In our first blog we talked about responsibilities, trust and professionalism. As an employee you yourself have the responsibility to work safely, so as not to risk dying at work. Obviously, the employer has his legal responsibilities but that does not absolve you, as an employee, from continuing to think for yourself. In response to our first blog we were asked by one of the readers how can this actually be applied in practice? And because it should indeed occur ‘in practice’, we’ll ‘take the bull by the horns’ with this question.
The case study refers to the introduction of a so-called "vehicle tracking system". The main reason for introducing the system was the desire to improve the safety of the drivers. In the event of an accident the vehicle tracking system sends an immediate notification to an alarm center so that the emergency assistance can be promptly activated.
However, on analyzing the information from the system, what stood out in particular was the additional information relating to the behavior of the drivers. It was found that the drivers were often driving too fast and that they sat too long behind the wheel without rest periods. The question we were asked as a reaction to the first blog was: "What, as an organization, do you do with this information?" A difficult question and the responsible person in that organization then also wondered:
- Ignore this behaviour and hope that none of our people have a serious accident?
- Take disciplinary action against the employees breaking the law and putting themselves and other drivers at risk?
- Send out communications regarding these violations and let drivers know we are aware of their unsafe driving behaviour?
- Simply remind people to be aware of what is safe and what is unsafe - it's your choice?
We realize that you can look at this in different ways. In this example, we choose to look from two different perspectives: the so-called Anglo-Saxon and the Rhineland.
We know from experience in these sorts of situations that from an Anglo-Saxon perspective a sanctions policy is usually chosen. Firstly you investigate who has violated the rules, you then address the violations and consequently “punish” the culprits. After all, they have done something that cannot be tolerated. And to ensure that it does not happen again, the existing rules and procedures are tightened and the offenders are registered somewhere. The idea is that with sanctions and more (or improved) rules and procedures you will ultimately achieve good results
But what if you approach from a Rhineland perspective? What basis would you choose then? One of the options is to link up with the drivers. Organize a meeting with the widest possible group of those involved (preferably all) and put the issue on the table: "Colleagues, we have examined the data from our "vehicle tracking system" and this is what we found ... .. Where do we go from here?" then let them consider the question and determine in small groups if it is severe enough to (want to) do something about it.
Conducting such a meeting requires a different approach and expertise. The main premise is that you have confidence that the drivers are themselves able to devise measures that they subsequently want and are capable of putting into practice. It is the combination of the commitment and the confidence that they experience which leads to them feeling more personally responsible for the implementation of the measures. It is something pertaining to those people who are actually involved. Another advantage is that hereafter it is much easier to call on an individual’s responsibility, not only from the Management but also among the employees themselves.
It may sound to some like an open door but entering into an "authentic" connection is absolutely critical here. And we're talking mainly about the desire to really want to listen to each other so that we learn to understand each other's position. It is important that both asking questions, as well as giving / receiving support, is widely encouraged.
Another important aspect is the opportunity to be able to learn, that you are given the chance to personally figure out the 'how and why'. Because, if there is no room to make "mistakes", then inevitably, at some point, something will go really very wrong. This does not, of course, change the fact that a shared responsibility always persists, ensuring that the consequences of a possible incident are kept to a minimum.