Everyone knows the importance of productivity in business.
Yet, walk into any organisation and you will see time wasting occurring everywhere. The biggest culprit is in training employees.
So many companies are guilty when it come to repeatedly answering the same questions and solving the same problems. This common behaviour gets worse when you have highly paid staff having to swoop in to solve employee problems and supply the same old information again and again.
Recently, I saw this bottleneck issue in a large industrial company. The HSE manager was down at the site floor explaining a simple safety process involving a production line that was installed a year ago. He turned to me and said "It's amazing how many times a month, I have to explain this." I replied, "How much time would you save each month, if you didn't have to show this process each month?" He said "Oh, easily 3 hours."
Of course, it could be argued that he was actually creating work for himself by continually showing new starters what to do in a really simple process.
However, if he had just recorded a simple video, even using his smartphone, as he went through the process, he could spend his time on more productive safety tasks. While at the same time empowering new employees to follow his lead.
This video (and others) could then belong in the company's elearning video library. New inductess could instantly find instant answers to standard new-employee questions, as well as safety information without having to interrupt their boss. While current employees could access the library to learn the thinking behind the biggest contract wins, safety systems and company values.
You and I both know what occurs when there isn't this type of online training resource. A new employee starts work. They get induction safety training. Within a short time, they're stuck on a challenge that's new to them, but child's play to you. The new starter tries to solve the problem. Sometimes this works. Often, it doesn't. Before you know the small problem has morphed into a big problem and a senior member needs to spend time sorting the mess out.
Or the new member gets a safety process wrong because they can't remember their induction training. They can't ask their boss because he's on the phone and they don't want to disturb her. As they can't easily refer to the training, they start undertaking the safety tasks incorrectly from Day 1, resulting in an ingrained behaviour that is much harder to change down the track.
This is a common issue with manual handling training. So often, companies spend thousands of dollars on physiologists coming into the workplace to spend four hours training everyone on how to lift. Within a few days, some people are lifting correctly, but after a couple of weeks, most people have transformed the lifting practice back into what they used to do. Without a video reminder, they keep embedding the wrong lifting practice into their brain's neurology.
Companies can no longer waste time or make simple mistakes in this way. New employees need to be able to instantly access video clips to find the answers to how they need to do a process.
So what types of training videos do you need? They need to be categorised in a way that's easy to find information and which can be located in folders on an employee's desktop, shared computer or iPad. Examples include:
- Q&A videos - List the 20-30 most common questions that new starters have or the most common mistakes that new hires make in the first 30 days. Create a video for each question or a video to clearly explain a process that is often confused or undertaken incorrectly. These videos will save your organisation hours in having to answer the same old questions again and again. While also ensuring that common mistakes are avoided.
- Induction training videos - Create comprehensive induction training videos that clearly explain each safety process, so that there is no longer any mystery behind procedures. Ideally, each process is a stand alone video that employees can refer to at any time. Take a look at this example below of a fairly simple process, that is made so much easier to understand than a text based document:
- Department videos - Have every leader of each department talk about what they do and why. Explain their role in the company and how it fits into the greater scheme of how the business operates. It's also really important to have the CEO talking about the vision for the company and the core values.
We all know that we have more information available to us than every before. The key to success is how quickly you can access the right answers and avoid simple mistakes.
is it time your organisation created a video elearning library?
Image Credit: Stuart Miles, Free Digital Photos
When it comes to writing or talking about safety, safety leaders often assume that they know what techniques to use to influence and engage others on safety.
They often start their talk with a chart showing injuries going upwards, talk about the consequences and then talk some more about what needs to be done.
A month later when nothing changes, they complain that no-one takes safety seriously and feel a bit annoyed that no-one listened to them.
So what went wrong?
You've probably worked out that humans are pretty complex creatures. Despite our best intentions, they seem adept at ignoring information that's for their own good (just take children?).
How we commnuicate about safety influences whether or not people will accept or reject our safety messages.
If you want to be a highly successful safety leader, then you need to know what switches people off from your safety messages.
