In order to develop more effective workplace health and safety incentives, we’ve been working closely with business customers across New Zealand.
We’ve conducted workshops and interviews with over 300 people to understand their current realities, key needs and how we can do things better. We’ve turned the findings into key insights. These insights will help shape the products and services we design.
You can read the insights below then provide feedback on how relevant they are to you. Or just let us know any general comments or ideas. Your feedback will help us ensure we're on the right track.
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Time off work creates costly business disruption and inefficiency. When measured, this is a powerful incentive to invest in improving health and safety outcomes. Many businesses have tight margins.
Management teams need to see a return on their health and safety investment. Information and data provide evidence that make investing in health and safety an easier sell. However, health and safety practitioners often don’t have the data and information to support their case.
"I need the reasoning, more than the money, to do Health and Safety.” Employer
“When looking to sell something to the leadership team, money does talk.” Employer
Every employer is at a different stage on their health and safety journey. Triggers for starting or accelerating the journey vary. The pace at which they grow their capability depends on their specific situation. It can be daunting for employers if they don’t know where to start or what to do next.
They respond well when it’s easy to get started or take the next step. It also helps if they can see their progress. Sometimes this means having someone alongside to support, rather than waving a ‘stick’.
Employers’ needs change over time and it influences when they’ll take the next step along the journey. For example, the priority might be to reduce serious incidents, then focus on less serious injuries, and then focus on wellness and health.
To motivate a faster rate of change, the incentives must align with the current needs of the employer.
“Rather than penalise, help businesses by providing tools, guidance, and material.” Academic expert
“Don’t eat the whole elephant – it’s a long game” Employer
“Our business is changing constantly.” Employer
Health and safety practitioners admit that they can’t drive the change they’re seeking on their own. They need leadership and role modelling from senior business leaders. Many employers are frustrated by a focus on compliance, ie do I have the appropriate documentation in place?
They want to see a focus on behaviours, ie do I have the practices and culture to underpin our health and safety efforts?
Some employers are experienced in doing health and safety. They find ways to encourage their managers and employees to be accountable for their and others’ health and safety. They focus on unsafe behaviours rather than looking at the injuries and near misses. This shift in focus also avoids the complacency that can come from being good at complying.
“Legislation won’t grow your business. A culture of care will.” Employer
“NZ has paper based safety, as opposed to safety conversations/culture” Large employer
“When the guys on the floor are suggesting changes, that’s when the system is mature.” Employe
Many employers feel like they are not treated as partners in the process. If involved early, they see a role they can play to achieve win-win-win outcomes for:
- the employee
- the employer
Employers experienced in health and safety partner with the medical and therapist community to tailor return to work plans to suit the individual.
Specific pain points include:
- an inability to access information
- a lack of recognition of part-time return to work.
Our existing incentive products focus only on workplace injuries and illness. The impact on business performance from a non-work injury/illness can be much bigger. Employers focus increasingly on ways to help their employees keep healthy and safe outside of the workplace.
“Employees return to work earlier under AEP because employers are more involved in the process.” Third Party Administrator
“The aging workforce is a big challenge.” Employer
“It’s difficult to talk to ACC about non-work injuries - we’re not entitled to that information.” Employer
Our current products and services have a lot of benefits. For example, having a single point of contact reduces the burden of having to deal with many people across many claims.
For Employers experienced in health and safety the focus is shifting to the benefits of true partnerships. For example, partnering with the medical and therapist community to tailor return to work plans to suit the individual.
Employer’s efforts alone are no longer enough. There’s more value in partnering with subcontractors, clients, employees, medical professionals, and us.
“We’re quite proactive. If something is going to impact our clients we’ll go out to them and say it’s going to impact you – what are you going to do about it?” Small Business Advisor
“We realised we need to partner with others to get what we want, it’s not about master-slave relationships.” Employer
This plays out on many levels. Employers:
- source talent from local communities
- attract investment from the investment community
- want to keep their valuable and contributing employees
- sell their services and products to customers.
They’re deeply aware of the impact of a poor or outstanding health and safety record on perceptions of people. They’re also aware of the impact of a poor reputation on their business. They appreciate the value of being able to show good performance.
“Reputation is important to staff, customers, community, and stakeholders.” Employer
“We want Mums and Dads, and career counsellors to say ‘that’s a good place to work’.” Employer
Mixed messages create confusion for employers. For example, they receive a discount from one of our incentive products, while at the same time another incentive product applies a loading.
Employers are left wondering if they’re a good or poor performer. Our levies and incentives are only a small part of the employer’s broader system. They need to understand the role of the incentives within that.
“An ideal incentive should never be financial, that’s nice but it shouldn’t be the key motivator” Industry Association
“Success is employers understanding incentives, caring about H&S, and knowing what to do to improve.” Actuarial expert
Employers carry a bigger share of the risk and liability within the Accredited Employers Programme. This means with more ‘skin in the game’ they clearly see the costs of getting it wrong and the benefits of getting it right.
It also motivates them to invest more time and effort in developing strong employer-employee relationships. The same principles apply to other employers. The levy discount doesn’t necessarily flow back into practitioners’ operating budget. It frustrates them as they want to take the business to the next level in terms of health and safety maturity.
“Self-insurance is the ultimate incentive for health & safety improvement.” Employer
“Allow ownership as close to the source as possible” Industry Association“
If incentives are fair businesses are more motivated to use it. Lack of fairness across many factors is a significant critique of the current incentive products. Employers highlighted:
- cross-subsidising poor performers
- discrepancies in levy risk categories
- other employers burying poor outcomes in the sub-contractor network
- an isolated incident beyond an employer’s control counting against them for three years
- dodgy operators who start new businesses to refresh their experience rating.
“It would be good to be measured on our own performance.” Employer
Business must understand how the experience rating calculations work. Without this they also won’t know how they can influence the calculation. There’s a tendency for business leaders to be resigned to ‘it is what it is’. It is not enough to be technically pure. It must be easy to understand.
“It’s an interesting figure, but what does it mean?” Employer
“Levy classifications don’t make sense.” Industry association
Businesses operate in a tight commercial environment. Managers have many competing demands and are time poor. A high administrative burden can reduce the motivation to engage. For example, a major pain point for accredited employers is the large amount of administrative work that goes with audits.
To employers, the levy feels more like a tax – a one-way relationship and not a partnership. Many employers feel that they don’t have choice and control over the size of their levy. This means that any incentive products have limited potential to motivate behaviour change.
“I curl up whenever we have to deal with ACC” Employer
“Right now, it’s not a partnership, ACC just takes.” Employer
If you'd like to know more about our co-design process with ThinkPlace, here's some information.
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