OHS Canada Magazine

Unlocking business potential: The link between workplace safety, the bottom line and employee retention

June 23, 2023
By Mike Anderson/WSPS
Health & Safety Opinion

Photo: freeman98589/Adobe Stock

There’s no doubt that I’m biased, but I can’t think of a better reason for investing in health and safety than the fact that it is the right thing to do. As I see it, keeping people safe and ensuring they show up healthy and safe at home at the end of the day, every day, are table stakes for any business.

However, if another prod is necessary, then as a CFO, I would have to say that the second most compelling reason to be all in when it comes to keeping employees, customers and the community safe is that it is simply good for business.

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) has conducted its Health and Safety Leadership Survey for the past four years to shed light on trends, attitudes, and behaviours and assist leaders in planning and decision-making.

Survey respondents include leaders, employees, health and safety and human resources decision-makers and influencers from organizations of all types and sizes. Responses are categorized based on level of maturity.

  • Leading – Health and safety is treated as a strategic priority, information is reported publicly, and board decisions take into account the impact on health and safety.
  • Proactive – Active board discussion and support aimed at enhancing management of health and safety.
  • Managing – Focused on management of day-to-day health and safety.
  • Reactive – Focused on addressing health and safety issues as they arise. Focus remains on incident rates.
  • Start of the Journey – Starting to understand what health and safety involves; focused on incident management.

We’ve watched attitudes and trends shift as we’ve approached the pandemic, moved through it, and now are emerging from it. Despite all the variables and challenges over this time, one thing remains the same: Leading organizations have a distinct advantage over others in the less mature categories.


Leading organizations have fewer injuries

The research shows that, year-over-year, Leading organizations have fewer injuries, experienced lower or reduced infection rates during the pandemic, and were in a stronger position to manage the crisis. And the last two years have shown they also have a competitive edge in attracting and retaining employees.

Almost all (97%) of respondents believe that having a culture of health and safety is critical to sustainability and overall business success. And 92% of employees from leading organizations said they would refer others to work in their organization, and more than half wouldn’t leave even if they were offered more money.

Health and safety a vital retention lever

Since attracting and keeping employees is such a hot-button issue for many leaders, it’s surprising that the results show that few realize what a vital lever health and safety can be.

Only 39% of employers believe prospective employees ask about their health and safety program, but 73% of employees say they want to know about health and safety before accepting an offer. Interestingly, this applied to employees in all categories – from Start of Journey to Leading.

More than that, when asked about the benefits of health and safety to the business, “makes me a more attractive employer” was ranked number one by employees but appeared last on the list for employers.

Almost 70% of employers say they’ve lost people due to preventable issues.

Employers think the number one reason for departures is increased workload and mental health. Employees say it is number three. Flexibility and work-life balance is the big issue employees are wrestling with. And it didn’t appear in the top five for employers, but employees’ number five reason for leaving was not feeling safe in the workplace.

The difference between keeping and losing employees could be as simple as having conversations with them individually and in groups about their challenges and the opportunities they see for improvement.

Leaders are investing a lot of time and money rethinking work structures and value propositions to hold on to highly skilled and valued employees and attract new ones. One of the most obvious opportunities is right in front of them. Keeping people healthy and safe is the law, but it’s also a catalyst – one that our research reveals, drives employee attraction and retention and business success. In my mind, leaders who continue to ignore this are not only putting their employer brand at risk, but they are also choosing to wage an uphill battle when it comes to winning the war for talent.

Mike Anderson is vice-president, corporate services and chief financial officer (CFO) at Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS).


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