Here are the 5 signs that actually repel people from safety communication:
1. It's not about them - Self-interest is one of the biggest human motivators of all time. People love hearing about themselves. If you are writing or talking to people about safety, make sure you never word the safety information so that it sound like it's about you. If your audience sniffs out that you're just talking about safety to meet compliance obligations, then they will take it as seriously as you do. In other words, not one bit. Personalise the information. Make sure you use the words "you" and "your" (also include "we", so that you work as a team, but "you" for any individual actions required). Let them know that they are important and that you care about their lives, rather than coming from the purely self-serving perspective that you just want to avoid costly injuries and legal ramifications.
2. It looks and even sounds boring - Safety professionals think a chart of rising safety injuries is enough to compel people to change. It isn't. Nor is providing lots of written information and expecting people to wade through it. People are time-poor. Make your writing easy to read and even look approachable by including dot points and summary information. Write compelling headlines. Include visuals that clearly show what it is you are talking about. Avoid complicated charts and data. Consider infographics that quickly relay information.
3. You didn't include them - This is a common mistake. Safety leaders tell people what they think they should know. But what safety leaders need to uncover first, are actually the gaps in people's knowledge. What is it that people don't know? Provide information that gets people thinking, rather than coming from the perspective of "What information do I need to tell people?" In meetings, ask questions about the knowledge gap people have about the topic to encourage curiosity. Doing a little bit of research first, to discover what people know and don't know about a topic, is a great way to ensure that your talk is more personalised and relevant to your audience. Often, safety leaders can ramble on too much about information that people understand causing them to switch off. Meanwhile, the real issue has been missed.
4. They've got other things on their mind - Our brains are marvellous at screening out information that we don't need to know about. We only notice information that is relevant to what is on our mind at the time. For example, if your child is eyesight issues, you will notice information about helping children with poor eyesight. However, if the safety leader wants to talk about ladder safety, when your brain is on the look out for information on eyesight, guess what happens? You ignore the information on ladders. It's not relevant to you. This means that to get everyone's attention, you need to learn how to make it interesting. You've got to hit emotional buttons. This is too big a topic to discuss here, but just blurting out safety information with no intent to make it compelling is a recipe for disaster. Literally.
5. You didn't follow up - In addition to telling people what you want them to do, you need to let them have the ability to get back to you about how it is or is not working. Communication needs to be two-way. Empower your employees by encouraging them to inform you if a process needs to be fixed. Regularly get in touch with everyone to find out how things are progressing. For people to believe what you say, they need to see evidence that you are sincere in your desire for a safe workplace. Just by following up how safety processes are going, they will begin to feel that they can trust and believe you. Over time, this will make it easier for you to change behaviour and get traction with your communication.
Clear and consistent safety communication is one of the most important things a company can do to keep its workers safe. Too often, people approach safety communication as just normal run-of-the-mill information. But it's far more important than that.
How can you start approaching your safety communication differently? Let me know by commenting below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Photo credit: By Danilo Rizutti at Freedigitalphotos.net
A while ago, I connected with an old friend and when I mentioned I was writing a book on safety communication, he laughed and told me how clumsy he was and how he hurt himself all the time.
He reminded me of a person I used to work with who was so unsafe, it was scary (an ex-electrician who liked to pull out the power plug of equipment half out, so that it was dangling in the socket with the connectors exposed). He was also constanly injuring himself.
Interestingly, both these men are of quite a negative disposition. While cheery on the outside, all you have to do is read their Facebook comments and see a constant theme of relationship issues, health issues and just general complaints about life. Fear permeates their existence.
According to a 2006 WHO Collaborative Centre French Study, around 27% of workers are more likely to experience more injuries than the average person.
So what makes some people more accident prone?
In the book, The Divine Matrix, Gregg Braden, a former computer systems designer discusses that there are three main fears that hold us back subconsciously in life.
The one that interests me from a safety perspective is the universal fear of surrender and trust.
Being able to surrender and trust is when you allow youself to let go of your individual self and the beliefs about who you are, knowing that by doing so that you can exchange yourself for the greater possibility of who you may become.
