Developing your company’s employees will improve leadership, safety

July 6, 2014 By and    

I believe the best formula for success within any business lies in its ability to train, inspire and motivate proactive compliance and internal initiative through individual development.

You can hire anyone to perform a job, but can you train, inspire and motivate the employee to do it safely with confidence? We all need to develop before we are effective and successful.

Forty-some years ago, I joined the Minneapolis Jaycees, a civic group with the motto “Individual development through community service.”

Coming from a small business, I benefited from those years of community service because the group had a leadership plan in place that focused on individual development.

For my first Jaycees project, I worked with underprivileged kids. My idea was to have them earn a canoe trip by cleaning senior citizens’ yards. The chairman of the youth activities committee taught me how to put together a project-planning guide to sell the project to the board of directors for funding. It was my first attempt at a business plan.

The plan required six adults to work with 15 kids – cleaning yards one Saturday and canoeing the next. The budget request included funding for trash bags, canoe rentals, hot dogs, baked beans, potato chips and soft drinks. The board approved the funding for my project.

Yards were cleaned, the canoe adventure was mostly dry and by improvising I fed the masses using two coolers – one filled with ice and the other with boiling water and sealed with duct tape to cook the hot dogs and warm the beans. Including adults and children, 21 individuals were developed.

In eight years, I grew from a member of the youth activities committee to project manager, committee chairperson, board director, vice president, chaplain and executive vice president. In 1979, I was elected as one of the youngest presidents of that 250-member $100,000 non-profit corporation.

Impart your wisdom
The future leaders of your company are new and existing employees who need nurturing, seasoning and individual development. They benefit when you share your wisdom of experience.

As we recover from a stressful winter, it would be easy to break from things that keep us safe and profitable. Long-term employee burnout and other age-related factors could create a significant turnover in your skilled personnel. This means you need to focus on training more than ever.

NFPA 58 requires that employees “shall be provided training that is consistent with the scope of their job activities.” This training must be documented and refresher training is required every three years.

Documentation is an important part of compliance and skill verification. It’s the only way to measure training effectiveness while documenting management’s commitment to provide such training. Supervision of on-the-job training and confirmation of competency should be a well-documented and consistent process because it might be a future liability consideration after an accident.

I have had a number of clients who did not manage training documentation and skill verification. It usually came up in depositions after an accident. Once a plaintiff’s attorney smells blood in the water, he will grill owners, managers, supervisors and employees about the level of training, skill verification, understanding of code and compliance with company policy. Many good owners and supervisors have been made to look like monkeys because they did not document and failed to sound credible.

Mock trials prepare employees for future legal interrogation. In my safety programs, we often hold mock trials to expose gaps in documentation and improve communication skills. Using employees and managers as role-play participants is one more form of communication designed to help employees understand compliance requirements and why they’re being trained.

Your employees are your greatest assets, and it has never been more important to develop employees through skill-assessed training. It’s the safety way.

Jay Johnston is an insurance executive, safety/business management consultant and inspirational safety speaker. He can be reached at or 952-935-5350.

Comments are currently closed.