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Deb Roy

10 Podcast Episodes

Latest 1 May 2021 | Updated Daily

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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One Path Forward - American Society of Safety Professionals with Deb Roy and Alexis Flink

MEMIC Safety Experts

The road to becoming a safety professional can take many directions.  Certifications like CSP, ASP, or OHST, experience in a particular field, or assumed responsibilities on a job can all lead to a career as a safety professional.  Knowing that you have a group to help you sort our choices can be a powerful boost.  On this episode of the MEMIC Safety Experts Podcast, Alexis Flink, outgoing President of the Maine Chapter of ASSP, Deborah Roy, Current president of ASSP and I talk about the how the American Society of Safety Professionals can help no matter where you may be in your safety career.

45mins

9 Nov 2020

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An Interview With ASSP President, Deb Roy

Storytelling in Safety

Deb Roy Joins us to talk about her mentors, her challenges, and the future of the safety profession.Guest: Deb RoyHost: Tim Page-Bottorff

37mins

5 Nov 2020

Similar People

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A Matter of Facts podcast: MIT's Deb Roy on Twitter

The Green

In a world with Facebook, Twitter, 24/7 news channels, talk radio, citizen journalism, fake news, real news, audiences are drowning in an overwhelming overload of information. Clearly a guidepost is needed to identify what is a trustworthy and a reliable source of news and information. Delaware Humanities' podcast– A Matter of Facts – delves into this topic as part of its mission is to engage, educate, and inspire all Delawareans through cultural programming. In season 2 of the podcast, it examines more closely popular sources of news and information. This week on The Green, we bring you the fifth episode of season 2 of A Matter of Facts – featuring a conversation about Twitter with MIT's Deb Roy.

30mins

27 Oct 2020

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Seasonal Workforce Challenges and Solutions w/ Deb Roy

