Measuring Workers’ Risk Tolerance
When striving to create the safest, most productive job site, safety programs matter. We’ve discussed many ways that you can implement strong safety programs on The Safety Report but the program is only half the battle. At the end of the day, the responsibility for identifying and avoiding risk will often fall on individual employees. Studies have proven that certain individuals are better at identifying risk than others, and the better your workers are at identifying risk, the safer your job site will be. There is never a wrong time to address safety: learn more about how Talentclick’s Greg Ford uses employee risk assessments to address safety in employee orientation.
Dave Fennell, the senior safety advisor for Imperial Oil, has become an expert on Risk Tolerance. Risk Tolerance is a workplace culture that relies on employees being able to perceive risks when they arise, understand the consequences of the risk and then make a decision to not tolerate any risk that might make their job unsafe. Identifying risks is paramount, yet some employees have personalities that might make it harder for them to recognize, understand and tolerate risks.
What Influences Risk Tolerance
Fennell comprised a list of factors that influence an employees risk perception. The seven factors that increase Risk Tolerance (and unsafe situations) include:
- Overestimating Capability/Experience
- Familiarity with the Task
- Voluntary Actions and Being in Control
- Confidence in the Equipment
- Confidence in Protection and Rescue
- Potential Gain/Profit from Actions
- Role Models Accepting Risk
When you look at these seven factors, you can see how they would relate to different personalities and work styles. An employee who isn’t open to training and coaching would be more prone to disregarding rules and guidelines while an excitable employee might enjoy making decisions, often not thinking out the consequences like someone who is more reserved. In the case of an incident, these employees might cite any of the above factors as reasons why they chose to tolerate risk.
Types of Personalities To Look For
Employees who are resistant, distractable, impulsive and irritable are more likely to tolerate these risky situations. By testing employees for these characteristics, managers can better understand what specific areas each employee needs to be cognizant of when working in potentially dangerous situations. At TalentClick, we even designed our Safety Quotient Report™ for this very purpose.
While personality plays a factor when it comes to perceiving risk, it is a type of behavior that can be coached and managed. Fennell also lists three factors that positively affect Risk Tolerance. They are:
- Understanding the Seriousness of the Outcome
- Personal Experience with Potential Outcome
- The Cost of Non-Compliance
These three factors can all be coached and reinforced. Giving extra context to why training and regulations are important while reminding seasoned (and perhaps overconfident) employees about the possible negative consequences of their actions is a way that managers can help build a culture that doesn’t tolerate risk. Understanding how different personalities perceive risk and working with higher-risk employees to better understand the importance of zero risk tolerance will go a long way towards building a team dedicated to safety.
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