Compliance Conversations: Tools and Techniques to Improve Employee Commitment

Posted by Craig Thornton

This is part of a series of compliance conversations about how you best manage your QHSE management systems and their associated processes.

In this video QHSE Consultants from around the world, talk about the tools and techniques that you can use to improve leadership in regards to the employee's commitment to the management system.

Check out the video here:


Video Transcription

Are there any tools and techniques I can use to improve leadership in regards to the employee's commitment to the management system?


Nicholas, SRM, South Africa

As an organisation, we've been doing a lot of work recently on culture and climate assessments within businesses, helping the organisations assess what their organisational culture is and what their organisational climate is.

We've been evaluating leadership's perceptions of the culture within the organisation, and also the workforce’s perception of the culture within the organisation, and we've seen some very interesting outcomes.

We've built a survey with an industrial psychologist; we've deployed the survey and looked at the results.

Many of the issues come down to trust and come down to communication.

So much of business is relational, as in relating to one another, and in those relationships, there is trust and cohesion.

Where there's distrust or lack of communication, that's where some of those leadership challenges and commitments come in.

Culture assessments, we found to be effective. And some of the tools on the back end of those cultural assessments have been workshops around consultation and participation.

The more we're engaging with leaders and workforce and or their appointed representatives, and clearly define the roles and responsibilities, so we know we're training people on how to consult and how to participate, because then people feel valuable.

If the workforce is feeling valued, that they have a valuable contribution in terms of their work, and that they are trusted, and they're engaged, that helps with that culture, cohesion.

Ways to improve leadership, culture assessments, consultation and participation in workshops, where we're getting people around the table, and we're talking honestly and robustly about issues.

John, Many Caps, New Zealand

Improving employee commitment to the management system is about coaching.

It's about being able to draw a line from what the customer requirements are, to what you're doing through the management system.

So, you're doing this because of this, and if you do that, we get this output.

If you can coach them into understanding the benefits, then you're going to be adding some leadership there.

Mark, Business Basics, Australia

Getting your management involved in internal auditing, and other review processes will make them understand how the system works.

It will make them understand where the system is onerous and their people.

It will make them understand where their faults and improvements can come from.

  • Get them involved in communication
  • Get them involved in toolboxes
  • Have them go and stand up, on a cold Saturday morning, in front of their 50 guys on a construction site, and talk about:
    • what's going on
    • what work you're going to do.
    • what problems you're having,
    • what can we do to help?

These activities of getting involved in the day-to-day running of the system, without taking ownership of that.

What I mean by that is, they don't turn around and say we do the workplace inspections, you have a supervisor to do that, that's what they're employed for. However, every month, a top manager in the business will tag on one of those workplace inspections, so they can see what's going on.

Look, listen and feel the work that's been done.

Andrew, IRM Systems, Australia

From a leadership perspective, to improve employee engagement and bind to the management system, consultation is a critical mechanism.

Within that too, really listening, taking that time. I know some of our management system processes, like audits, we tend to charge out there with a checklist or notebook.

Sometimes putting all of that down and really just listening to the workforce. They tend to have very accurate knowledge of some of the challenges and risks; what’s going well or not so well in the production of your product or from a safety perspective.

Now, another element is cultural change. It's very difficult getting that buy-in we really need to think about it though, in the design of your management system, from the employee’s perspective.

Natural human tendency is that we resist change, we don’t like change that much. I've often seen organisations implement a management system process, incident reporting, for example, as a brand-new process without thinking whether the existing process has some value. Can we integrate that into the newer incident reporting process, so that effectively there is less change that the workforce has to get used to?

Just think about it from the workforce’s perspective.

If we implement a technically very complicated process or management system, you'll get more resistance to change.

If people have been involved, if people have been consulted, and we really understand that people don't like change, and are really looking at ways of minimizing some of the complexity of our system and reflecting current practice as much as we can, this will also help you minimize that resistance to change.

Chris, FQM, United Kingdom

As a leader, focusing on a bottom-up approach is probably one of the best ways to get a bit of energy into your management system across your workforce.

Deploying that also through your management team, and supervisors to help them engage more with the workforce, using toolbox talk as a two-way communication method.

Using communication methods to feedback, on observations, on statistics that you gather. Not thinking that that management system is there just simply to feed up information to the management team and the leadership team, but actually give that information back.

Show positive energy in what you're doing, to get that commitment from your workforce, go out there and speak to them.

Good leaders are very, very good communicators. That's one key area that any leader can instill on his management team to:

  • Try and engage more with the workforce.
  • Try and get them working in the system.
  • Try and get them improving the system.

Rather than being a top-down approach, it’s a bottom-up approach.

So, the people on the shop floor, the people delivering the work, are the guys which are driving the system, suggesting the improvements, making note of changes that have to occur, etc.

Michael, Momentum Safety and Ergonomics, Australia

I remember, back a good few years ago now, there was a study done on construction workplaces, and it was looking at safety leadership, and they were looking at the things that made for a successful system.

Two key things were obviously:

  • Leadership commitment and
  • Employee involvement.

The things that drove the employee involvement the most, were - and I have said this in the previous answer - actually a visible involvement in the management of health and safety. And that would carry across other management systems as well.

It wasn't just that management supported the toolbox talk and helped maybe, devise elements that would go into the toolbox talk.

The big difference was when the management occasionally came down and did the toolbox talk or was at least supportive and involved in the toolbox talk.

I think it's that visible, active involvement in the system that will help really drive that employee engagement.

Sean, Kaizen Consulting, New Zealand

Offer solutions, probably the best one, when I would record the employees’ suggestions in the system.

You can categorize it, as an example; it could be a ‘just do it’ category. Where the impact of it is within that area or teams review, or Management Review. Then take all those Management Review improvements to the management team.

In terms of the performance evaluation, the KPIs that the system provides in terms of trends and a number of issues or safety concerns that are being recorded, performance evaluation by the management team is quite important.

And the feedback coming back to the employees is essentially the most important part.


  1. Trust and Communication are vital to achieving employee commitment to the management system.
  2. If employees feel valued, they will contribute and be engaged with the system.
  3. Involve your workforce so that they understand the importance and the benefits of the management system.
  4. Visible active involvement by all levels of management will help drive employee engagement.
  5. Leadership and Commitment Procedure - Clause 5.1


Tags: Management System, ISO, Compliance, Risk Management, QMS, integrated qhse manual, ISO45001, ISO Certification, process approach, Compliance Conversations