Google, Gallup and Harvard have shown that workplace psychological safety drives productivity. Conductor measures psychological safety in your organisation, quantifies it in financial terms using your KPIs, and shows you how to improve it.
As Amy Edmondson, one of the lead researchers in this field says, “Psychological safety at work takes effort. It’s not the norm. But it’s worth the effort. A culture of open candour, and the willingness and courage to speak up, is a strategic asset and can be developed any company."
How do you build psychological safety at work? You need a system and toolkit. We can help there.
The starting points is “measure psychological safety frequently" to benchmark your current psychological safety levels and track trends over time. It helps you to know where to start, what to do and to monitor the ongoing impact of your actions.
The second key piece of the puzzle is to develop your your leaders’ capability to, through their behaviour, build both psychological safety and high performing teams. The two go hand in hand.
Do you know how well your managers, through their leadership and communication, are creating a climate of psychological safety within their teams and your business?
A psychologically safe workplace does not happen by chance or guesswork
One of the most important things for any manager to keep in mind is that when an employee fails to speak up in a crucial moment it’s invisible. This is true whether that employee is on the frontline of customer service or sitting next to you in the executive boardroom. And because not offering an idea cannot be seen, it’s hard to engage in real-time course correction.
This means that psychologically-safe workplaces have a powerful advantage in competitive industries.
This also means that in order to ‘see’ the invisible silence in your workplace you have to measure psychological safety. It’s the first step before you can begin to build it, elicit the employee engagement, worker confidence, meaningful conversations, and valuable reports that contribute to a successful, fearless organisation.
5 minute Pulse Check
Organisations that go without assessing their organisation’s psychological safety are living with blind spots (some say black holes in their understanding of their culture). Psychological safety varies from team to team. When you don’t measure psychological safety you don’t know where it is low and where employees are not able to speak up about problems.
only 23% of frontline employees felt their workplace was “psychologically safe” to take a risk
only 45% of managers felt their workplace was “psychologically safe” to take a risk
In the USA:
20% of employees felt their workplace was hostile and threatening
50% of employees felt their workplace was unpleasant
30% of employees felt their workplace was psychologically safe
We have 60 years of research together with the Google Project Aristotle telling us the number one driver of team performance is psychological safety, and it’s also the foundation for the other 4 top drivers. If you want to radically improve your performance, then simply make psychological safety a priority.
You’d expect psychological safety to among the top 5 priorities on most senior executive’s agendas. But, it is not, it’s nowhere near the list. Why?
Some think it’s another fad. Sixty years if in depth of research, data and insights can not be ignored by any serious leader unless they have their heads in the sand.
A number of people misunderstand psychological safety and confuse it with safe spaces and low accountability, a low performing 'comfort zone.' High psychological safety and high accountability is a high performing 'learning zone.'
Some fear that measuring it will expose the toxic behaviour of senior executives. As I once heard it, “we know we are behaving badly, we don’t want to expose that, nor treat it.” Time for the Board to step up?
High psychological safety is important in landscapes of uncertainty and interdependency. It’s not so important for solo workers and straight-forward work replaceable by robots or AI.
The starting point is to measure psychological safety. Then you can make data based decisions on what to do about it.
Sources: RUOK/Colmar Brunton 2017 & 2019; Jake Herway/Gallup 2017; Rand Corp., Harvard Med. School, University of California, 2017.
One of management's biggest misconceptions about psychological safety is the balance between psychological safety and accountability. Many managers fear that creating safety in their workplace means leaders will reduce their focus upon key results and key behaviours. This is a misreading of how psychological safety works.
To address this concern, Amy Edmondson, the lead researcher in the field, created a matrix with safety on the y-axis and accountability on the x axis. The goal is to operate in the learning zone, high safety and high accountability. This occurs when leader creates stretch goals, and challenges direct reports to improve, while creating a psychologically safe environment where they work together to break their records every day.
Nobody wants to damage their people
Most managers want to better manage the health and safety of their staff. Nobody goes to work wanting to damage their people.
We now recognise that work-related psychological injuries are real. They're not a sign of weakness. They can happen to any of us if the stresses are prolonged or severe enough. Importantly, they're preventable. We know what causes them, and we know how to avoid them. They are also compensable. Work-related psychological injury claims are very serious and they're very expensive, both at a human and financial level. They cost companies enormous amounts of money. It's wasted effort.
The starting point is to assess your situation - measure psychological safety. Then you can see the risks and implement the most effective corrective and control measures.
Conductor Software’s PS25™ survey instrument accurately measures an organisation’s psychological safety at any level, in detail.
Its Leadership Analytics dashboard statistically correlates these results with the organisation’s key performance indicators (KPIs) to show the potential financial impact of improved psychological safety.
The dashboard shows leaders how to use these unique insights to make people-focused decisions that improve business results.