Samantha Bruno is one of my company Peppercomm's up-and-coming Millennial superstars. But, she's also a workplace hazard.

That's because, despite my countless requests that she stop extending her feet outside her cube and directly into a very active hallway, she pays less attention to me than voters do to Gary Johnson.

Sam's footloose ways are just one of many that are becoming increasingly important as we entrepreneurs grapple with the safety and wellness risks of multigenerational workplaces. As you no doubt know, more Americans are working well past the traditional retirement age of 65.

In search of best practices for mitigating multigenerational workplace risks, I asked Woody Dwyer, 2VP, Workers Compensation, Risk Control at Travelers for the most important tips any blue or white-collar entrepreneur needs to know to mitigate risk. Having recently released this year's Risk Index, Woody has a few thoughts on the topic:

1.) Avoid fads. Your Millennials may dig exercise balls and think they're somehow engaging their core muscles and improving their posture, but the exact opposite is true. Go with tried-and-true, ergonomically-designed chairs instead.

2.) Mind the aging. Employees of a certain age bring along a host of new and challenging safety risks. Check out these sobering National Council on Compensation Insurance statistics. Slips, trips and falls should be your biggest concern. And don't overlook failing eyesight, the need for better-lit workplaces, and potential hazards in your parking lots. As Babe Ruth famously said near the tail end of his career, "Getting old is hell."

3.) Every generation can be a minefield. Dwyer advises you educate every new employee about workplace risks in their first six months of work. He cited a Gallup poll that found new employees are most engaged in the first half-year of employment, so safeguard your business by making sure the troops fully understand each and every potential pitfall (physical or virtual).

4.) Be transparent in your recruitment advertising. Spell out exactly what the job responsibilities will be in your recruitment advertising (i.e. If new hires are expected to lift 50 pounds of widgets every hour on the hour, say so in your help wanted ads). Same thing holds true if you expect them to log 12 hours in front of their computer screens.

5.) Don't confuse orientation with training. We take about a week to onboard a new employee and then we turn them loose on the world. Dwyer says there's a big difference between orientation and training. The former acquaints the newbie with policies and procedures and explains how the individual's job contributes to the company's purpose as well as the organization's points of differentiation in the industry. The latter includes skill-based training that demonstrates the hands-on procedures a new employee can expect in his job. In a manufacturing setting, that might range from teaching an employee how to safely operate a piece of machinery to demonstrating ladder-safety in a retail setting.

6.) Extend mentoring to include safety. It's one thing to pair off a veteran with a newbie to explain her duties as a new employee. Mentors should also cover physical challenges, risk exposures (i.e. Sam Bruno's feet) and every other hazard that may trip them up. At Peppercomm, our biggest accident waiting to happen is a stairwell connecting our two floors. It's not a matter of if, but when, someone takes a nasty spill. And, guess who's liable?

7.) Adopt a mindset of movement. Whether you're managing an office, running an ad firm or a fun tech company, Dwyer says it's a good idea to get your employees to think outside the box by holding "walking meetings." Too many employees of all generations spend their days heads-down and stationary, whether it's staring at a computer screen or sitting in conference room meetings all day.

8.) Go holistic. Too many wellness programs focus solely on lifestyle management. Think about disease management as well, especially in blue-collar environments where obesity or sleep apnea may be a more prevalent concern.

9.) Post-hire shock. According to Leigh Branham's book on employee engagement, 35 percent of employees suffer from post-hire shock. Dwyer says one reason for that could be that the company didn't take the time to implement all of the above-mentioned tips. As a result, your troops may quit because they were shell-shocked to unexpectedly run into a host of unexpected hazards and risks.

Dwyer can, and should, write a book about the myriad of risks that most of us simply overlook. As for me, I'd be happy if he just explained to Sam Bruno that her feet are lethal weapons that could trip and injure someone, and leave Peppercomm wide open for trouble.

Published on: Oct 27, 2016
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