MEMIC Safety Experts

Ever wonder how the best companies gear up for their busy season? Concerned about how to keep your staff safe when production demands rise? Can your hiring practices keep pace with the demand for employees? Deb Roy, President of SafeTech Consultants and recently retired Corporate Director of Health, Safety & Wellness at L.L.Bean, offers solutions to seasonal workforce challenges so the increased demands don’t upset the balance of safety, quality and productivity. Pete Koch: Hello, listeners, and welcome to the Safety Experts podcast. Ever wonder how companies gear up for their busy season? Concerned about how to keep your staff safe when production demands rise? Can your hiring practices keep pace with the demand for employees? Well, today we're going to dig deeper into seasonal workforce challenges. So, the Safety Experts podcast is presented by MEMIC, a leading worker's compensation provider based here on the East Coast. A new episode of the podcast drops every two weeks featuring interviews with leaders in the field, top executives, MEMIC staff, and other industry experts discussing how safety applies to every aspect of our lives. I'm your host, Peter Koch. And for the past 17 years, I've been working for MEMIC as a safety expert within the hospitality and construction industries. What I realized is safety impacts every part of each position that we have or tasks that we do, no matter what the season demands of you. And for today's episode, Seasonal Workforce Challenges and Solutions. I'm going to speak with Deborah Roy, president of SafeTech Consultants Inc. and recently retired Corporate Director of Health, Safety and Wellness for L.L. Bean Inc. we're hopefully better understand some of those challenges and how gearing up for the increased demands affect the employee performance management process at your company. Deborah is currently the president of SafeTech Consultants, and for the past 12 years, she was the Corporate Director of Health and Safety and wellness for L.L. Bean. She received her Master of Public Health Degree in Occupational Health and safety from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Mr. Always been an active member of the American Society for Safety Professionals since 1993 and is a frequent speaker at ASSP conferences and webinars. She was inducted as an ASSP fellow in 2018 and is currently the president elect of ASSP. Deborah, welcome to the podcast. Deborah Roy: Thank you. Pete Koch: Fantastic. So, we're gonna jump right into it and we're coming right into the season where businesses are starting to pick up, especially as we get into the are closer to Thanksgiving. We've got retail businesses picking up hopefully, and we have hospitality businesses picking up. Our vacation season for the wintertime here on the East Coast is picking up. People are leaving winter and going for summer places. So, businesses need to hire more people in our seasonal workforce will end up growing. So, we are thinking about how we bring our people in to our businesses, our onboarding tactics could change during those peak season demands. So, let's talk a little bit about your experience at L.L. Bean. And there's some large fluctuations that occur over the seasons there at L.L. Bean, especially during the holidays or leading up to the holidays. How does the onboarding process accommodate the influx of the new or returning workers and still balance that safety, quality and productivity triangle? Deborah Roy: That's a great question. This is one of our biggest challenges is to actually hire enough people for what we call our peak season. Pete Koch: Sure. Deborah Roy: Which is really leading up to Christmas time. And we have a process in place for all of our higher risk jobs. That is year-round and so we apply that same process to this seasonal population. We can hire several thousand people at this time of the year. Each one of them actually is evaluated from a health status standpoint. And the way we do that is we prioritize the jobs based on risk. So, for example, if you're going to work in the call center for our peak season and all of those workstations are ergonomically designed, and from the standpoint of the seasonal employees, their risk is relatively low. We can just do a health history; which we do as an online form that they complete. And one of our nurses can actually review that form and evaluate is there any risk based on the specifics of that job? If so, they'll contact that individual, get further information and then do a follow up in person if needed. Pete Koch: Oh, sure. Deborah Roy: So, for the low risk jobs, that's pretty easy for the higher risk ones like working in the warehouse. It takes a little bit more. So those individuals will fill out the same form, but they'll also have an assessment by a registered nurse who understands the jobs and can assess those individuals based on the job. From there. If that individual is then a good fit for the job, they've already been given a conditional offer of employment and then they can be hired for that season. If the job is even more strenuous, like a material handler, we have different categories or levels that we use for those jobs. And it's all based on the job physical demands. So, each one of these jobs has a Job Physical Demands document based on those demands. We have dynamic strength tests that can be done for those jobs. So, once they pass the post offer exam, if they're in one of those higher risk jobs like a material handler, they would then do a dynamic strength test that's match specifically to the tasks on the job. That dynamic strength test is done by a certified athletic trainer or physical therapist onsite, and they would then be sure that that person can do the tasks. So, for those higher risk jobs, it doesn't matter if those individuals are a seasonal employee or a year-round employee, they would still go through that same process. And depending on whether somebody is a rehire or if they come back every year, we may have enough history on that individual to know that they've safely worked in that job. And we use different criteria depending on how long they've done that job and whether or not they've been injured. So, we also on rehire hires, go back and look at our history and say, were they injured in this job in a previous year? So, we have enough data to be able to match up people to make sure they're safe in those jobs, even if they're seasonal. Pete Koch: Yeah, there's a lot of systems that are in place there year-round. Deborah Roy: Yes. Pete Koch: That you're able to expand or contract based on the demand of the number of employees. But the basic systems stay the same all the time. Deborah Roy: Right. Pete Koch:  It's not always the same case in many places. Many places will ramp up their process or put some different things in place or maybe even try to have the same systems that aren't robust enough to manage those peak demands for hiring. Deborah Roy: Right. Pete Koch: So, in order to start the process, like what's the essential tool in order to have any of that process work, what's the essential tool that a company needs to have in place to make those systems work? Deborah Roy: And I think that's a great question. And this is probably the hardest part is actually having someone who's qualified assess the jobs upfront. So really doing the job, physical demands. Some companies actually do that, but they attach it to the actual job description. So, it's part of the job description. In our case, it's always been a separate process just because of our systems. But that job physical demands document is critical as the basis of what we can show the employee or applicant is the job and what the job demands. But also, if you're going to develop a dynamic strength test or have nurses who are going to do assessments, you really need to know what the demands of the job are. So, for example, you need to know how much lifting someone has to do. How many times an hour? What weight? What positions the individuals are in. Do they have to do a lot of bending or reaching? And hopefully the jobs have already been evaluated so that they're safe jobs to begin with from an ergonomic standpoint. And then this is just the documentation of that. So, once you have that basis, everything else just flows from that document. And it's no different than when you bring somebody back to work after they've been out for surgery or some other health issue. Having a job physical demands document means that whoever was treating