As safety professionals, we know that safety is a shared function in most organizations. We also know that unless the safety role is clearly defined and tasks or activities are assigned, jobs may not be completed safely. We know that to establish accountabilities for safety activities, individuals must be identified by job title and given measurable safety responsibilities. An effective safety program is already challenging in a "lean" organization due to matrix management and decentralized operations. Is management going too far in establishing a new staffing model?
Our panel of safety professionals is very familiar with the new staffing models. In fact, each has personal experience in one or more of the concepts. They know that with time and effort, each model can and does work. Understanding management's motivation, establishing good basic safety management processes, and knowing where to assign accountabilities are the key elements of safety success. We already know what motivates management: How we can do what we have to do for less money. It all comes down to the bottom line.
The new staffing models are not necessarily new to management or to human resources professionals; however, they are new to many safety professionals. In fact, some of these models have been used extensively for many years in white-collar business operations including medical staffing, property management, hotels, and in the high tech and construction industries.
Because organizations look at every possible way to reduce overhead expenses and increase cash flow, there will be a noticeable trend toward the use of one or more of the staffing models in the next 10 years. While there have been temporary employee services for over 60 years, and contract employees for about 40 years, only in the last 10 years have we seen the expansion of the leased or co-employee as provided by professional employer organizations (PEO's).
For economy and efficiency following mergers or consolidations, we have seen a dramatic increase in the shared services concept for financial and administration departments. Rather than having separate risk management, human resources, benefits, payroll and safety departments, these corporations are creating a single department whose services are now shared. Taking it one step further, the lean organization will find it is easier to outsource certain human resources, risk and safety functions and expense them, instead of increasing the organization's headcount.
So, how do we describe or define each of these not-so-new staffing models? Each has a legal definition as well as applicable tax laws and/or accounting practices. Let's examine each of them and then the panel will discuss the safety issue for each and the impact on the safety professional.