What Does Buy-in Cost?
Updated: May 19
By John Royer, Corporate Safety Director
Throughout my experience in safety and construction management, I have attended several safety conferences, training seminars, and the likes, not to mention the countless training classes that I have provided over the years. In all of those conferences and seminars, there is always a theme that is conveyed which is getting someone else to buy into what you believe. In other words, buy-in. Whether the focus is getting your customer to buy-in to your company because of your product and value or getting your employees to buy-in to the culture that you wish to establish, buy-in from all is required. Many companies struggle with this aspect and this struggle can be the result of many different things. Some small and some not so small. Buy-in from all is only achieved when you have a consistent belief and value of what you expect from the owner all the way down to the front-line worker. How do you achieve that? Well, the answer is actually a simple one. It starts with ownership and not the front-line worker.
Business owners are the ones that establish the rules, policies, and disciplines for what is allowed and not allowed in their company. If the rules, policies, and disciplines are not administered effectively, then it costs the company in employee turnover, possible fines, insurance premiums, and even potential lawsuits. One way that business owners inform their employees of expectations is through a “mission statement” that is conveyed to everyone who works for them. The statement is comprised of the owner’s personal beliefs and values of the business itself. If your company has a mission statement, do you know what it is? Have you thought about what it means? And the most important question of all is, do you believe in it and share the same value? This means that you actually follow the rules, policies, and disciplines 100% of the time. For example:
→ If the company requires that you report all incidents and near misses to your supervisor...Do you?
→ If your company gives you “Stop Work Authority” when you see a hazard or are asked to perform a task in which you are not trained on...Do you use it?
These are just two examples of questions to ask yourself so you can identify if you “buy-in” to the mission statement of your company. There are many more believe me; this list could go on and on.
In today’s busy and “new normal” world that we live in, it is hard for many business owners to fully engage with everyone in their organization on a daily basis. The owners mostly engage with their managers and middle managers or supervisors. This means that it is now up to the managers to ensure that the rules are enforced, policies followed, and also to administer the disciplinary measures when goals are not being met. If the belief or value is not fostered here, then the culture starts to deteriorate. As the managers' and supervisors’ beliefs and values trickle down to the foremen, leadmen, etc., the problem only gets much worse. Before you know it, the culture is changed due to the belief and values becoming much different than what the owner wants, and this happens without the owner even knowing. The reason is simply this, without the engagement with front-line employees by the owners, most owners will look at measuring the company's success by comparing profits against costs. One important cost they look at is insurance premiums and how many accidents and injuries that have taken place. Yes, that’s right I actually said that. Unfortunately, many business owners feel that things are going well, and their message is being delivered to front-line workers if people are not getting hurt. As a matter of fact, many contractors use a company’s experience modification rating or EMR as a safety scorecard to determine if you are safe enough to work on their project. To figure out what the EMR is for a given company, there is a detailed formula that the insurance company uses. In short, a company’s EMR is based on the number of OSHA recordable incidents in a calendar year multiplied by 200,000 and then divided by the number of hours worked by all employees. The insurance company then compares the amount of money a company spends on workman’s compensation insurance premiums to the number of dollars actually spent on claims. When the premiums go up, the owner notices. At the end of the day, the owner is responsible for ensuring the financial success of the company. Without financial success, there is no company and no company means no employees. For this reason, a company may choose to carry more insurance than they need in order to lower their EMR score. After all, that lower score compared to their competitor may land them the job. So does this a make a company with a lower EMR safer? The short answer is, only to the insurance company because they are risking less. Buying more insurance is NOT the buy-in I am talking about.
This brings us now to the employees and their buy-in. Companies should have an onboard training curriculum that they require all new hires and rehires to complete before they start work. It is important that the mission statement be a part of this training. It is also important that this training takes place prior to the employee beginning work of any kind. As a new employee or returning employee, things may be much different than your last job or the last time you worked at this job. All employees must understand the rules, be informed of the policies, and adapt to the culture of what the owner expects. If you are given important tools such as “Stop Work Authority” you must do your part to use them when needed. You must also speak up and communicate when you notice a hazard in the workplace, or you may have a suggestion to make the workplace safer. Buy-in from all occurs from the top-down and the bottom up. No matter where you are on the chain of command, you have a responsibility to do your part.
So back to the title, “What Does Buy-in Cost?”, well the answer is nothing and everything. What that means is this, it costs nothing for you as the employee, foremen, supervisor, or manager to buy-in to the mission statement, but it could cost everything to everyone if you don’t.