Universally, most of us feel within that it's not safe to do so. That we can't trust other people. After all, you just have to turn on the nightly news and see so much death and assaults that you question the safety of the world we live in. How can we surrender ourselves to life, when it looks like it won't support us?
Essentially, our sense of safety comes from the security we feel inside ourselves. To experience this, we must trust that the world is safe.
Yet, this is so hard for many of us to do.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once our physical needs are taken care of (food, water, shelter), what takes precedence is our desire to be safe.
This means we are programmed to want freedom from fear, pain and danger. We want to work in safe workplaces where we can’t get hurt. We also want to make sure our loved ones are protected.
But we need to see and feel evidence that our workplaces are safe and that our fellow co-workers are looking out for us.
In the Workplace Culture Model for High Performing Companies, I recommend that there are three areas business leaders need to balance for a safe workplace: Unity, Compassionate Leadership and Communication.
Once these three inter-related factors are working in unison, you hit trust, the sweet spot. This is when people feel safe at work.
Workers look to senior leaders to see that safety is a priority and that they are safe from harm. They get this from clear communication that is transparent, authentic and has no trace of hypocrisy. They see it from a unified workplace where people work together and look out for each other. And they feel it from compassionate leaders who care about them. This in turn enables workers to feel safe to excel and take risks in their career, knowing they are protected from getting injured at work or from being bullied or harassed by colleagues (you can read more about improving your safety culture in this free report: Workplace Safety Culture).
Psychologists will tell you that our inner beliefs affect what we experience in the outer world. If you are scared of life and don't feel safe, you will be most likely to experience situations were you get hurt (either physically or emotionally).
And while we can often see frightening things around us that appear part of our reality, the key to removing our fears is believing that they don't have to be part of our reality. This isn't a New Age belief, it's now backed up by science (quantum physics).
The good news is that all that is required to help men and women who fear being able to surrender and trust, is for them to be able to see that pattern within themsleves. Just a small change in how we see ourselves can then help us make changes to our habits that can positively change our health, careers and even relationships.
These are known as keystone habits, which Charles Duhigg mentions in The Power of Habit. He claims that some habits are more important than others because they have the power to start a chain reaction, shifting other patterns as they move through our lives. Keystone habits influence how we work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate. They start a process that, over time, transforms everything, so that when people start changing their habits, they start changing other unrelated patterns in their lives, often unwittingly.
Often, those who have a fear of being able to surrender and trust end up with relationship and health issues because of their fear of trust and feeling safe.
As Greg Braden says in The Divine Matrix, we have to break the cycle of our thinking. Of course, changing how we see ourselves is a life's work and it's hard. We all struggle with who we believe we are.
If you're a business leader and you know you have certain staff that hurt themselves a lot, you can help support your workers who essentially have a fear of safety by:
- Letting these people know how much you care about their safety and follow up with them a lot to see how they're going.
- Ensuring that you have a robust safety system and that you continually replace out of date safety equipment.
- Being strict about keeping a clean workplace (clean site = a safe site).
- Creating small collaborative teams and rewarding teamwork.
- Providing staff access to a workplace psychologist, suggesting that team members that hurt themselves often, receive counselling to understand their fear of surrender and trust.
Remember, our outer world mirrors our inner world. By providing a safe workplace environment and counselling that helps the perpetually injured understand themselves better, you will create a safer, happier workplace. All they need is awarrness and acceptance of what they are doing subconsciously and they will start to become less accident prone.
Do you know anyone who is accident prone?
Photo credit: By Stockimages at Freedigitalphotos.net
Supervisors are critical when it comes to the job satisfaction, safety performance, productivity and skills development of your workforce.
The good news is that you don't need to improve your supervisor leadership skills in all of these four areas. Just by focusing on improving leadership skills of your supervisors in just one key area will automatically improve other areas. So what's the magic area to work on?
By focusing on improving your supervisor's standards on safety will automatically mean high standards will be expected in other areas such as productivity and on-the-job learning.
A good example of this is Alcoa. Back in 1987, when the CEO Paul O'Neill came in to improve the company he focused purely on safety. That was enough to automatically improve other areas such as productivity and even profits.
