Whether you’ve been leading a remote workforce for decades, recently ventured into this space, are dabbling with hybrid models, or fully returning your staff to in-house status, one thing is certain: The concept of “workplace” has changed forever. And “psychological safety” has taken an elevated role. The hard, sacred work of nurturing company culture has gotten even more dynamic in the process.
We’ve all had a front row seat to “The Great Resignation” when the country and the job market opened back up. The perception of boundless options prevail (all while making the workplace and cultural undertaking even more fraught for leadership). The talented and the hopeful are not wrong – there is an opportunity boom. What remains is more important than ever! There is a primal need of feeling psychologically safe. No one’s accepting work, live, virtual or otherwise, if they don’t feel safe and included within the culture.
Therefore, inclusion and belonging have taken on a heightened level of importance within the workplace. Once buzzwords in the workplace, and often used only for PR purposes, these traits are now business imperatives. Talent is more intentional than ever about interviewing the company they will lend their skills to, rather than simply being interviewed by a potential employer. Value and career alignment, community, allyship and trust are dominating interview conversations more and more.
This war on talent is opening the eyes of global companies and leaders to rethink their strategy for attracting and retaining the world’s top talent. When employees leave an organization to take on other opportunities or resign without another offer in hand, there may be a true disconnect in value, career alignment or trust. Here are some immediate questions to consider:
- Did the employee speak up about concerns prior to resigning? If no, why not? If yes, were there follow-up conversations and realignment on actions?
- Did the manager have regular conversations with the employee on career goals and timing?
- Did the organization make inclusion and belonging visible priorities and central business strategy?
- How safe do your employees feel to share their frustrations or misalignments? On a scale of 1 to 10 (1= not safe at all, 10=extremely safe).
- How inclusive is your leadership?
As I share often with other Diversity & Inclusion executive leaders, the role of psychological safety and trust continues to be the solution for regrettable attrition. Dr. Timothy Clark, author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, defines psychological safety as “an environment of rewarded vulnerability”. When we take this definition and use it to assess our current culture in many organizations, we see the missing ingredient. It is imperative that executive leaders, managers, and supervisors all rethink what workplace inclusion and trust look like. It means we sometimes have the uncomfortable conversations with staff, and ask questions like,“What are you hoping to get from your time in this role?” or “How do you see this opportunity playing into your overall career goals?” These basic questions create opportunities for alignment and realignment throughout their time in the organization.
We hear the statement all the time that people don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. And often when talent quits a boss, it is because somewhere along the journey, that talent lost trust in the boss’s ability to place the employee’s interest in mind.
“Do you have me and my career and my ability to excel in this role, in mind, when you’re leading? If you don’t, then I’ll go somewhere where I am celebrated and recognized for the value I add.”
So, take a moment. Step back. Reflect and ask yourself those questions.
Psychological safety is not simply something to “achieve” or a box to check. It’s something to embody. And it takes continuous work and improvement.
It’s also not something that any one person can achieve alone for an organization. It’s on each of us – from CEOs and tenured leaders to new hires experiencing their first day – to consistently work towards… Together.
With that, I encourage you to consider rethinking psychological safety in corporate culture.