that individual, that physician, can actually look at that document and say yes or no to does this person come back to work. Pete Koch: And have it really detailed instead of going on what they think is the job demand. Deborah Roy: Right. Pete Koch: Which we find often. Deborah Roy: That's probably the biggest challenge is I think the medical community in general makes assumptions as to what a job is based on the title or what the employee might tell them. The fact is that having something that is sort of not subjective and very specific to the tasks of the job is helpful all around. Pete Koch: Yeah. Very, very helpful. Very helpful for the supervisor. Help for the employee. Helpful for post-accident analysis. One of the things that you said in there, which I thought needs to be expressed a little more, is the essential belief that the job specific physical requirements that you have are based on a job that you've already evaluated and that you've made some corrections or adjustments to make it safe in the first place. Right. So, I think that's where some companies get a little lost in that assessment process where they might not have already done an assessment, looked at the job. What are the risks? How do we manage it? How do we make that job safe for the individual to take the job? And they might do a great physical evaluation, but the physical demands might be way above what your average person might be able to manage. Deborah Roy: Right. And that's a huge issue in most of the country right now. But particularly in Maine, we have an older workforce and in the company. We have an older workforce because we're in Maine. And so consequently, that can be an issue with some of the really high demand jobs. If you have a job there that requires either, you know, lifting more than 30 pounds or lifting frequently or reaching beyond a natural reach, all of those things have injury potential. Pete Koch: Sure. So those are all critical pieces. And then from that evaluation, moving to the assessment of the documentation of what those demands are. So those are separate in L.L. Bean place from the job description. Deborah Roy: Right. Pete Koch: So, you touched on that a little bit. What is the benefit of having them separated? Deborah Roy: In our case, it was purely the way our systems were set up Pete Koch: OK Deborah Roy: But we do have a set process that we use for that documentation. I don't think it matters one way or the other where that lives. It's an issue of having more than a one line that says, you know, this job requires, you know, bending, reaching and lifting, which I have seen on job descriptions before. So, I think it's really just having the specificity and the factual information about the job. And as I said and you mentioned as well, the idea is the jobs have been evaluated upfront and you've already done the risk assessment on the job and you've corrected what you can correct. Then you're producing this document and that's what the individual is then measured to. Pete Koch: So, you're trying to evaluate the person to their ability to do the job and then making accommodations as you can. I'm sure. Deborah Roy: Exactly. So, with the Americans with Disabilities Act, you still are going to need to accommodate people along the way, either regular employees throughout the year or seasonal employees. And so, the idea is if you have that documentation, you then know what you can accommodate or not. Some jobs really allow for a lot more accommodation than people realize. And it's just having somebody who is qualified to look at that task and say, yes, that's reasonable to be able to do that. And every company has to decide what's reasonable for them given their circumstances it's really going to vary. Pete Koch: The person who would look at the physical demands of the job and evaluate those physical demands, someone from outside the company, what kind of qualifications might they need to have to actually do that physical assessment or would it be someone from inside the company that might do that? Deborah Roy: It can be either or. And it really depends on the type of jobs and how complex they are. Pete Koch: True. Deborah Roy: Oftentimes, you know, a certified safety professional can look at those jobs. We also have used a certified athletic trainer, physical therapists, occupational health nurses who are board certified people that actually work in this industry and understand job processes really are perfectly appropriate to do that. And I don't think it makes any difference whether they're inside or outside. It just is an issue of do they know the jobs, and have they observed the jobs. And depending on the size of the company, you may or may not have that expertise in-house. Pete Koch: That makes a lot of sense. But the basic qualifications, regardless of certification as they need to understand the job and the physical effects of the job on the person. Deborah Roy: That's right. Pete Koch: Whether it be cycle time or lifting or any of that. Deborah Roy: Right. Pete Koch: Fantastic. So essentially from an onboarding process foundation. Systems are critical, whether you're hiring consistently across the year or whether you're ramping up for peak demands. Deborah Roy: Yes. Pete Koch: So, having those robust systems that you can expand to meet the demand of more workers are pretty, pretty crucial. Deborah Roy: And the way we do that is we actually use seasonal staff. So, from an employment standpoint, we actually bring in seasonal interviewers from other parts of our business. It's a temporary role that they do for the season. We do exactly the same thing for the nurses. So, I have two nurses that are occupational health nurses who are retired from being who come back as what we call alumni. And they actually are job sharing the lead for this. The post offer exams they then manage are our RNs that we hire, many of which come back year after year after year, so they're trained. We have a training session every year on the new jobs and any changes that we have in the process. But oftentimes they're pretty experienced because they've been with us for a long time. So, when you have a large business like this, when you've got to hire thousands of people, you've got to ramp up your staffing even to do that. And you can do that on a seasonal basis. Pete Koch: Yeah, that's an interesting take on that, because you always think, well, I have to do it with my human resources or you shift that from human resources to the department manager that takes away from their opportunity to manage the people that they already have there or to plan for the increase in productivity that they're going to have. So bringing on additional interviewers, like you said, whether it's the pre hire process or the post offer process is a fantastic idea. But making sure they're trained. Deborah Roy: Yes. Pete Koch: That's a key part. Deborah Roy: Exactly. Pete Koch: All right. So, let's bring those employees into the workforce now. So, we've got them hired. We've got a whole bunch of people now that are either new to the business or might be their second season or third season or in some cases, they might be back for five, 10 or 15 seasons. How important is it to monitor performance for those seasonal employees that are only going to be there for a few months, maybe a few weeks, even depending on how the peak demand goes? How important is it to monitor and manage performance and give them feedback? Deborah Roy: It's really important. And, you know, one of the biggest challenges is oftentimes for businesses that ramp up for a peak like this. Trying to have a leader manage a lot more people is very challenging. And so even knowing who those employees are and being able to monitor all those employees is an issue. What we do to supplement that is we have an onsite health clinic with certified athletic trainers and physical therapists. And part of their role in not just treating employees who are injured after the fact, but proactively we look at as we have new employees come in that are seasonal, as they go through their class to learn the job and to do all of the traditional onboarding that's necessary. And then we have lists of those individuals and our PTs and ATCs actually then go out on the floor to evaluate those individuals. And so, we have a regular schedule that they go out in and observe people doing the work because we have trainers on the floor that teach people how to do the jobs. Obviously, the advantage with a seasonal workforce is that if