Reopening for Business Starts with Employee Safety

Build Comfort and Confidence with Workforce Training and Communication

5/19/2020 – – Yesterday was the first day since the start of the coronavirus shutdown that auto makers and suppliers in Michigan were permitted to open their manufacturing facilities. Much has changed on the plant floor. New hygiene protocols, workstation spacing, staggered schedules and daily temperature screenings are in place to meet safety guidelines and make workers comfortable.

This new environment was familiar to the employees returning to work Monday at auto seat manufacturer Lear Corporation. For weeks the company has been introducing new policies, procedures and protections to its workforce through online tutorials and  virtual team meetings. Last week, production line supervisors were invited to an open house at Lear’s Flint production plant. A reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business in attendance for the preview asked an employee how safe she felt during the tour. Her reply must have made Lear senior management feel good about their orientation efforts:

“I came in shaking my head, but the level of thought they put into safety made me comfortable rather quickly . . . It’s certainly safer here than in the grocery store.”

There’s an important lesson here for companies preparing to reopen restaurants, offices, hotels, schools or any other workplace: Recovery from this crisis requires an “inside-out” response. Employee comfort and confidence come first. And it should not be taken for granted that your workforce will embrace or effectively execute your new safety programs without training and communications — lots of training and communication.

Lear first published its “Safe Work Playbook,” an 83-page guide to operating its more than 250 manufacturing facilities, in April. The company shared its approach to safety online (linked below) and began intense discussion and training with its employees. The document is as readable as it is thorough. It’s worth the time to give it a look.

A restaurant’s playbook may not require 83 pages, but posting it online for consumers to digest before reserving a table will heighten the chances of a successful reopening. And I’m sure parents would be comforted to study a school’s playbook before sending their children back into the classroom in the fall.

A final word about my admiration for Lear:

Years ago, I was attending an industry awards luncheon at the Detroit Renaissance Center. One of my clients, the Detroit Medical Center, was among the companies earning praise for performance excellence. Lear was one of the other honorees. A brief video explained that during the previous year Lear had delivered its seating ensembles to Ford’s “just in time” production lines on time with zero manufacturing defects. Think about it: That’s a full year of having the right seats at the right time with 100% glitch-free seats. That’s amazing, especially when you consider that modern, beautifully crafted car seats are sophisticated components of sensors, motors, heating elements and mini computers. That got my attention and I’ve looked to Lear as an example of operational excellence ever since.     

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