Behavior observation and feedback processes change behavior in two ways: by giving feedback to workers immediately after an observation and through the development of improvement plans that utilize the data captured during the observation. If the quality of the feedback given to workers is poor or the quality of the data captured deficient, the effectiveness of the behavior-based safety (BBS) process will be compromised.
Observer coaching can be used to build and maintain observation skills. Coaching is applied in the same way as observations, by providing feedback immediately after the observation. It reinforces behaviors performed correctly and highlights potential consequences of incorrect behaviors. Coaching feedback is most effective when it happens soon after the observation occurs and when it is conducted in a positive manner. Immediate, certain, and positive coaching feedback acts as a reinforcement that can both build observer skills and motivate observers to perform more observations.
The steering team, a group of employees who own the BBS process, should develop the coaching process and structure. Results from the implementation of a coaching process in a large organization have demonstrated improvements in observer participation and an increase in the number of observations. Observation quality has also improved as a result of the maintenance of observer skills and controls put in place to help ensure good quality observations.
Coached observers develop feedback communication skills needed to change behavior and writing skills needed to document observations accurately. Good written documentation, or observer commentary, is needed to help ensure that high quality observation data is available for action planning. Use of observer coaching is an effective way to help ensure the high quality needed to maintain a strong and healthy BBS process.