you can simplify the jobs, it's easier for them to learn. And there's less opportunity for risk. But it's really important to give people feedback. And if the leaders are stretched in terms of the number of people, they have reporting to them, you really have to have supplemental assistance to be able to do this. Some companies use just trainers on the floor who actually monitor what's going on in this case. We do some of that, but we also have these qualified individuals who are looking at body mechanics and ergonomics. And we found we piloted this last year for peak and it worked phenomenally well. And so, we're doing it again this year. We started that process already for peak. And it's going great. And what that means is that, that reduces the number of people that get injured on the other end because they now have. That one on one assistance. We did something similar during our peaks in manufacturing, which is a different time of year, previously when we were hiring a lot of people and actually doing regular check ins with those individuals and observing them. And that's where we got the idea to try this during peak. Pete Koch: That's a fantastic idea. So, you actually split the maybe not split is the right word, but you took the biomechanical the ergonomic evaluation. Not so much off the supervisor’s plate, but you allowed them to then look at more of the productivity and the quality side of it. Deborah Roy: Right. Pete Koch: Put an expert in place to look to see if the people were actually following the instructions that they were given. That's pretty interesting because there are those resources. They might not be a PT or an AT at a particular company or you might not have the resources to hire, but you may have a lead. So, you might have a manager and then a lead supervisor or a foreman, which then you can split up some of those evaluation points to provide feedback across the broader scope of your employees. Deborah Roy: The other thing you could do in a smaller company is you could train some frontline employees and or trainers who are experienced in the job with a little bit more ergonomic background so that they can be that person on the floor to evaluate people and give people corrective advice. And then, you know, if you find that somebody’s got some discomfort, they can go back and check on them later on and see if that improved. And that's what we found with our pilot last year, is when the ATs or the or the PTs went back to check on people, they were really appreciative. Number one, if the one on one and they also were able to acknowledge whether or not it helped and then if something else needed to be tweaked, it could be tweaked then. So, we just found that they really appreciate it. They got a lot out of it. But also, we didn't see the injuries at the other end. Pete Koch: Yeah. That's fantastic. And always when you get to make that personal connection with the person on the work floor, there is always a benefit rather than doing it remotely or even just in a video training like you're supposed to do this, fill out this form and let me know if anything happens. Deborah Roy: Right and that's the trouble with onboarding training from a safety perspective. You still need to do that, but people need to have the reinforcement after that. And they're just they're completely overwhelmed at the beginning when they go through all of the training. And they they're still trying to figure out, you know, where the bathroom is and how to get into the building. It's just too much for people to really absorb all of that. So, having some kind of reinforcement that's more personal later on seems to work well. Pete Koch: Yeah, that's a fantastic point. Many times if I'm going to do a presentation to a company and we're working with a bunch of new hires, one of the questions that I'll ask them is, so when did you have your orientation oh last week or this week or a couple weeks ago. Then I'll ask them. So, what do you remember? And it's fascinating what they remember. So, they'll remember when they get paid. They'll remember where the bathrooms are, they'll remember benefit stuff if there are any, like discount programs, food and stuff like that. Remember where they're working. But from a safety standpoint, it's kind of vague. It's more or less, well, they want me to be safe, but they don't really know how. That separation. So, I think one of the challenges with our seasonal workforce, the manager feels overwhelmed. They may go from a core group that they're used to; they have relationship with. They know the problems, the issues, the successes that the person has had, what they can do, their capacity. And then all of a sudden we have a new group of people that are coming in to manage not only a demand and productivity, but it changes how the supervisor feels about keeping their arms around their workforce and having an additional, well transferring some of that responsibility to a different person, other within the department or the company or from outside the company even to help with some of that seems to be pretty critical. Deborah Roy: And the supervisors do really appreciate it. Pete Koch: Yeah. Deborah Roy: Because it does take that focus from them. And they're pretty good about interacting with the other staff and then knowing what to check on. But it's just it is a relief to them to have that aspect sort of the focus of somebody else. Pete Koch: So, when we're doing those physical evaluations or biomechanical or ergonomic evaluations, do the evaluators have a checklist or are they going right back to those physical demands or how are they looking at the job? What are they use for cues? Deborah Roy: They do use the physical demands, but we've developed a format that they do on a on an iPad. And so, they're able to do their notes in the field and then be able to go back to those and then we can put them in our system so that if that person gets seen later on for an injury, the clinician can review that information. Pete Koch: You can tie that right back into oh, this was observed over here. And that helps add some clarity to that unclear a report of injury. I don't know when it started going backwards or my shoulder hurts, I'm not really sure how that started. Well, we can go and connect it back to that. Know that we made some changes, let's figure out if those changes worked or were, they not using those changes. Deborah Roy: Correct. Pete Koch: Excellent. So that's another part, too. So that evaluation process, the form on the iPad stemming from the job descriptions and the physical demands, and then looking at the job itself and figure out what points they need to evaluate, putting them in a list. And then that's what the person would bring out to the field. Deborah Roy: Which is why you could do something similar even with frontline employees who you've done a little bit of training on in ergonomics. We've also tested doing that. We have something called safety and ergonomic resources, who are individuals that are frontline employees who've had an additional maybe four hours of ergonomic training. We use them in various parts of our business in general. And we did also test last year having a couple of these frontline employees do something similar. And so for a smaller company, that might be an in-house resource with a little bit of training, that would be a low cost way to do something similar. Pete Koch: Yeah, that's a great idea. And I'm just thinking of some of the resources that are that are available out there. I mean, there's a ton of like office ergonomic checklists that you can look at. I know MEMIC has one specifically like the top 10 tips for office ergonomics or your desk setup or your chair that the layperson could take with them with some training of what to look for. Where do you start? How do you do that? How do you approach the person? Fill out the evaluation and then maybe make a couple of recommendations based on what they see, but then send it back to either the manager or the safety person to make some field evaluation or follow up later on to make more changes. Deborah Roy: And a company could actually just have a professional put that documentation together based on the job physical demands and then have a lay person actually do the evaluations. As we said, with just some lower level training. Pete Koch: That's a fantastic idea. So, the idea to work with your outside resources to help you put that together and then do some training with your internal resources to help expand the amount