Part 1 of the Running an Effective Toolbox Meeting introduced the idea of what a toolbox meeting is and how this kind of informal staff meeting can both help in the day-to-day operations of your business operations and with the challenges of managing your human resources.
It also covered the nuts and bolts of why meetings in the workplace can go wrong.
In summary, there are four things which have often gone wrong in staff meetings:
- The meeting was held in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- The supervisor didn’t have anything important to say and didn’t want to be there either.
- The supervisor didn’t know how to run the meeting.
- The employees had been to these sorts of meetings before and thought they were a waste of time.
Perhaps if we can sort out some answers to these ‘nuts and bolts’ difficulties then the result will be better toolbox meetings.
A. Choose the right place and time for toolbox meetings
Do it on ‘their patch’, choose a meeting location where your staff feel comfortable and they will be more inclined to get involved.
B. Have something to say
Once supervisors have some useable information to circulate, they are more likely to be willing to hold the toolbox meeting.
C. Know how to run a toolbox meeting and feel good about it
An effective toolbox meeting has five parts:
- Feeding back the answers to questions asked at the last meeting.
- Providing some fresh information about the business – ‘the big picture’.
- Providing information on how the employees at the meeting are going – that’s the ‘little picture’.
- This then sets the stage to ask about any ideas, difficulties, queries etc which the employees might have, and these become the basis of point 1. at the next toolbox meeting.
- Raise and address any issues relating to workplace health and safety. Incorporate WH&S information and training sessions
Let’s take these parts of an effective toolbox meeting one at a time:
Responding to previous meeting
The best way for supervisors to show they are fair dinkum is to find out the answers to employee queries etc. and to feed this information back to them. A word of warning, however, the first few toolbox meetings may contain a lot of grumbling and complaining, so be ready to cop a bit. However, it is amazing how this reduces once the supervisor proves he or she is fair dinkum and will follow up on problems. It is also important to let people know that there may be problems that cannot be addressed in the short term due to financial or other constraints, so focus on the things that can be controlled.
The big picture
This can include information on performance (e.g. are we making budget?), production quality and quantity data, new products, planned changes, capital expenditure and so forth. Some managers are not sure that their employees can be trusted with this information. This can be addressed by talking in relative terms such as a comparison with last month or last year or a percentage of target achieved.
The little picture
Here the emphasis then shifts to the local level where the supervisor provides some information on just how things are in the workplace. Not only do the employees find out more about how they are doing, but they are also put into the position where they will be asked to provide some input into what is going on at work – and that leads us to part d).
Ideas and problems
Nearly all managers now understand that their employees do have some precious ideas on how to do the job better. This part of the process is designed to get them to throw these ideas ‘into the ring’. It is important to note that they will do this not only because it will be good for the company (a bit idealistic that!) but because they can now see that it is in their own interest to get the job done better.
Supervisors will need to persevere as, initially, toolboxing can be a big shock to most employees too.
This won’t happen initially, so supervisors will need to persevere but hang in, for toolboxing is a big shock to most employees too – they are not used to being trusted with information or being asked to be involved in the business – so they need to become comfortable with the process and the fact that their ideas and comments are welcome and valuable and will be heard and considered by management.
The toolbox meeting is an ideal vehicle to use to discuss safety issues and to embed safety into the culture of the organisation. It also creates a record that shows that management takes safety seriously and has a proactive approach to providing a safe workplace. Use the toolbox meeting to establish safety blitz teams and to report on outcomes. Also use the meeting to undertake safety training activities.
Use toolbox meetings to embed safety into the culture of your organisation.
For some practical tips and ground rules for conducting a ToolBox Meeting, look out for Running and Effective Toolbox Meeting – Part 3.