So to get the best out of your team - what are good leadership skills? What are the qualities of good leadership that improves safety and therefore, business performance?
The seven good leadership skills of supervisors are:
- Being able to foster, open friendly communication and dialogues about safety - Great supervisors encourage everyone to talk about safety no matter what their age, gender or race. They promote two-way conversation where they listen to others and ask questions/make statements.
- Leading by example - all actions are symbolic, what supervisors stand for and value comes through in their actions. Supervisors must make sure their words, match their actions.
- A positive attitude towards safety - Interestingly, companies with supervisors that believe that workplace deaths are an inevitable part of doing business, almost always have more fatalities than other companies who don't believe that. Just by having a positive attitude towards safety means that safety improves.
- Valuing safety over production pressures - Great supervisors let staff know that they will not be punished for turning off a machine that will result in a delay, but which could also have cut off their arm. People are always more important than deadlines.
- Share important safety-related information - Beware supervisors that don't think to share safety information. Great supervisors have a mindset of constantly improving and training on safety. This means staff quickly realise how important safety is in the workplace.
- Enable positive communication between frontline and senior management - Often, many senior executives fail to realise that they need their supervisors to buy-in to their initiatives. Great supervisors are able to talk with both senior management and frontline staff.
- Never ignore poor safety behaviours - Companies that have a poor safety culture have supervisors that ignore poor safety behaviours. Even worse, supervisors with very poor leadership skills have been known to joke around and even join in during inappropriate behaviours. Great supervisors pull people up when they do the wrong thing.
These seven leadership qualities also form an important checklist on how you can ensure you hire supervisors that will improve safety. Not make it decline.
If you're not sure whether your supervisors are exhibiting the right behaviours to help your workplace thrive, download our free 18 Supervisor Behaviours that Produce a Thriving Culture.
If you want to train your supervisors on these seven leadership skills, find out more about our Supervisor Leadership Skills for a Safe Workplace course.
Imagine a game of tug-of-war with the same amount of people on each side of the rope.
Which do you believe is true: People pull harder in an eight person team or when they are pulling alone?
The answer is when they are pulling a rope on their own.
About 100 years ago, french scientists discovered that the collective effort of tug-of-war teams was actually half the sum of individual efforts.
Contrary to what many management consultants and leaders believe, whenever group members work towards a common goal, but are not accountable for their individual efforts, they are less motivated to perform.
In tug-of-war, no-one knows how much energy you are exerting, so you can fake it.
Social Loafing Definition
It's all due to the psychological concept of social loafing. This is the tendency for people to exert less effort when there is no accountability for individual effort when working with others on a group goal.
While it might seem that humans do this because they are lazy, this isn't really the case.
One of the reasons is that when we work with a group towards a goal, we suffer from evaluation apprehension. If our actions can be held accountable, it increases our exposure to being evaluated. This makes us self-consciously monitor our behaviour and work harder.
Yet, when we know that our behaviour is lost in a group effort it decreases our evaluation apprehension and social loafing occurs instead (as in why try, when you don't have to?).
How to increase Productivity at Work
To motivate group members, you need to make individual performance identifiable. That's why great football coaches are known to film each player and evaluate them individually. This is a successful way of getting each player to try harder - because they know their individual performance is being monitored.
In fact, social loafing is rife amongst all industries and is a major element in decreasing workplace productivity.
In one study, assembly line workers produced 16 percent more product when they were accountable, even though it made no difference to their pay.
Increasing productivity can be achieved by:
- Introducing challenging tasks as this motivates individual effort to succeed.
- Having unreliable or incompetent participants involved in task. This will spur those who are competent to feel that their input is required.
- Incentivising work where groups strive to perform a certain measurable standard. (eg: pack 150 boxes in 2 hours and get a 10 minute break).
- Getting friends to work together (when people are highly identified with the group they will work hard to do a good job).
- Incorporating collaborative tasks that involve interacting repeatedly with someone (eg: classroom project that involves you working with a person one-on-one and you don't want to disappoint them).
- Breaking down large groups into small groups. In a small group, each member's contribution is more accountable and their input becomes indispensable.
