Would you like your teams to learn faster, and be more agile and resilient? Innovation powerhouses like Google and IDEO have found that psychological safety is the #1 predictor of their best teams.

Related: Video: The surprising key to Google’s best teams.

icare and R U OK? just launched a world-first study into psychological safety[1] in the workplace, which showed that frontline lower income-earning staff feel less safe and permitted to take risks at work than higher income-earning employees.

 

The Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey[2] canvassed 1,176 Australian employees and found that only 23 per cent of lower income-earning frontline employees felt their workplace was “psychologically safe” to take a risk, compared to 45 per cent of workers on significantly higher incomes.

 

A “psychologically safe” workplace is characterised by a climate of interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people feel comfortable being themselves to make mistakes or take risks in their work.

 

Professor Amy Edmonson from Harvard Business School collaborated with R U OK? and has commented on the results.  She said “This is the first time a country has ever measured psychological safety in the workplace”.

 

The full survey results and Professor Edmondson’s comments on the findings are below. If you would like a pdf copy of the report emailed to you: jenny@graemecowan.com.au

[1] The concept of “psychological safety” originated from Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership & Management from Harvard Business School and is defined as a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.

[2] Conducted by Colmar Brunton for R U OK?, the Australian Workplace Psychological Safety Survey was based on an independent online survey of 1,176 Australian full-time and part-time employees across all states and territories in March, 2017.

 

 

If you make a mistake at work it is often held against you

Professor Amy Edmondson Comments

  • Studying psychological safety is incredibly important because it gets to the heart of innovation.

  • In fast moving environments, breakthroughs happen through trying many things and making mistakes – before finding what works.

  • When I work with clients I strive for a minimum 70% “Strongly disagreeing” or “Disagreeing” with this statement.

  • It’s very worrying and counterproductive for a “mistake” to held against you, and a cultural mindset like this will lead to people being reluctant to propose new ideas.

  • It was intriguing why women were less concerned about making mistakes, and that this warrants additional insights and research.

  • Whilst it isn’t unusual for younger workers to feel more insecure, she explained that they are often at the front line, and efforts should be made address their concern.

It is difficult to ask my colleagues for help

Professor Edmondson comments

  • Team, cross department, and external collaboration has increased dramatically because of the digital revolution.

  • It is critical that people feel safe and willing to ask their colleagues inside and outside the organisation for help.

  • High performing teams and organisations should be striving for at least 80% of employees “Strongly disagreeing” or “Disagreeing” with this statement.

It is safe to take a risk at work

Professor Edmondson comments

Although much of my earlier work was undertaken in hospitals, I am hesitant to use this question where physical safety is critical such as mining, construction, and health care.

  • For most organisations operating in the information or digital economy, this question is critical to try new things, learn quickly and continually improve. For example, Facebook has as one of its founding values “move fast and break things”.

  • I recommend that my clients strive for 70% “Strongly Agreeing” or “Agreeing” with this statement.

  • Google has identified psychological safety as their most important team norm for high performance. They have found that by everyone sharing a risk they have taken in the last week at their team meeting is the fastest way to improve psychological safety.

  • The design company IDEO has 90% of its employees strongly agreeing or agreeing with this statement.

Working with my colleagues my unique skills and talents are utilized

Professor Edmondson comments

  • High performing teams and organisations should be striving for 80% “Strongly agreeing” or “Agreeing” with this statement.

  • The benefits to individual and teams that are able to use their top strengths each day is compelling. For example, Gallup research shows that if people use their top 5 strengths everyday they are 600% more likely to be engaged at work and 300% more likely to report high life satisfaction.

  • The message for teams is equally strong. According to other Gallup research, if individuals within a team strongly agree with this statement: “At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best each day” the team has been shown to be 30% more likely to be highly productive, 44% more likely to earn high customer satisfaction scores, and 50% more likely to have high employee retention.

My work colleagues often reject others for being different

Professor Edmondson comments

  • In a supportive and psychologically safe team environment, people feel comfortable to be themselves. This in one of the main findings from Google’s Project Aristotle into their high performing team.

  • If employees feel cared for, no matter who they are, they will feel more engaged and productive. For example, Gallup research shows that the more people that “Strongly agree” with this statement “My supervisor or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person” – the higher the profit, productivity levels, customer service rating, and the longer employees stay with the company.

 

None of my colleagues would deliberately undermine my efforts

 

MORE INFORMATION ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY

If you would like to know more about psychological safety or have a speaker discuss it at your conference or workplace please contact Graeme Cowan: graeme@graemecowan.com.au