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How to Use Safety Training to Improve Employee Retention

Safety training in workplace classroom

Most safety training is mandated by law, which makes skipping it non-negotiable. The list of requirements provided by OSHA and other government regulators can be long, and it can take a lot of effort to stay on top of compliance safety training.

All of which can make it hard to see the merit of doing additional, non-required safety training. After all, you already spend a fair amount of time on safety education. But human factors management training and other voluntary safety education can offer a number of benefits, from improving traditional safety metrics to fewer production errors.

Research published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management has a new perk to add to the list: better employee retention rates. The study looked at over 4000 employees who worked at 149 companies and discovered that “employers can reap a double dividend of higher productivity and increased retention” from certain types of job training.

In fact, it was estimated that offering extra education to employees increased loyalty to an employer by over ten percent. This increase in retention also factors in potential negative factors such as giving workers skills that make them more attractive to other companies. “Interestingly, the retention effect also occurs in the case of training content that would enable employees to take a wage-increasing career step outside the company,” one of the researchers noted regarding the retention effects of training.

This has significant implications for safety folks—depending on the type of EHS training on offer. The study looks at new skills development, which means that most compliance training and re-certification processes won’t offer much, if any, benefit. This is because few new skills are being developed and, likely, also because employees will not view mandatory training as the company making a significant investment in workers’ skills.

Contrast this with non-required health and safety courses like human factors training, which build personal awareness and safety skills that can make workers more alert, more productive and safer. Because these effects aren’t limited to the workplace, workers tend to view them as a tangible investment in their development. And as this study points out, employees reward these investments by sticking with the company for longer.

This can benefit the company in a number of ways. It means the investment costs of voluntary safety initiatives like human factors management training remain in the organization. It also provides savings down the road by helping the company avoid the expensive proposition of having to hire, onboard and train replacement workers when employees quit.

Human factors training and other voluntary EHS programs also have secondary benefits, such as improving happiness (which itself is closely tied to better safety outcomes). Additionally, they can strengthen safety culture, improve communication by establishing a common safety language, and boost safety compliance rates by rooting out the human factors that can lead to non-compliance.

So as you calculate the financial benefits of continued safety education programs, be sure to include the value of reduced employee turnover. One of the long-standing cases for voluntary safety training has been its ability to reduce the number of lost-time hours caused by injury. Now, you can also convincingly point to broader retention benefits as part of the value of safety programs like human factors training.

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