Essentially, tasks that are challenging, involving and appealing reduce the effect of social loafing.
For over 13 years, I've been self-employed. What I like about working for myself is that I'm not victim to workplace politics. In fact, having to battle egos in the workplace everyday was one of the reasons I started my own business.
So it's always a big shock to me when I can clearly see ego battles at companies that I work with. What really annoys me, is when egos get in the way of making the right decisions.
As Peter Drucker is quoted as saying in Inside Drucker's Brain, an immature manager is one who gets caught up in their own ego. These are managers who think of themselves before an organisation, who feel it is more important to be right than doing right. Such behaviour can destroy an organisation.
From my external standpoint, I see this often when induction training manuals are being created. What I find incredibly frustrating is that induction and safety manuals are so crucial in business operations. Yet, their power is dimished by egocentric managers.
Here are seven areas where big egos wreak havoc in workplace safety communication:
1. Writing complicated sentences with long words. This seems so obvious that I feel it almost mundane to even have to write this. However, I have never worked with anyone who has been able to rewrite my work and make the sentences shorter. They always get longer and harder to read. So often a manager will read a sentence and add extra verbage that offers no real value. For example:
It is imperative that we focus on everyday forklift driving behaviours, in order to improve and maintain safe practices and prevent any potential incidents or injuries from occuring at our workplace.
By focusing on improving your forklift driving behaviours everyday, you will improve your forklift driving behaviour overall.
Adding extra information does not make you smarter. All it does is make sentences harder to read.
2. Be age or gender biased - One common obstacle I come across is that a lot of managers will always exclude the opinion of someone younger than them. While males in particular will rarely take a female's perspective seriously on safety. This is such a flawed and arrogant assumption. I've worked with many managers who's intelligence levels were obviously quite mediocre. To avert people from realising this, they would constantly criticise younger people's opinions, particulary from women. The result is that the quality of work only ever reaches the level of that manager's capability. It's really frustrating when the outcomes could be so much higher, if other people's viewpoints (who are often more intelligent despite their age or gender) were taken into account.
As Ronald Reagan said: "Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the policy you've decided upon is being carried out".
While Drucker said, all effective leaders are more interested in "what is right than who is right...to put personality above the requirements of the work is corruption and corrupts."
3. Inauthentic communication - One of the common complaints from employees is that they never believe the safety speeches they hear. What they are really saying is that the manager cannot be trusted because their actions do not match their words. As Drucker said, "To be a good manager, you must set high standards and live by example. Those managers who live the values of the organisation can motivate their people to place the needs of the organisation ahead of their own personall goals."
This means that in any safety communication, the person who is writing or talking about a safety process must believe in it. When they're out on site, they must do everything in that safety process perfectly. This also includes following up a safety process by pulling people up when they are doing it incorrectly (privately), but also to find out how it is working.
Managers who do not lead by example or follow through with their communication are ineffectual and seen as mistrustful.
4. Building change into your induction manuals - In addition, to telling people what you want them to do, make sure the action is two-way. Give people the opportunity to let you know that the action required is or isn’t working.
Over time, people will end up changing a safety process. What they were taught in their procedure can end up morphing into different safety behaviour. The risk is that the new method is unsafe.
Empower your employees by allowing them to inform management when they want to change a process. However, it must be stressed that this is to check safety and efficiency.
As Peter Drucker was quoted saying in the book, “Inside Drucker’s Brain,” improvement and abandonment are two sides of the same coin. Companies must always be getting rid of obsolete processes and empowering their workers to constantly look for ways to rid the company of unnecessary waste.
The important thing is that everyone knows to never change any safety processes without approval.
To improve one must abandon what doesn't work and do what works better. Yet, so many managers are scared of change. Egos hate changing.
Taiichi Ohno, a former exectuvie vice president at Toyota said "Something is wrong if workers do not look around each day, find things tedious or boring and then rewrite the procedures. Even last month's manual should be out of date".
However, as humans have a tendency to change their processes over time without knowing it (and potentially make the task less efficient), ensure you audit against work instructions on a regular basis.
