The Productivity Paradox


Where short-term productivity clashes with safety compliance, Safety Champions can bridge the gap through fair compensation, integration of safety protocols into time standards, and nurturing a safety-first culture with long-term benefits.

Safety compliance procedures occasionally slow your workers down by adding extra steps to their daily functions. If your workers are paid more if they hit a productivity number, they may have a disincentive to follow safety protocols. Your team may feel like these procedures are time-consuming and unnecessary, because they don’t experience an accident or injury everyday, but hitting a bonus will show up in their paycheck next week.

When you start implementing proactive safety initiatives, your associates may feel like you are taking money out of their pocket. Incorporating more safety training and compliance into their daily routine means adding more steps to the process, while less work gets done. Your team may feel like they are working harder, and earning less money.

As a Safety Champion, you need to demonstrate to your team that safety is not worth sacrificing for the sake of productivity. Emphasize the long-term consequences of ignoring safety procedures, and remind them that their families are counting on them coming home safe. Tell them: "As much as you think this safety procedure will break your day, taking the shortcut won’t make your day."

Implementing a safety rewards program is an important step toward creating a safety culture shift. Rewards, especially financial incentives and bonuses, can help make your team members feel like they are still financially “whole” even when they are sacrificing productivity for safety.

Talk to your industrial engineers the next time they implement a study for time standards in your work environment. If safety procedures are substantially slowing down the average pace of work, then this should be reflected in the productivity incentive structure for your employees. Ultimately, the best way to get your associates on board with safety is to compensate them fairly for their hard work.

A focus on safety has ripple effects throughout your organization, leading to a culture of improved performance in other areas. The discipline needed to achieve a positive safety culture is uniquely connected to the overall functioning of your organization. A leadership team that effectively promotes safety will also drive better performance in other areas that may otherwise be challenging to achieve. Because these results aren’t as “tangible” as productivity numbers, they may be hard to see at first—but they may have a far more profound impact on the success of your organization.