As a business owner one of your priorities should be creating a safe and secure workplace for your employees. By maintaining a safe workplace you encourage employee loyalty, increase productivity and remove harmful distractions that can adversely impact the success running of your business.
There is also a legal responsibility where the safety of your employees is concerned, and it is important that you (as the business owner) take those responsibilities seriously. Providing a safe and secure workplace should be top of your to do list, and if it isn’t it’s time to start thinking about what you can be doing to protect your employees as well as your business interests.
Some business owners may be concerned that upgrading employee security standards in the workplace will come at a high cost, cutting into the bottom line while causing employees unnecessary stress. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most security upgrades can be accomplished with a minimum of financial investment, and the impact on employee morale will far outweigh any monetary costs incurred by your business.
Studies have proven time and again that emphasizing safety in the workplace increases employee well-being, productivity and retention rates. That makes any costs associated with enhancing your onsite security fairly negligible, especially when compared with the high costs of medical and legal fees that may come as the result of an employee’s accident or injury while at work.
Begin with a Risk Assessment
Employees have every right to expect business owners to provide a safe and secure working environment. Working in any industry under threat of violence or under unsafe working conditions is unacceptable. But before you can address any of these issues you must first conduct a basic risk assessment to determine where your safety measures are deficient so that you can take the necessary steps to improve conditions.
Begin by creating a checklist of potential dangers your employees might face in the workplace. Include perils posed by criminal attackers as well as hazards due to accidents or emergencies. Don’t forget to consider any employees on staff who may work outside of the office. The health and safety of your field employees is also your responsibility.
A standard workplace hazard risk assessment should include the follow five steps:
- Identify any and all potential hazards
- Determine who could be harmed and how
- Evaluate all identified risks and develop actionable precautions
- Record all findings and implement new protocols
- Review and update your workplace risk assessment annually
Some specific points to consider when performing your risk assessment:
- Is your parking lot attended or monitored?
- Is the perimeter of your building free of obstruction?
- Are the building’s entrances secured?
- Have employees been instructed in emergency escape routes?
- Are emergency exits clearly marked and free from obstruction?
- Are suitable emergency protocols in place in regard to fire, gas leak, or natural disaster?
Prevention Strategies and Response Plans
Once you have identified key areas of risk within the workplace it’s time to develop your response plans and prevention protocols. Depending on the size and nature of your business you might consider bringing in an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist.
Workplace safety specialists are trained to observe and analyze a variety of work environments and work procedures. They can inspect your workplace, checking for adherence to state and federal regulations on safety, health and environmental hazards. Working with business owners, they will develop response plans and prevention strategies designed to prevent disease among employees and reduce the risk of on-the-job injuries due to accident or emergency.
If you are running a businesses that routinely handles sensitive intellectual or financial data you may want to also consider bringing in a Threat Assessment Professional to review and analyze your onsite security measures. This is also recommended if your primary business operates out of an isolated or potentially dangerous area or you have employees come and going at irregular hours. A threat assessment specialist will be able to analyze and review potential threats of theft or violence and help to design specific protocols to minimize that threat. They will also suggest specific response plans to be implemented in the event of any violent incidents in or around the workplace.
Security Tips for the Workplace
As you move forward to creating a safer and more secure workplace environment for you and your employees there are a few key points to consider. The following tips will help to focus your attention on some primary areas of concern as regard the security of your facilities and the safety of your employees. Again, a professional risk assessment can help you focus in on any key deficiencies that need to be addresses in your security and safety response plans, but a few simple tips will set you on the right track.
- Security Gates – If your offices are located in a building complex with one or more main gates your risk assessment should start here. Consider adding CCTV surveillance on all entrance points and ensure that main gates are secured with specialized locking mechanisms.
- Exterior Doors – After the main gates this is the chief security concern for offices. Exterior doors should be secured with specialized locks, using either ID codes, ID cards, or biometric scans.
- High Risk Areas – Any high-risk areas in the workplace (accounting departments, data storage facilities, etc.) can be fitted with electromagnetic locks or ID locks to enhance onsite security.
Business owners should also consider implementing a clear and concise response plan in case of any breach of security. Employees should be adequately trained in how to respond to intruders and what local emergency services to contact in case of an emergency.
General Safety Tips for the Workplace
The general safety and well-being of all members of staff is the responsibility of the employer. This should not be taken lightly, and should be given due consideration by employers and management regardless of the size or nature of the business. A few simple tips will get you on the right path, although a thorough inspection by an occupational health and safety specialist is recommended.
- Employee Training – Health and safety in the workplace begins with the comprehensive training of all employees. Staff should be instructed in how to prevent workplace injuries and how to respond to any accidents that may occur. A fully stocked first aid kit should be kept onsite, and employees should be made aware of emergency response contacts.
- Keeping the Workplace Clean – A common cause of workplace accidents and injuries is a cluttered and dirty work environment. Regular inspections should be conducted to check for potential hazards such as tangled cords, messy floors, unorganized tools and poorly secured stock items.
- Post Safety Signs – One inexpensive way to reduce workplace accidents and injuries is to clearly post signs designed to clearly impart safety information to employees and visitors. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) provides helpful guidelines for signage designed to reduce injuries and accidents in the workplace.
- Encourage Employee Dialogue – It is important to encourage an open dialogue with your employees. All members of staff should be encouraged to report any potential hazards to management. For businesses with a large number of active employees a ‘Safety Captain’ can be appointed who is empowered to report all employee safety concerns to management and business owners on a regular basis.
