It can be challenging to build an effective occupational safety and health (OSH) team under any circumstances. But in this competitive job market, you may face new hurdles in recruiting top talent.  

That’s why it’s important to anticipate turnover, document processes, educate internal stakeholders about OSH roles and remain attentive to the needs of job seekers. 

“The driving reason for knowing about potential new hires is so the OSH manager can ensure the staffing process is tailored to them,” says “Optimize Your OSH Staffing Process,” an April 2022 Professional Safety article by David Stumbo, Ed.D., CSP, OHST, and Troy Rawlins, Ed.D.  

For example, research shows that applicants now expect organizations to have streamlined, intuitive and fast-loading digital forms, and that form quality and length may impact completion rates. 

How can you better understand potential candidates, communicate job expectations, increase your involvement in the recruitment process and onboard new people (while also supporting your current team)? Stumbo and Rawlins say it helps to focus on these five things. 

1. Strengthen your relationship with human resources

If you want to hire the right people, you need a strong relationship with your human resources (HR) department. The relationship between OSH and HR differs in each organization, but keep in mind: Your HR team may have a limited understanding of the OSH function. 

Take the time to familiarize HR with OSH responsibilities, the ways organizational culture influences safety performance and your requirements for candidates. Establishing this relationship with HR can help ensure applicants’ experience is correctly assessed and that candidates not only have the proper training, but also the preferred skills.

2. Be prepared for turnover 

Employees leave organizations for many different reasons (and in some cases as the result of an involuntary separation). But whether your team members are seeking career development, a better work/life balance or a happy retirement, you must be prepared to facilitate a smooth transition. 

Recruitment is most effective when it’s an ongoing process, with preparations beginning 12 to 36 months ahead of your actual need. This is particularly important to keep in mind when hiring for the OSH profession. With a higher median age than the workforce at large, OSH is likely to experience significant staffing disruptions due to retirements over the next few years.  

3. Increase your participation in recruitment

As an OSH manager, you should be directly involved in all recruitment efforts. That will likely include writing or reviewing job postings, sharing open positions on social media, partnering with external recruiters, and even networking at conferences and university job fairs.

Consider asking current employees for referrals and/or offering paid internships. Internships are a great way to assess the capabilities and interests of individuals (or candidates) while also reducing turnover. According to the article, intern hires have a 44% five-year retention rate relative to non-intern hires at 28%. 

4. Update your criteria for selecting candidates

Work with your HR department to update your interview criteria. These criteria should include the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for each position as well as how you will assess candidates before the interview process. In addition to reviewing resumes, for example, you may rely on background checks, personal references or skill evaluations for additional information. 

Plan to serve on all interview panels, pose questions and guide the discussion around OSH topics — but be sure to leave time for HR and other panel participants to ask their own questions related to their areas of expertise. 

To rate and ultimately select a candidate, your panel may benefit from assigning point values to each criterion. But regardless of the method you choose, Stumbo and Rawlins advocate for mechanical versus instinctual decision-making, saying it has “been shown to be far superior.” Mechanical criteria can also mitigate the impact of personal bias. 

5. Tailor your onboarding to each individual

The staffing process doesn’t end once you hire an employee. If you want your team to be informed and empowered on the job — and you want them to stay — you also need to create and implement effective onboarding systems. Short-term training programs are not enough to get people up to speed. Each person’s onboarding period should last for at least the first six months of their new role. 

Two key factors drive the success of onboarding, according to Stumbo and Rawlins: The level of customization and the presence of mentorship. Each OSH professional at your organization is unique, and the more you can respond to their individual needs and strengths, the more successful they are likely to be.