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The Power of Psychological Safety for Employee Wellbeing

Two years ago, I attended the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco and how good was it!  So many great people and presenters together for three days.  Being a Startup at the time, my intention was to learn more about what others do, learn where they are on their journey, and learn from those that have been successful.  Least to say I networked, built relationships and got close to some really interesting content.

One thing struck me on day one, the concern around psychological safety, as defined by the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.   It was discussed in two separate presentations which spoke to the heart of what Emotie stands for.

Wind the clock forward to today and psychological safety is being talked about again.  The pandemic has put this back firmly on the HR agenda and we do need to seriously make this a priority in every workplace.

The psychological safety for employees is paramount.  We find ourselves in a rather concerning position with wellbeing being considered a ‘human crisis’.  Mental health, stress and anxiety in the workplace is at an all-time high.  We must, must, do more than lip service to these hard facts and go back to the basics to embrace our employee’s and know how they are feeling.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a simple yet highly effective reminder that we need to embrace and use this as the basis to understand employee’s needs.

At Emotie, we have built in an emotive element to performance management that speaks to how engaged someone is and how they are feeling generally and about meeting their performance, their team, and the organisation expectations. Our clients are finding that issues and concerns are coming to the forefront and by doing the following we can tackle this ‘human crisis’ together:

Have The Conscious Conversation

We are so very passionate about changing the irony, which is why we believe that building strong relationships starts with having the right data to enable the right conversation that is not inhibited by bias or distrust.  By this we mean asking the right questions so that a manager has this data to discuss when having a check-in conversation.  This data is about understanding the whole person, ensuring the employee wellbeing is considered along with their engagement and their performance.  This data is emotive in nature so that a consciousness can be used here to have a good conversation.

Organisations and Managers Need to Recognise the Levels of Trust Employees Have of Them

Psychological safety requires organisations and managers to hold the mirror up and analyse the level of trust their employees have in them  We all know that the number one reason people have left an organisation is because of their manager. Employees are voting with their feet right now and walking out the door to find a balance that works for them. So, one way to retain employees is to own this as an organisation and as managers and change the behaviour.  Managers need to be more conscious in their behaviours and actions and know that some employees may not trust them.  Ignoring this is not the right thing to do.  Rather analyse it for what it is and look at ways to engage the whole person in everyone in your organisation.

Build Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Into Your People Agenda

Some might say this is so old and no use, but the bigger question is to understand if you are managing the whole person in your people agenda.  Ask the question of yourself as an organisation, and as a manager if you really do support the psychological safety of your employees?  Does it play a significant role in how you have framed your people agenda?  Coming back to this basic frame of reference is very important if we are going to change the irony and really look at the concerning research on employee wellbeing.

We should not discount this notion of going back to the fundamentals of the hierarchy of needs.  It is so much more than a model or theory.  Employee wellbeing is so critical in the workplace and it is so important for organisations to have the conversation and open up trustworthy communication lines between the manager and their employees. Organisation distance has never been greater than it is right now with flexible working arrangements. We can be open about mental health and provide wellbeing programs but how will we ever know how an employee is feeling in their work and their personal life if we don’t find a better way to support conscious conversations built on trust.

With Emotie we can really understand how employees are feeling about their performance, their work environment and culture, their level of engagement and their wellbeing. We take psychological safety very seriously.

About Prue Armstrong

My experience extends over 20 years in International Human Resources, working across three continents. Most recently, I have been in the United Kingdom consulting on performance and talent management. It is in the United Kingdom that Emotie was born. As HR professionals, we knew there had to be a better way!

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