- Conduct Regular Safety Workshops – Following through on safety training is an important part of maintaining a safe and secure working environment for all of employees. Regular safety workshops should be conducted to review and update any and all workplace security and safety procedures. Staff attendance should be mandatory.
The Benefits of Maintaining a Safe and Secure Workplace
There are a number of important benefits to providing a safe and secure working environment for all of your employees. Naturally, the safety of your employees and clients is reward enough but any additional benefits are certainly worth reviewing.
- A More Productive Work Environment – Employees that are freed from worry about their onsite safety are more productive across the board. They can concentrate on the job at hand without fear of injury or undue concern for their personal safety.
- Lower Employee Turnover – In a tight labor market employee retention is a major concern for business owners. Providing a safe and secure working environment promotes work satisfaction and naturally reduces employee turnover. It also reduces absenteeism and can be leveraged as a draw for potential new hires.
- A Happier Workplace is a Healthier Workplace – Safety concerns take their toll on employees. By providing a safe and secure workplace you actively reduce the stress levels of your employees. That leads to a healthier and more productive working environment.
- Reduced Business Costs – Workplace injuries and security breeches cost businesses dearly. Implementing workplace safety and security protocols reduces the risk of financial loss due to workplace injuries or criminal actions by outside bad actors.
- Fewer Insurance Claims – A safe and secure working environment leads to lower insurance rates and fewer insurance claims due to accident or injury. Insurance costs for small businesses can be hefty and any potential savings will be welcomed.
Stay Safe and Secure
The safety and security of your employees is crucial to the success and longevity of your company. However, all too often workplace safety is relegated to the back burner when people launch a new business. But make no mistake, providing a safe and secure working environment for your employees and your customers pay real dividends.
If you haven’t conducted a thorough risk assessment recently now is the time to do so. The safety of you and your employees could be at risk, not to mention the security of your business’ financial bottom line.
If your business relies on retail sales, there’s nothing more important to your success than building goodwill with consumers. Making personal connections may be the best way to recruit new retail business and cement positive relationships with your existing customers – and that requires personnel. As you balance payroll costs with your company’s customer service needs, staffing to meet retail demand is a top priority – particularly during the robust holiday selling season.
Gaining a Competitive Edge Online and In Stores
Amazon receipts alone now account for more than 49 percent of online retail sales, amounting to a projected $258 billion in US sales in 2018. That means if you’re not Amazon, you must find effective ways to compete with the online juggernaut. For retailers striving to stand out in a crowded selling space, personalized service is a vital ingredient, setting them apart from competitors.
Despite the importance of individualized service, large retailers are shedding employees, rather than shoring up their resources against dominant forces, such as Amazon. In a brick-and-mortar environment awash with store closures, Nordstrom, Target, Kohl’s, and others are slashing staff at their retail locations. According to the New York Times, a six-month stretch bridging 2016 and 2017 saw 89,000 workers culled from general merchandise and department store payrolls. This counterintuitive trend could present opportunities for independent retailers, poised to provide stellar service.
However you conduct business, whether online, face-to-face, or across multiple selling platforms, employing well-trained staff ensures your customers’ needs are met. Without an adequate customer service team, you risk leaving patrons underserved and unfulfilled, which can have catastrophic consequences for your business. Falling short not only undermines repeat sales, but it also reflects on your retail reputation, prompting unhappy customers to share negative reviews and experiences on social media.
Cutting payroll costs at the expense of customer care simply doesn’t make sense, when working capital is available to help fund your staffing needs.
Time Is of the Essence
Hectic modern lifestyles leave little room for unnecessary delays. Consumers expect efficient service, so staffing shortfalls can sink your retail business. Whether your revenue comes from a mail-order call center, e-commerce presence, or brick-and-mortar sales, maintaining sufficient staffing levels is crucial to your success.
In a hurried world, there is evidence long checkout lines alone are enough to push shoppers out the door without making purchases. A study conducted by Ayden, a payment processing specialist, indicates consumers have no patience for checkout delays. Waiting in line is no longer seen as an acceptable part of the retail experience. According to the report, retailers may be losing more than $37 billion annually, as shoppers bail out, due to long checkout lines. As many as 86 percent of retail shoppers surveyed, admitted not following through with purchases, when they were faced with a time consuming checkout process.
Adequate staffing keeps your customers happy, and efficiently serving shoppers also enables you to boost profits, by processing more orders, in less time.
Staffing for Consistency
In today’s hyper-competitive retail settings, crafting positive customer experiences may be as central to your success as the products you sell. It’s important to project consistency across your multi-outlet retail business. Customers visiting your e-commerce site should come away with the same sense of quality customer care as buyers interacting with members of your in-person sales team.
Staffing ample associates to meet demand ensures your customers get timely answers to their questions, and leaves buyers satisfied, after making purchases. These positive consumer takeaways reinforce your brand image, assuring buyers they’ll have similar experiences, every time they visit your website or stores.
You Can’t Afford Missed Opportunities
With revenue growth and customer satisfaction at stake, you can’t afford to skimp on staffing. You already face stiff competition around every corner and shopping trends favor ease of access, above customer loyalty. That means you may only get one chance to make a sale and build a relationship with your customer.
Service provides a critical link for your business, allowing you to compete with the largest and most aggressive players in your retail niche. Though efficient payroll management is a key concern for your small business, directly impacting your bottom line, missed opportunities may ultimately cost you more than paying retail associates.
If you’re considering staff cuts, mirroring a trend among major retailers, think again. Though reducing payroll costs may provide short-term spending relief, service may suffer, leading to long-term losses.
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