of touch you have on those seasonal workers. Deborah Roy: Correct. Pete Koch: Because that's super challenging. If you think if someone's going to work for you for a couple of months and even if they're working full time as the manager, you might only interact with that person for a few, maybe eight to nine hours over the time that they're working for you. And that's not a lot of time overall. So, the more you can split it out, the better. That's fantastic. We have other resources or people within L.L. Bean looking at the biomechanical side. What about other performance related feedback that could affect safety, whether it's in the production side of things or even the quality side of things? Deborah Roy: Typically, the frontline leaders are the ones that are actually going to give that feedback. So, if they found that the units per hour that that person was producing were extremely low, they might have a conversation with that individual. I will say what I've observed during peak is most of the employees, whether they're regular or seasonal, really understand the mission is to get that product out to the customer before Christmas. So, I think everybody really does really work together to fulfill that mission and people feel a sense of responsibility to do it. So, I don't see a huge issue, at least in our case, with people really not, you know, performing to the best of their ability. I think there's a lot of energy around that time of year and it is infectious. So, I think part of it, it's really more of an issue of focusing on quality and correcting items. If a seasonal employee doesn't quite get a particular issue and I know from doing it myself, as we call it, extra miling. And so, as a salaried employee who doesn't work in operations, we get asked to help out. And that's very traditional in the company that's been done for a lot of years. And so, I know from packing those boxes myself, I may make mistakes along the way. So, the leaders can, you know, then address those items with a seasonal employee, just like they would with us. Because when you have a quick training of here's how you do it. It may be a fairly simple task, but if there are any curveballs thrown in, I'm likely as a, you know, a salaried employee, I'm not gonna get it all. Pete Koch: Sure. Deborah Roy: And I think the same is true for the season, most particularly when they first start. Pete Koch: Oh, absolutely. Because you're bringing a filter with you and you're being taught that piece. And depending on how you see it done or feel it done or watch it done, you just might not get the whole concept. Deborah Roy: There's a there's a reason I went to college and found that and got a couple of degrees. Pete Koch: Absolutely. Deborah Roy: I would not have survived doing manual labor a long term. Pete Koch: I hear you I totally hear you. Do you mind if we talk about that? The employees understanding the mission because. Wow, that's a I think it's a critical part to helping your seasonal workforce be engaged in what they're doing. And it sounded like the infectious part of that, that it kind of grows out of the current workforce and the managers part of how that works. But how does L.L. Bean sort of build that into the seasonal workforce? Them understanding the mission and getting behind it. Deborah Roy: It's a good question. It's interesting. I think the culture is there to begin with. So that culture, I think does pull in. Those seasonal is obviously it's still different. The seasonals aren't in that environment year-round. But I do think they understand this, at least in this particular case. Really why it's necessary to get those packages out. And I think this is a pretty simple situation if you understand yourself that you're waiting for something to give as a gift. I think it's pretty easy to understand somebody else is waiting at the other end. And if you aren't able to process that order correctly, that there's going to be a customer that's going to be disappointed at the other end. So, it's a fairly straightforward concept. Pete Koch: For sure I get that. Do you find with their understanding of the mission and they're getting behind the mission that that push on productivity might push people to overdo or try to do more than they're capable of in in the job that they're asked to do? Deborah Roy: Interesting you asked that because a number of years ago when I was doing consulting with L.L. Bean. That was one of the things that we brought up as a potential con of this culture is people would go above and beyond in order to get packages out to the customer on time. And I think that has sort of people are still really focused on that mission today. But there's a much better awareness of how to do that safely today than there may have been 20 years ago. And so, although I think that's really important, the safety culture is ingrained and someone is more likely now, I think, to speak up if they need assistance than they would have in the past. And it does make a difference. So, you have to keep reinforcing the safety aspect of it. It's not an issue of safety first or quality first or productivity first. It's all of those things are part of the culture and the whole thing has to be accomplished in a safe way. Pete Koch: Yeah. That's a really good point. So, connecting everything together and really the evolution of looking at the job. Understanding how that job is managed. Understanding how to fix the worker, making changes along the way and putting that into practice helps to helps to manage the human desire to want to please to want to want to get this out to help the customer feel that they're getting something quality from whatever company they're working for. Deborah Roy: And you really do have to minimize the risk in in the operation so that when you are in a situation where you've got to get higher volume out the door and you have more people in the building, that there aren't risk created by that. And I think for a lot of companies, their approach in the non-peak season is, well, we only have to do small numbers of these. So, it's OK if the layout is not perfect. The fact is that if that's the case during peak and you're trying, you either have more people doing the task or you're doing more, that poor layout is going to have much more of an impact. And I think that's why it's important to have jobs evaluated appropriately by a professional, whether it's seasonal or not, because that will increase the injury potential. Pete Koch: We see it all the time where you have a company that manages really well through their shoulder seasons and they have to ramp up for their peak season and they have machines and systems in place to manage the demand. But they haven't looked at how the increased demand affects the worker. And then we have that it happens. And it could be fatigue. It could be repetition. It could be just lifting. Or however, they're going to put themselves at risk or a decision that they make is magnified by the demand. If we haven't managed that and we're not going to be a great outcome. So, let's take a quick break and we'll be back to the podcast in just a couple of seconds. Pete Koch: Welcome back to the Safety Experts podcast. Today, we're talking with Deborah Roy, president of SafeTech Consultants Inc. So, let's jump back in with more questions. Before the break, we were talking about monitoring performance and providing feedback to the seasonal workforce and in particular, some of the challenges that companies have with employees going above and beyond, sometimes doing too much in order to fulfill the mission because of the really positive culture that they have. They're really behind it. And it's awesome. But sometimes it results in injury or unsafe practices. So how did L.L. Bean manage some of that? Deborah Roy: One of the big things that we have to manage during peak is fatigue. And even for our regular year-round work force, but also for the seasonals we have to manage the hours. And what can happen is people get really excited. They get really behind this concept. They also see it as an opportunity to make some more money and to have overtime and. So, one of the things we've realized along the way is when you have a workforce that's close to an average age of 50 years old. Most of us can't do as much as we used to do or thought we could do when we were 25. And if you ramp up hours for a long time, you're going to get fatigue and you're going to get injured. So particularly if the jobs are fairly strenuous. So, there are