James Junkin, CSP, MSP, SMS, ASP, CSHO
CEO at Mariner-Gulf Consulting & Services, LLC
Chairman, Veriforce Strategic Advisory Board
Finding skilled workers who are a good fit for an organization can be a challenge in today’s job
market. To attract and retain the right workers, companies need to provide a level of comfort
regarding the type and scope of work required. Additionally, organizations must ensure that they
take new workers’ orientation, onboarding, mentoring, ideas, and concerns seriously. In this
article, we will discuss best practices for recruiting and retaining skilled workers.
In a tight job market, workers have many opportunities, so it is essential to provide a compelling
value proposition to attract the best workers. Being upfront and honest in job descriptions is
critical. Organizations should highlight unique opportunities, training, and workplace benefits
and rewards, particularly those that set them apart from the competition. In addition to
highlighting organizational benefits, companies must pay attention to workplace safety
onboarding, organizational safety climate, historical safety records, and hands-on training and
mentoring programs to attract and retain skilled workers.
Orientation and Onboarding
Employee orientation and onboarding policies and procedures are critical in preparing and
training new workers. Orientation is a general introduction to the workplace and organization
and typically lasts less than a day. Employers should take the orientation time to help new
workers complete necessary paperwork, provide access to all required company resources and
technology, and learn about essential company programs, policies, and procedures. In contrast,
onboarding is a much more comprehensive process that can last up to 12 months and includes
mentoring programs. The purpose of onboarding is to help build worker confidence in their job
tasks and roles.
On-the-job training or mentoring is a critical asset in every new worker’s learning process.
Peer-to-peer mentoring is one of the greatest strengths in training new workers, as it utilizes
trusted employees to monitor, develop, and critique job-critical skills and instill positive safety
attitudes. Mentors can focus their efforts on skills that align with successful company safety,
productivity, and quality expectations while simultaneously helping the company monitor worker
behaviors and conditions for immediate discussion and correction.
Internships, Trade Schools, and Vocational Training
Internships, trade schools, and vocational training programs teach new workers and high school
students job skills needed for specific occupations as they complete their academic coursework.
These programs can prepare valuable new workers for careers in fields such as high-hazard
industries and can increase high school completion, employment, and earnings. These learning
opportunities are also effective at including safety awareness and best practices in the
curriculum, resulting in well-prepared and trained new workers ready to fit seamlessly into
organizations that champion safety, hazard identification, and reduction of worker risk as core
One of the ways workers can re-enter the workforce into new roles in safe and effective ways is
workforce retraining. Retraining means training in a new subject, for a new job, often at a new
company or organization, where learning and development play a critical role in training workers
that are new to any industry. Rigorous workforce retraining is one of the best ways to mitigate
the risk of costly injuries or fatalities when workers transition from less-risky jobs to those
requiring highly technical skills.
Empower Workers to Strengthen Safety Culture
Creating empowerment comes from implementing policies and procedures and fostering trust
that all workers are capable of enacting practices that improve the safety of a workplace for
employees. Championing “stop work” when unsafe practices or conditions are observed,
implementing risk assessments, performing safety audits, and implementing regular workspace
inspections should be a collaborative approach from the top all the way to the worker level.
When incidents or near misses occur, the focus of the resulting investigation(s) should aim
solidly at identifying and correcting underlying root causes rather than blaming the worker.
Always Have Their Back
It is one thing to empower workers, but workers also need to feel that the safety
professionals and collective safety department “have the backs of the workers” at all
times. Safety professionals need to transition from “drive-by” and “flyovers” at work sites
and facilities and spend time where the work happens, asking questions and
understanding the issues and hazards the workers face daily.
These best practices, combined with technology to help you strategically source
workers, will help you navigate the current skilled labor shortage.