Lightweight steel corporations are the last to come to mind when thinking of exceptional companies. That’s not the case with Alcoa. They revolutionized the industry.
In 1987, Alcoa appointed Paul O’Neill as the new CEO. It was his decisions that led investors to advise shareholders to sell-off stock of the already tumbling Alcoa.
Years later one investor said looking back, “It was literally the worst piece of advice I gave in my entire career.”
Optimizing the workforce is just now starting to be a priority for companies. For the newly appointed CEO of Alcoa to say he was going to solve all of their problems through improving workplace safety, you can see why the investors were skeptical.
What O’Neill knew that most didn’t was that good habits spread to other new habits. He knew he had to transform Alcoa’s culture, and he would focus on one habit – workplace safety. If they can succeed at having zero workplace safety accidents, other positive effects will occur, such as an increase in productivity and less PTO days.
Workplace safety at Alcoa is what is known as a keystone habit, or a habit that ripples and causes other habits to form. An example at the individual level, making one’s bed in the morning, causes us to be more productive. Every company has their own keystone habits that can be promoted for overall stronger employee engagement. When Alcoa started to promote workplace safety, what was once exceptional, such as cutting their incidents in half, soon became the norm.
When Paul O’Neill retired 13 years later, Alcoa’s net income was five times higher than when he started, because workplace safety habits spread to other good habits that helped the company grow their bottom line.
Start a culture of exceptional behavior
Coincidently, Recognize is working with companies to improve workplace safety. They have identified specific behaviors that are causing workplace safety incidents. To fix this problem, Recognize is providing the platform to easily reenforce positive habits that prevent incidents. What are habits in your company that need to become the norm? Utilizing an employee recognition program with built-in behavior-changing mechanisms will help.
To determine the success of your new program, begin measuring against your already established KPIs in structured and unstructured data. Structured data is true/false binary survey questions or multiple choice, time on email, time on social networks, number of incidents, and other information that is organized. Unstructured data is email content, recognition content, phone call logs, and other types of freeform text.
Inside Recognize, we provide surveys to collect structured and unstructured feedback from your employees. This helps to determine the outcome of the behavior change program. Correlate this information with data you receive through other channels, such as safety incident records, to connect to tangible results.
Evolve the habits
This is where things get interesting. The effect of creating a culture around exceptional behaviors is they stop being exceptional and start being the norm. At which point, we evolve the behaviors your company is actively promoting towards being even more extraordinary.
By utilizing an employee recognition program that saves this data, company leaders can report on past behavior data even after specific behavioral encouragement is retired. This data helps company leaders look for trends in their human capital’s behavior and make hypotheses to further refine their workforce.
Psychology studies have shown that how we dress effects our performance. When participants are told to put on a lab coat verses a painters jacket, the participants wearing the lab coat performed better. This is symbolic of a behavioral-change framework where attitudes and mindsets are encouraged through direct habits and keystone habits. What is your company’s lab coat?
If you have any questions on how to incorporate these strategies into your company, contact us.
The story of Alcoa came from the book Habit.