"Change is inevitable. Progress is optional". Tony Robbins
5. Simple message - The more information you give people, the harder it is for them to decipher what is required. All safety processes need to have a clear message as to what needs to be done. Any redundant information needs to be removed.
As Drucker said, people only accomplish important things when they are not sidetracked or distracted by meaningless tasks or information.
For example, here is a phrase I found in a recent induction manual. "All MSDS sheets can be found where they are accessible". Only include content that is useful and keep it all simple.
Only big egos like to overcomplicate things, to show that they are smarter than everyone.
6. Focus on strengths - I've read induction training manuals where new starters were already being blamed for undertaking a process incorreclty. The manuals were written in a way that assumed that people would make mistakes.
As Drucker said, nothing destroys the spirit of an organisation faster than focusing on people's weakness rather than strengths.
Time and time again, I read training manuals that are so unfriendly. Make sure your safety communications is always welcoming and conversational.
After all, if you were starting a new job what would your thoughts be on a company that treated you rudely in your first week? Write the manual in a tone that assumes people will get things right. Avoid using terms such as punished and consequences.
7. Enjoy making people wrong - A while back I was visiting a client of mine who had started a new job. We were looking at the factory floor from an office window when he quite proudly spied the OHS manager walking along the pedestrian walkway talking on a mobile phone. My client then went on to say how the OHS manager should know better and kept rambling on about how he never did that. He always did the right thing etc, etc. What I learnt was not so much the OHS manager was wrong, but how my previous client saw this as an opporunity to be right and let the OHS manager know he was wrong.
It's important to pull someone up for doing the wrong safety process. But, it will never work if you just want to make them wrong. This will only make them defy (and despise!) you. What my previous client should have realised what this was a perfect opportunity to have a safety conversation and to improve results. It wasn't time to puff his chest and see himself as being better.
A leader's job is get everyone working together. Yet, any manager who lets their ego take centre stage when creating safety communication won't be effective.
Where have you found that egos have got in the way of great safety communication?
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Copy writers know how to write advertising so that people will read their content.
They understand that most people are time-poor. Rather than read an ad or a document from top to bottom, people will quickly scan a document to see if there if is anything worth reading.
The headline, image and first sentence will draw them in.
As a safety professional, it's important that you write content that not only draws people in, but encourages them to continue to read more.
This is the only way to make your written communication stand out and be read.
Here are seven important techniques to include in your safety writing to hold interest and ensure an easy to scan page.
- Use a paragraph per thought – When people see a big clump of text, they tune out and stop reading. Make your writing friendly to look at, by including lots of short paragraphs.
- Include bullet points – The eyes like bullet points and are drawn to them. They also make it easier for people to understand information. They are great to use when talking about steps in a process.
- Include a visual – Ensure you have a photo or diagram that adds to the information. People are drawn to visuals and will look at them first.
- Use white space – Again, lots of text is confronting to a lot of people. Break up the text with paragraphs and spaces. Embrace white space. It also makes it easier for people to scan the article.
- Incorporate sub headlines – This breaks up the page and gives the eyes a break from lots of text. It also helps those who scan. A rule of thumb is a sub headline every four paragraphs (if you don’t need a sub headline, an image is also good).
- Write concisely - Use short sentences (17 words or less) and use short words (5 characters or less). Around 70-80% of your words should consist of only one syllable. Write at Grade 10 reading level or lower, to ensure everyone can understand. Use the readability statistics in Microsoft Word to check your writing level.
- Make use of bold and italics – To draw people’s attention to important information, make sure you use bold and italics where you can. However, avoid using big clumps of text in either of these formats, as it is hard to read.
To be an effective safety professional, it's important to learn how to write safety communication in a way that encourages people to want to keep reading.
Ensuring that your safety communication looks approachable and interesting, will attract more readers and ensure they learn important safety information.
Following on from the recent article I wrote on safety apps, it's time to go through some more general, but really useful, business productivity apps.
