Attracting and retaining staff is now the leading challenge facing more than half of Ontario employers, according to WSPS' 2022 Health & Safety Leadership Survey White Paper,* rising from fifth to first place in just one year.
Survey recipients almost universally agree on two retention considerations:
- employees fled workplaces during the pandemic due to increased workload and mental health issues, such as stress, which are preventable
- ensuring employees' safety and wellbeing is key to attracting and retaining talent.
Survey data also point to psychological safety and workplace mental health as primary concerns for both workers and employers, notes WSPS's Kristy Cork, Specialized Consultant, Healthy Workplaces.
"It's clear employees don't want excessive demands or risky work to put their physical or mental health on the line," says Kristy. "They are no longer choosing to work in environments that they perceive as physically and mentally unsafe or unhealthy."
More than three quarters of employers surveyed (76%) say managing mental health is very important to attracting and keeping employees, and the top concern they want to address immediately. However, only 76% say that preventing mental harm is already part of their health and safety program. To better retain and attract employees, this must change, says Kristy. "People don't have an infinite capacity for stress."
7 steps to better health and safety
These steps can help your workplace strengthen its health and safety program, making your workplace more appealing for new and current employees.
- Integrate mental health into your program. "There are a myriad of resources available to help employers deal with mental health issues, such as stress and workload, by developing a mental health program, says Kristy. (See "How WSPS can help.") With workplace mental health a primary concern for both workers and employers, developing a program is more important than ever.
- Promote a health and safety culture. "Create an environment where it's not career limiting to ask a question, to tell someone 'I'm worried about this', or to say 'I don't feel safe.'" Encourage your joint health and safety committee to increase the visibility of health and safety by distributing a monthly newsletter. "Start every meeting with a 'Take 5,' where participants talk about five different health and safety items."
- Go beyond minimum legal requirements. "Show employees you are going above and beyond because you care about their safety." For example, provide ergonomic chairs/or a sit/stand station, lower lifting limits or have lifting devices available, and offer flexible work arrangements to help employees cope with personal and work challenges.
- Educate and coach on an ongoing basis. "People look up to other people in the workplace with more experience and more seniority," notes Kristy. So, it's important that these role models work safely, encourage others to work safely, and point out when something is wrong. "Ideally, over time, it becomes commonplace for everyone in the workplace to remind each other about wearing personal protective equipment or working safely."
- Recognize safe behaviour. When you see people who continuously work safely, or go above and beyond to help other people work safely, acknowledge their efforts privately or publicly, depending on how they would like to be recognized.
- Encourage engagement and ownership. Ask for suggestions, have employees conduct safety evaluations, include workers on problem-solving committees, etc. "Seek feedback, as well, when you are making a change intended to decrease stress and give employees more control or influence."
- Enforce health and safety requirements. "Holding people accountable for their behaviour, whether related to physical health and safety or civility and respect, has a positive impact on culture. Otherwise, people may think, 'If they don't follow the rules, then why should I?' It has a domino effect."
How WSPS can help
- Consulting: our healthy workplace and mental health consultants can help you build a robust workplace mental health program and augment your overall health and safety program.
- Workplace Mental Health: Raising Awareness (1-hour eCourse)
- Mental Health First Aid Training (2-day classroom training)
- Workplace Mental Health: How Managers Should Respond (virtual and classroom training, 3.5 hours)
- Workplace Mental Health: What Health and Safety Committees Should Know (1-day classroom training)
- Free downloads
- Think Mental Health.ca: This joint effort from Ontario's health and safety system partners offers business owners and employees resources and tools to help create a psychologically healthy workplace.
* WSPS' third health and safety leadership survey drew 532 responses from senior leaders and decision-makers representing a broad cross-section of industries and business types and sizes from across Canada. The survey topic was leadership challenges in post-pandemic health and safety.
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.