plan that will allow him to commit to change. Start by having the worker set goals that are both quantifiable and measurable, then develop a personal action plan to achieve them.

Step 4: Enablement

It is important to build trust with the worker so he feels supported by you and the organiziton in acheiveing his goals. Safety managers should follow these three rules:  

•Be available and approachable for discussion, coaching and feedback.
•Be a coach, not a cop.
•Be firm but fair.

Step 5: Improvement

Conduct periodic reviews with the worker to identify strengths and weaknesses in the program to facilitate continuous improvement.