Evernote - this is actually my favourite app and I use it everyday. It enables you to store important notes and information. I use it to "cut" out an article that I like on a website and then I can easily find it within Evernote by searching for tags. You can also set it up on your iPad and iPhone and sync information, so you can always find your stored images no matter wht device you are on. If you've ever wanted to remember a website or even just a photo that you liked on the web, then this is the app for you. You can also share website pages that you like with others and add audio. Brilliant.
Jing - this is sort of similiar to Evernote in that you can cut out website pages and share them. But it is not so easy to search for stored images. However, what you can do is draw or highlight visual elements in your communication. You can also make little videos that you can share with others. This is great if you want to explain how to do something on a computer. You can even broadcast them straight to YouTube.
Rescuetime - I love this. It keeps track of everything I do on my computer, so I can see how productive I am. This means I can see how often I spend time on tasks such as social media, business, emails, entertainment and so on. Every week it sends you a report to show you how much time you spent working and on what activities. You can also login during the day to see how you are progressing. This is perfect if you want to improve your productivity and are not sure what you are wasting time on. Of course, it will be either too much time on email or social media.
Gliffy - this is a nifty little tool to easily make flowcharts. You can also have it as an app on Google Chrome.
Droptask - this is a great visual project management software tool that helps you better collaborate on projects by allowing you to share project information. You can use intuitive task indicators to get a clear picture of any project with a single glance. Enables easy visualizing of your workload. It also has time management features and a helpful to-do list.
Quantcast - As someone who used to work in market research, this site really intrigues me. It allows you to discover the demographics of various popular websites. You can find out about the demographics of what sort of people read particular safety blogs. Fascinatingly, with one particular safety website, viewers visit kids education sites afterwards (then home and gardening). Lots you can do with this site. More for marketers, but great tool to use if you want to know if you're like other people in your demographic.
Mindmeister - For those of you who love mind maps, this is a good little software program to easily mind map on your computer or other device. Really easy to use. Starts from $5 per month for individuals and then has different pricing for groups. Free 30 day trial.
Dropbox - I hesistated about putting Dropbox in here because honestly, if you're not using it already you must be living under a rock. It's the most awesome piece of software next to Evernote. It enables you to put a range of files into your Dropbox which you can then access for all your devices. Great for travelling (I like to keep all of my travel documents in my Dropbox folder, so I know I can always access it). You can also share links with others to really big files.
Trello -This is a group to do list, where every team member gets their own board with tasks and completion dates. It's easy to assign deadlines and to visually see how a project is going. It also has a mobile app, so you can see how the team is doing while you're on the run.
Google Groups - This is a great way to connect with people all over the world, for free and have discussions where you can see each other and share your screen. A very powerful tool for group collaboration. I've been using this quite a lot with a variety of different groups that I belong to. Despite group members being scattered across the globe, we're able to talk to each other like we're in the same room and easily share notes.
Dragon Dictation - Handy little device that allows you to dictate your words and get it almost perfectly deciphered into written text. Available on a number of devices. Great way to record your notes when you're driving in the car and then have them available in written format for your computer.
Workflowy - if you have trouble finding the right way to jot down your to-do list. This could be the app for you. It helps you get out all of the tasks that you need to do in a fashion that makes it easier for your brain to offload. It mimics the way your brain thinks by breaking tasks out into little tasks.
Tripit - Store all of your work travel information from flights and hotels in one handy app. Works across all devices.
There you have it! If you have any other business productivity apps that we need to know about, list them in the comments section below.
What do you believe is the best brainstorming technique to generate the most ideas?
Around five people brainstorming together or an individual brainstorming alone?
Surprisingly, the answer is the individual brainstorming on their own.
In 1957, Alex Osbourne who actually coined the term "brainstorming", believed that it lead to the doubling of productivity.
Unfortunately, a mountain of research has found otherwise.
In fact, small groups of people actually create half the amount of ideas than individuals working alone.
Psychologists attribute this to "production blocking" which is when one person is talking and everyone else is blocked from talking or expressing their own ideas.
Production blocking is actually a major detriment for groups generating ideas and being solution powerhouses.