a whole variety of things we do from a safety perspective in terms of job rotation and so forth. But one of our critical issues during peak is to use the 6, 6, 60 rules. And this is based on some research that was done on fatigue at work over the years. And so, we try to consider how many weeks people are going to be working more hours. So, for example, with the 6, 6, 60 rule for six weeks, the you know, an otherwise healthy person can probably work six days a week and up to 60 hours. So, 10-hour days, six days a week. And so that might be a reasonable expectation for that period of time. Beyond that, though, we find that people get fatigued to the point where their bodies start breaking down, and particularly if they already had some joint or a muscle that was already impacted previously. And as we get older, this just much more likely. And so, we ask and it's a guideline. It's not necessarily a black and white. We ask employees not to exceed that 60 hours a week. And the way we manage it internally is our systems actually allow our leaders to know they get a report every week and they know how many hours people and their teams have worked. And they'll go and talk to individuals if they're starting to exceed that time frame. So, and ask them how they're doing. And we also ask our leaders to give feedback to people. So, if they're looking tired, if they're looking like it's too much out on the floor, they go talk to people and they'll give them a day off. They'll give them some extra time. And so, we find that that actually works very well. It's just, again, a more one on one sort of approach. And it's not, you can, or you have to do one way or the other. But we find that people really appreciate that and it's much more supportive in that situation. But it's just reality that we're going to see injuries. If the average worker exceeds that. That's even more of an issue in a market where the unemployment rates low because often employees that are going to be working as seasonal employees are doing another job. So that's even more important to give feedback if an individual is looking fatigued because they may not be able to handle a second job even if this is part time. Pete Koch: Yeah. That's a great guideline, because if you don't you don't start with the job demand. You start to look at the human side of it. So, what can the human tolerate? And there are showing that there are some studies out there that can help us figure that out depending on the type of job that they're doing. And again, calling it a guideline. But then that place to start can help you determine numbers of employees now that you need to fill the need instead of saying that, well, I have this many positions and I can have this much time that the people can work. If you're working from 9 to 5 job or if you only have two shifts and you're closed for a portion of the time for maintenance or cleaning, which is where a lot of a lot of companies will start instead of starting, what's the demand on the employee? What can they handle? How many people do I need to manage that? And then how do I fill in the gaps? And then the feedback thing that you discuss going back to that, that personal connection, helping that person understand that, yes, someone's there. They care about you. We've seen you. You look pretty tired. You're here in your work cycle. What's happening? What can we do to help you make it through or? You know, I really think that we could probably cut your hours for the last part of this week and have you be healthy for next week instead of injured for the rest of your time here. Deborah Roy: Exactly. And I think that one on one connection is really important just from a leader standpoint in general, but particularly when you get into a peak situation. I think it's pretty critical. And we do a lot of things to try to help morale and so forth and assist the employees during that that period of time to support them. But this is, I think, one of the critical pieces. Pete Koch: The one on one. Do you do you do any training with the managers about how to provide that feedback? Deborah Roy: Yes, we do. We do a lot of leader training. Pete Koch: That's great, because I think that's a pretty critical part. And in my experience, doesn't matter whether it's retail, hospitality, construction, health care, the leaders, the on the floor leaders have really never had any management training. They get to be where they are because they're really good at the job are they've been doing it for the people that they're managing, but they really don't have any idea how to give constructive criticism or to look at somebody and say, jeez, you look pretty tired today. Not that you do, but you know. And how do you address that concern with you that you know, that that person is here in a second job so they can make ends meet someplace else? And it's a fine line to be able to manage that correctly and still keep morale up. So you do a lot of training on that side. Deborah Roy: We do. Pete Koch: That's fantastic. So, what other. What other things you do to help manage that? The challenge of finding enough employees to fill in those gaps. When you find people that have started to exceed that 6, 6, 60 guideline. Deborah Roy: As I mentioned earlier, part of the culture at L.L. Bean has always been that the non-operational employees that are salaried will help out. And so, when there are times where we need to get product out, the door we'll all help. And I think that also helps morale wise that everybody sort of there to back them up. If the warehouse employees are needing assistance and we generally set up either a separate packing line or a section of the packing line, that is all extra milers so that, you know, one of the leaders can manage us. Because obviously, we're not the most experience in these tasks, but we feel good about helping out. And in past years, I've actually set up a couple of evenings that I've said to my health, safety, and wellness staff. Oh, OK. I'll buy you a quick dinner and we're going to go pack from 6 to 10. And that's an example of. So, we would do that a couple of different weeks. And what the company has done is actually setup those sort of four hour shifts for extra miling in the past this year. What we're trying is some Sundays where people are going to sign up. And we did what's called early decision. So in August, people needed to make a decision if they could cover a couple of sundaes during the critical peak times and the same thing in the call center. We call that Code Green and so on. The busiest days and the call centers, which is generally Cyber Monday and Tuesday and the following Monday and Tuesday, we have people that are extra miling and doing what we call code green. Pete Koch: Answering the phones. Deborah Roy: Answering the phones and helping. And I've done that as well. And that's a little scary after you've done three, three and a half hours of training and then you're live on the phones. But we have a lot of employees that do that as well. So that's an example of how in our case, all of us sort of pitch in and help. We do also have other pilot programs that we've tried. For example, we have frontline employees in other non-operational areas that might do a second job in the warehouse or the call center. And so, they add some hours and work again within that 60 hours that we talked about, but they'll add some hours and do a second job. So that's one option. Another option. This year, we have a pilot that's called friends and Family. And so, employees can actually vouch for their friends and family who are able to do these particular tasks. We do the same thing we do for all the other seasonals is they still have to fill out the online health questionnaire and the nurse will talk to them if they have something that would preclude them from doing the job. We actually signed those individuals up in this pilot in August this year, and so we'll see how that goes. But this is a way to try to bring in some people that just want to work a little bit? And again, they might work with their friend or family member who's an employee on one of those Sundays, for example. And those jobs then can be sort of simple, simplified jobs that we're bringing in people. They wouldn't need a lot of training and they can help out during that time. That leaves the other jobs for the more experienced employees to do the other six days. Pete Koch: That's a fantastic idea to try to expand the workforce, which we've talked about is challenging to find