When you first meet Delvie Trowbridge, a processing supervisor at Tyson’s Dakota City beef plant, you quickly realize her infectious smile and twinkle in her eye are a sign of her pride and passion for the work she and her team do every day—and she has the record to prove that whatever she’s doing works.
Delvie’s team has achieved three years without a recordable illness, six years without a recordable injury, and has a very low turnover rate. Her team’s accomplishments are a great example of Tyson Fresh Meats’ We Care program: an initiative that empowers our frontline team members to address safety more proactively, with the intent to transform how we approach workplace safety.
Not long after the We Care program launched four years ago, we realized the key to its success would have to start with leadership.
Steve Stouffer, Group President of Tyson Fresh Meats, was one of the leaders who championed the program and challenged the team behind it to think outside the perimeters of just another ‘check the box’ safety initiative. Steve says it was a shift to communicate, not dictate. What followed was a program that transformed the leadership team’s mindset. When it came to incidents or recordables, the questions were no longer, “what happened?” and “who did it?” but now, “what’s the root of this problem?” and “how can we work together in the future to prevent it?” Taking this approach required giving permission to all team members to have open and honest communication with one another when it comes to safety, starting with our executive team leadership, all the way through to our frontline supervisors and operations team members—which is exactly where Delvie began her career with Tyson Fresh Meats.
Initially starting as a frontline operations team member with IBP in 1997, Delvie has moved up through a variety of jobs over the years. She notes that this understanding and experience of various roles and responsibilities make her a stronger supervisor, because she has been in the place of her team members and knows the challenges they might encounter.
I had a chance to sit down with Delvie and ask her more about her journey and how she approaches We Care and safety with her team.
Q: How would you describe the approach to safety when you first started compared to today?
I see a complete turnaround when it comes to safety. The program describes it perfectly: WE CARE! Before this program, communication was limited, one-way, and people did not feel comfortable speaking up. In fact, I recall seeing ways that things could be improved, but felt that because I was an hourly employee I shouldn’t speak up. Today, anyone at anytime can speak up and prevent an injury or bring forward a suggestion. I tell my team every day, we are a family and if something doesn’t look right, speak up and don’t turn away. We protect each other.
Q: How would your team members describe you and your leadership?
They’d say I am vocal and loud (she chuckles) but that I have good things to say. Sometimes a new team member will comment to someone who has been on my team a while “wow, she is loud” to which they respond, “listen to her because she has good things to say and her messages are important.” They would tell you that each day I greet every team member with a hand shake and a good morning. I want each one of them to know, while we have work to get done, first and foremost I care about them. I want our team members to have a positive work experience so that when they are outside of work, they say it’s a good place to work.
Q: What is one thing you wish people knew about Tyson’s approach to safety in our plants?
I want people to know that we are a family, and a family cares about its members, and wants to keep them safe. And that we work together to find solutions. When I see an action or situation that needs to be addressed, we will take a five-minute break to have a “family meeting” and review. We discuss what happened, talk about how we can do it differently next time and then rather than leaving it at that, I will stand by and support them as they begin. It is important for me that my team members come to work happy and leave happy, and that comes from a positive work experience where they feel safe.
Q: What are you most proud of about your team?
I am most proud of my team members because I feel they are a reflection of a good teacher, which is what I work hard at being. I tell them, I have my family outside of Tyson and I have my family at Tyson. And both are important to me, and I want them to get along, be productive and be happy. And having that relationship with my team members, I can tell when something isn’t quite right and, in those instances, I take time with the team member to get them the resources or answers they need. I am very proud of my Tyson family.
Delvie’s story is one example of how the We Care model has transformed Tyson’s approach to safety and our commitment to the team member experience, working together every day to keep our people safe.