The past couple of years have been a stark reminder that as companies and business operations continue to expand overseas, the risks to their travelling employees are greater than ever before. The “Breaking News” of another terrorist attack is often impossible to predict in a corporate setting. However, there are arguably more important aspects to employee safety that are often overlooked, namely the risks that originate from the environment in which the employee is travelling to or carrying out their work.
In this macro-environment, risks may come from a myriad of sources including the local geography, disease and illness due to pollution or unsanitary conditions, crime and political upheaval. Terrorism is an ever-present risk, one that will likely continue to increase as companies look to expand into foreign markets.
In some countries, the aspect of ‘Duty of Care’ has some real ‘teeth’ behind the words; robust legislation will hold an employer liable if they neglect to properly inform, prepare and protect the health and safety of their employees. However, outside of these jurisdictions the question remains: how can companies address the subject of ‘Duty of Care’ in the same way that all other health and safety aspects are addressed while simultaneously balancing limited resources? One answer is through training.
Some employers don't realize that appropriate training can give an employee a considerable amount of control over a challenging or unfamiliar environment. In turn, this enables him or her to vastly reduce the risks said environment poses to them and ultimately, to the company.
Others may see training as an unnecessary and unwanted expense. These people may argue that experience is the important thing. This argument overlooks the salient fact that experience is both retroactive and a matter of luck. More importantly there are direct and quantifiable business results from the investment in training that will likely far outweigh the upfront cost.
Training helps reduce the risk
Through training, risks to the company assets (employees and facilities) will be reduced. Operations are more effective; employees who have greater control over their environment are more productive and less distracted by their concerns about safety.
Employee relations and commitment have also been shown to improve when employers make this investment in their staff. As turnover can cost companies a great deal of money, significant returns on investment are seen in retention as well.
Teams work better together when they know they can rely on each other in a crisis. The employer has an opportunity to fulfil its ‘duty of care’ by providing not only training for the job, but also for a challenging environment. In turn, this decreases company liability. Shareholders appreciate the commitment to staff safety, and corporate communications are enhanced.
A corporate commitment to travel safety training also attracts the best employees, offering the company a greater competitive advantage over other players in the marketplace
The next questions to ask are: what type of training should be provided? How much, and in what format? This very much depends on your company, employees, and to some degree, their risk exposure. Whichever form you decide upon, it is important to visualize and experiment with what will provide the most help to your organization.
As the geopolitical maps change and interact, companies looking to operate successfully in the more challenging regions of the world will need to consider the path forward. Companies must understand that what may appear at first to be a cost centre is in fact a critical opportunity to improve staff safety, company operations and financial results. It is an opportunity that no company will want to walk away from.