for your seasonal staff. In a couple of key items in there that I heard was the jobs that you're bringing those folks in for. Ah, I won't say simple, but they're less complex. They have less risk involved but customer facing and reward facing. So, there's less mistakes possibly to be made to affect the customer and less potential for them to get injured. So maybe not so much less training, but less complex training that they would have to go through. Deborah Roy: The other thing we've done for both that group and for extra miling is we try to keep people to four hour or six-hour shifts. And that wasn't the case when I first went to the company. And that was something we've moved towards and we've worked with our operational leadership to move towards. That's really important. So, for my team, for example, of professionals who are salaried, they've already worked their eight-hour day. So, what I described of my team went out and we all went to pack, they we had all worked our daytime job and then went to pack in the evening. It's reasonable to for some of us that are desk jockeys to actually go and do four hours standing and packing. I can tell you, even for me, trying to do eight hours of that is just is physically very difficult. And to do that all at once, particularly if I've already worked all day. Pete Koch: Sure. And, you know, the law of diminishing returns, as you have someone who does more and more and more, they get less and less productive at it within that time frame. Deborah Roy: And they'll make more mistakes too. Pete Koch: Make a lot more mistakes. Deborah Roy: So, we found that that was just a much more productive to have employees from non-operational areas work at these shorter shifts. And I'm hoping that this the Sunday trial that we're gonna do this year will work out well. And again, those are gonna be six-hour shifts, but that'll be, you know, on a day that people aren't working otherwise. Pete Koch: Sure. It's interesting how we keep coming back to the decisions that we're making to manage productivity, have an effect on safety and the decisions that we make for safety have an effect on productivity. And when they're made for the right reasons, they all seem to be positive and move towards a better goal where we're gonna have a successful business in there with the seasonal workforce coming back to what we started with at the beginning. The systems that you have in place to manage the systems that you have in place to manage the workforce that is there with you all the time, you need to start with those and then look at how your seasonal workforce might fit in. Don't circumvent those programs that you have a build on those programs to help make your seasonal workforce successful. Deborah Roy: And I think that's true. And I think a lot of companies look at their seasonal process as not necessarily the same as their year-round. And but those individuals still need the same components. It just may be done in a more streamlined way. Pete Koch: Yeah, it's that thought of crisis management. Like most companies are pretty good at managing a crisis that comes up. Everyone pitches in together. They all focus on that. They don't always do the same production process or the same safe. They don't take the seams. Make the same safety-based decisions in a crisis. And they get to the end and they're successful, but they haven't followed the plan. What we should be doing is not looking at that. Our seasonal process as crisis management, even when demand sometimes overpowers our production. But look at it as how can we expand? Our systems right now to meet that demand. And yeah. Deborah Roy: I would say, too I have to compliment our operational leadership does a phenomenal job of planning for peak. So that's the other piece of this is they start way ahead of time. They know what's happened other years. They plan for upside and downside so that they have contingency in place to address those issues. And I you know, the idea here is we've talked about these other pilots that we're trying. Those are contingencies depending on how things flow. And I think it's really critical for companies to really do the planning upfront and don't just try to wing it. And that's where the injuries occur, is when you just try to wing it. And you haven't really even thought through what sort of the upside and the downside are. That's when things start to go awry. Pete Koch: Sure. For sure. That's fantastic. I think we're coming right towards the end of the podcast here. We've covered a lot of topics and covered a lot of ground today. Got in deep in some things and had some really great suggestions all the way from making sure we have our job descriptions in place and physical demands really detailed, making sure that we have a system to assess our employees and how they fit within the job. How to separate some of that responsibility. Not taking it away from the manager, but help providing helpers so that the manager can focus on productivity and quality and using some either outside resources or are well-trained inside resources to help with that. And then finally, looking at those contingency plans for providing feedback to the employees and I guess if there's one was there's one thing that is most important, the great takeaway for our listeners for managing a seasonal workforce. What do you think that might be if they could if we could take what we talked about today and bring it into one good working point for them, what might that be? I'll put you on the spot. Deborah Roy: All right. I think an integrated approach to planning is really critical. So having safety expertise at the table, working with operations leadership, working with human resources and everybody that's involved with hiring a seasonal workforce and then having executing a peak, it's really important to have everybody at the table and understand all the elements and then focus on the plan. And once that plan is in place, you can tweak it depending on what happens that season. But without that plan, it's just going to be a reaction. And we know from a safety perspective that typically reactions don't work. You really need to be proactive. Pete Koch: Yeah, very true. And that's a really great piece of advice because that integrating all aspects into the plan is something that any size company can do. You don't need to be an L.L. Bean in order to do that. You could be a mom and pop group and have a conversation across the table with your production manager and the two owners and still have that contingency plan. What are we going to do when we get a 12-foot snowstorm or what are we going to do when we have a hurricane or what are we going to do when we increase in our operations? So, having those contingency plans are fantastic. Thanks, Deb. I really appreciate that for your time here and given us your expertise. I really appreciate you coming on Safety Experts today. Deborah Roy: You're welcome. I enjoyed it. Pete Koch: Thanks again, Deb, for joining us today and to all of our listeners out there. Today we've been speaking with Deborah Roy, president of SafeTech Consultants Inc. And the recently retired corporate director of Health, Safety and wellness for L.L. Bean. We've been talking about seasonal workforce challenges and solutions. If you have any questions for our guests or would like to hear more about a particular topic or from a certain person on our podcast email podcast at MEMIC.com. This podcast is presented by MEMIC, a leader in workers compensation insurance and a company committed to the health and safety of workers. To learn more about how MEMIC can help your business, visit MEMIC.com. Don't forget about our upcoming workshops and webinars and for classes and dates and what's out there. Go back to MEMIC.com. A lot of information out there. And when you want to hear more from the safety experts, you can find us on iTunes or right here at MEMIC.com. And if you have a smart speaker, you can tell it to play the safety experts podcast and you can pick today's episode or previous episodes. You can also enable the safety experts podcast skill on Alexa and receive safety tips and advice from any of our episodes. We appreciate you listening and encourage you to share this podcast with your friends and co-workers. Let them know they can find it on their favorite podcast player by searching for the safety experts. And thanks again for tuning into the Safety Experts podcast. Remember, you can always learn more by subscribing to the podcast at MEMIC.com/podcast.