In the research paper, "Toward More Creative and Innovative Group Idea Generation", Social and Personality Compass, 1, 248-265 (2007), Professor Paulus recommended alternating between individual and small nominal group interactions.
To avoid the effect of "Production Blocking", use the nominal group technique, where you get group members to:
- Start working alone and choose their preferred solution, then
- Get people to work together (in small groups) and share their recommendations and different perspectives.
This can also be done in the reverse (where people work together, then alone, then together again to share ideas).
Even better is if you ask people to put together a debate for both sides the argument. This will help them really dig down to see what they believe is the right choice.
Allowing people to have time to work out their own perspective individually stops groupthink (when people go along with what the group wants to avoid confrontation) and reduces the likelihood of poor decision making.
The most successful brainstorming techniques are when businesses allow group members to have time to develop their own opinions about important issues and then have the opportunity to share.
What works against this equitable process is that groups are notoriously bad at sharing information. Effort has to be made for sharing to occur. (Otherwise, shyness, looking incompetent, peer pressure and the need to conform kick in and people don't share).
How can you introduce more individual think time to boost your brainstorming productivity?
When it comes to safety - teamwork skills matter
Both the aviation and medical industries lead the way when it come to researching the impact of teamwork on safety. What they've both learnt (to their detriment) is that effective teamwork rarely happens spontaneously. Instead, it requires long-term training and organisational planning.
Research has found that when planes crash, or patients die on the operating table through "human error" , the real culprit actually lies in teamwork failures
Essentially, inadequate communication and poor co-ordination of the work task means a loss of life in these tough environments (read Are Tyrants threatening staff safety in your Company
for more information on the aviation industry).
Luckily, for most industries it's not a life or death situation every day.
What is Teamwork?
According to the Businessdictionary
, teamwork is the process of working collaboratively with a group of people to achieve a goal.
When it comes to safety, teamwork is a clear contributor to whether people get injured at work. Research has found that teamwork reduces lost time accident rates (LTA's) and that people are more likely to work safely in a team, than independently.
A study (Hechanova, Alampay & Beehr, 2002) investigated the correlation between teamworking and safety performance. It uncovered a negative correlation between the level of self-management and both unsafe behaviours and team injuries. In other words, where a team is able to self-manage (which means they have technical skills, knowledge and the ability to make decisions), the safer the team will work.
A review of a variety of research studies (including a literature review by Parker and Turner) found teamwork improves health and safety
for the following reasons:
Increased involvement in safety activities;
Group processes (e.g. group cooperation, planning and co-ordination, willingness to approach other members). This also means reflecting on how the group is performing,
Improve group communication on safety,
Improved face to face interaction (recognising the accomplishments of others), and importantly, and
Co-operation between team and supervisor.
improvements in safety performance.
Team Leader Skills
When it comes to leading a team, the supervisor or team leader has a great influence on how safe the group work and whether they achieve their goals on time.
In the report, Teamwork and Working in Teams, they believe that it is critical for leaders to understand that their role involves both task roles (managing tasks), as well as tasks involved with nurturing the emotional or people component of the team (leading people).
In addition, it is also beneficial for the team leader or supervisor to manage and lead safety meetings effectively. This means preparing the safety meeting agenda, distributing the agenda at least a day in advance, getting people to arrive on time, as well as providing an environment that supports creativity, respect and where people feel safe to offer ideas.
After all, companies are legislated to talk openly about this safety, but this can only be done if there is effective teamwork.
However, the issue is that a lot of companies find that supervisors or team leaders often know about how to manage tasks, but when it comes to nurturing and leading a team, to get the best out of them, then issues occur.
What both the medical and aviation industries have found is that you have to train on teamwork skills. You can't expect them to spontaneously occur in the workplace.
That's why we've created supervisor or team leader training that helps supervisors understand the importance of their role, as well as how they influence the safety behaviours and productivity levels of the team. In addition, we also go through 9 connect and collaborate skills to really help supervisors and team leaders engage, collaborate and communicate effectively on safety.
This training is available both online, on DVD and in customised workshop format. There is also the option of onsite or telephone coaching. Visit www.digicast.com.au/toolbox-training-DVD for more information.