The Missing Link? ‘User Experience’ and Organizational Safety Policy Compliance

Creating a sustainable culture of safety requires that we regularly evaluate our compliance strategies and tactics. Can we leverage what’s working in other fields to achieve this critical organizational goal?

March 10 2021 by

Chad Howell

If you’re looking to technology for a solution...consider looking a little closer at the source.

Leaders in the tech-world strive to understand and apply the principles that make people love using their products through a practice known as ‘User Experience’ (UX) design. It’s a concept with far-reaching potential for other industries, especially for those tasked with devising and implementing a system of safety processes for employees to follow.

When it comes to defining your safety policies and program, what makes for a good UX design?

UX design affects everything we do

The core of UX is enhancing the satisfaction of using a product or system by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure when users interact with it. Technology giants do this by emphasizing the ease of use of their products in customers’ everyday lives — they feel like natural extensions of ourselves.

Apple is a perfect example of seamless UX design. And rightfully so, as the term was coined back in the mid-1990s by former VP of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, Don Norman.

“I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with the system including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.”

Yet, despite the holistic roots of the term, we’re only just discovering the potential of this user-centered mindset beyond product design. In reality, applying the principles of UX to all aspects of an organization can drive higher compliance to its safety program and policies when the users – or rather, employees – see those policies as intuitive and user-friendly.

The possibilities for organizational policy

Many employees (your ‘users’) come to work to complete their tasks and feel satisfied when they hit their targets. However, if safety isn’t highlighted as a key priority, employees might decide that it’s acceptable to focus on productivity at the expense of risking safety.

Companies, as a result, become heavily reliant on their detailed processes and overt visual and verbal reminders in order to shape safety culture and policy compliance. While necessary, this approach pays little attention to the underlying mindsets which shape employee behaviors.

As with product/system design, there are measurable factors that affect safety policy design at the user-level. Real-world data makes for good UX design.

To properly collect and use such data, it may help to think in terms of Human Centered Design' as UX professionals do. This creative approach to problem-solving places the end-user, and their everyday thinking, emotions, and behavior at the center of the design process.

We’re already biased for good UX design

Taking a user-first approach to your safety program means designing around personal empowerment — a critical aspect for employees to stay focused at work and to keep their environment safe.

David Messick of the Kellogg School of Management attributes this to Eddy Avermaet’s research on what he dubbed ‘unintentional bias,’ which suggests that people will usually do what is considered fair — but when given a choice in the moment, people generally take action that’s biased in their favor instead of maximizing the outcome for someone else.

Put simply, people are more likely to follow rules when those rules don't disrupt the way they get work done or change the way they experience or use the tools they need to do that work.

This makes perfect sense. If something is cumbersome to use, doesn't do what it promises to do, or somehow makes the user’s job more difficult then it won’t be well-received.

By putting the user first, and taking the time to understand their genuine needs, problems, desires, and goals, we can build a deep connection with our users. If nurtured, the result is a continuous improvement of policies that help employees lead easier, safer and more productive lives.

Non-integrated UX still supports organizational safety

While good UX means reducing user disruption wherever possible, it’s unavoidable in some situations.

Similar to taking an approach focused on detailed processes, it’s tempting to design your safety program to provide regular reminders to employees of best-practices for correctly following company policy. Research from Kwangwoon University in Seoul suggests that this approach is flawed.

They found a strong relationship between an employee’s belief of the effectiveness of a company’s policy and their compliance to that policy. This implies a need for employers and employees to work together to understand what defines a safe and productive environment for everyone.

Ideally, alignment is built at the beginning stages of a design process. Getting your employees involved as early as possible helps reinforce their confidence that this is an effective initiative.

When early involvement isn’t possible, your next step should ensure that the team understands the ‘why’ behind a new process or policy. A transparent education program that shows employees how following safety policy benefits both the organization’s best interests, as well as their own, can make all the difference for compliance.

Ensuring policy follows UX principles that work for you

Ultimately, good UX design means a seamless experience for everyone involved — not just your employee ‘end-users’. The tools and processes you implement as part of your company’s safety program and policies should also reduce the hands-on work of actively enforcing those policies.

Whatever approach you decide on, make sure you follow these four UX considerations.

Fulfill the needs of both the user and the business
Design policies that provide for a safe, productive workplace while also delivering value to the user. This means implementing policies that ensure the right tools are easily accessible by the user when they need them to complete their work, rather than making those tools more difficult to use in the name of safety.

Consulting your users right at the beginning of the design process can help ensure the policies and processes you’re creating will be relevant to how they work. Understanding the difference between what you think they do and what they actually do to accomplish their tasks will help you to design policies that maximize user experience while also ensuring maximum compliance for the organization.

Solve for safety by focusing on usability
If your safety goals and UX design are at odds, you could end up with a very safe process that’s not very practical to follow. When that happens, your users are more likely to stop following the process or develop their own workarounds for the sake of productivity.

Empower your users by eliminating frictions that compromise their safety, without hindering their productivity. Understanding how your employees accomplish their day-to-day tasks helps you to create policies and processes that shape engagement, behavior, and compliance.

Incorporate simplicity and familiarity in your design
Simplicity and familiarity are core tenets of UX design and can help encourage higher compliance with your safety policies. Policies and processes whose purposes are easy to understand at face value and that require little in the way of additional training are easier for the user to embrace.

When it comes to designing new policies and introducing new tools to enforce safety, the more those tools share similarities with what’s already being used to get work done, the easier it will be for your users to become familiar without any additional learning costs. The more familiar your design, the faster users can learn to follow it, which enhances their experience.

Context is key
One of the key insights about the UX approach to design is that context is an extremely important part of how users will interact with whatever you’re designing. Context, in this sense, means paying attention to which tools or devices your users are using, when during the work process those devices are being used, where in the work environment usage occurs, and what else may be going on around the user at the same time.

Organizations with a dynamic, highly mobile workforce are often exposed to a larger number of distractions, making safety a critical concern. Paying attention to the expectations of your users based on this context will help ensure the processes and policies you design will resonate with your users.

Applying UX design principles to mobile worker safety

Context-based dynamic enforcement of your mobile use policies can keep your employees safe across the workplace while protecting your organization from liability risks. Jamf Worker Safety powered by TRUCE, dynamically enforces your mobile use policies when and where they are needed, ensuring mobile devices don’t introduce unnecessary risk and your people and business can get on with the task at hand.

The solution gives users access to only the mobile apps and functions relevant to their work at that time (value for the user), by seamlessly transitioning their mobile device between a normal mode and a protected mode based on the context of the user (context). While the device continues to look the same to the user (familiarity), its functionality is decided by you and your company’s safety goals; all without potentially disrupting a busy employee (usability).

User Experience Design’s place in the future of work

Overall, the principles of User Experience Design should be seen as a guide not only for the betterment of your customer’s experience but also the employee’s experience by designing an approach to safety with relevant, easily understood and embraced policies.

Maintaining a culture of safety and compliance bound by productivity demands a supportive, self-reinforcing system and processes which allow your employees to safely do their best work.

Put tech at the forefront of your safety plans.

Learn more about Jamf Worker Safety powered by TRUCE.

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