58mins

11 Nov 2019

Most Popular

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#242: Pivots to Video Are a Mixed Bag; Cortico’s Deb Roy on Doing AI for Public Good

The MediaShift Podcast

In the news this week, many publishers have been pivoting to video, but they’ve also lost a lot of traffic to their websites. Did they go too far? And Twitter is testing out doubling the size of tweets to 280 characters, and users are upset that Trump might get a super-sized megaphone. The Knight Foundation puts $4.5 million into seven projects aiming to restore trust in media, and convenes an all-star Commission in Trust, Media and Democracy. Can they make a difference? Our Metric of the Week is Audience Shrinkage, and Mark speaks with Deb Roy, co-founder of social venture Cortico and Chief Scientist at Twitter, to talk about his efforts to use AI and analytics to create healthier public discourse.

39mins

29 Sep 2017

Episode artwork

#242: Pivots to Video Are a Mixed Bag; Cortico’s Deb Roy on Doing AI for Public Good

MediaShift Podcast

In the news this week, many publishers have been pivoting to video, but they’ve also lost a lot of traffic to their websites. Did they go too far? And Twitter is testing out doubling the size of tweets to 280 characters, and users are upset that Trump might get a super-sized megaphone. The Knight Foundation puts $4.5 million into seven projects aiming to restore trust in media, and convenes an all-star Commission in Trust, Media and Democracy. Can they make a difference? Our Metric of the Week is Audience Shrinkage, and Mark speaks with Deb Roy, co-founder of social venture Cortico and Chief Scientist at Twitter, to talk about his efforts to use AI and analytics to create healthier public discourse.

39mins

29 Sep 2017

Episode artwork

2011 - Deb Roy - La naissance du langage

USI - Les sessions - iPad / Apple TV

Deb Roy, chercheur au MIT, a voulu comprendre comment son enfant en bas âge a appris et intégré le langage.

44mins

20 Sep 2011

Episode artwork

2011 - Deb Roy - The birth of a word

USI - Les sessions - iPad / Apple TV

Deb Roy, MIT researcher, wanted to understand how his infant son learned language.

44mins

20 Sep 2011

Episode artwork

2011 - Deb Roy - La naissance du langage

USI - Les sessions - iPhone/iPod

Deb Roy, chercheur au MIT, a voulu comprendre comment son enfant en bas âge a appris et intégré le langage.

44mins

20 Sep 2011

Episode artwork

2011 - Deb Roy - The birth of a word

USI - Les sessions - iPhone/iPod

Deb Roy, MIT researcher, wanted to understand how his infant son learned language.

44mins

20 Sep 2011