psychological safety

Psychological Safety: What is it and how does it help company culture?

When you visit Google and search the words “corporate culture” you’ll likely be inundated with inspiring articles of what an excellent corporate culture looks like. You’ll be directed to countless studies, surveys, and research pieces reinforcing the notion that a diverse and inclusive workplace is not only an ethical responsibly, but simply good for business. We all know that when employees feel valued, morale improves; that happy employees are productive employees and when employee engagement is strong, voluntary turnover falls. These generic, positive cultural outcomes are easy to comprehend because we have likely experienced all of them in our own lives. When we enjoy what we do and who we are with, well, we complete that task with enthusiasm and we tend to do it much better than if it was a task we dislike. That’s just us being human.

But in my quest to identify what it is that makes diversity and inclusivity so important to the culture of an organization, I came across a term that I wasn’t too familiar with, psychological safety. Concerned that I wasn’t up to speed with new HR lingo, I dove right in! With pleasant surprise I found that psychological safety isn’t a modern term nor a new theory at all. In fact, it is something we do quite well here at Metalwest.

Psychological safety

Two words that would likely imply that an environment is free of disciplinary actions, consequences, and feedback. However, the actual meaning couldn’t be any different. Psychological safety is not about being free from repercussions, rather how comfortable a person is in making mistakes and their willingness to admit them. It is about an environment where employees feel confident in taking risks and sometimes falling short because the company sees their failure as an opportunity to learn and get better. It is comfort in knowing that your wins will be celebrated even if you stumbled along the way.

When employees feel psychologically safe at work they are at liberty to be their authentic selves without fear of reprisal. They speak up and share their opinion without fear of ridicule. When a company supports an environment that is inclusive and diverse, employees feel that they belong and their contribution matters. These two words are the building blocks to an empowered culture full of diverse ideas and out of the box thinkers cultivating an innovative and thoughtful environment. They lead to empowerment and accountability which just so happen to be one of Metalwest’s core values.

Having an inclusive and diverse workplace is not something that Metalwest has had to set goals around or even work hard at creating. Instead, operating under a firm set of unwavering company values we have organically created an environment where our employees feel psychologically safe. From teamwork, to integrity, accountability, to having fun, our values are at the foundation of how we do business and who we are as an organization. They are incorporated into nearly all decisions we make, including selecting candidates, identifying customers we want to do business with, and developing our iron-clad safety practices.

Take for instance the weekly branch stand-up meetings; by providing an open forum where employees voices are heard and employees are encouraged to participate in developing solutions we increase engagement, reinforce our team mentality, and relay that we are committed to being excellent. What was likely created to simply offer up another method for communication has led to a much more engaged, inclusive, and psychologically safe environment for our employees.

As a values-led organization with a strong sense of who we are and who we want to be, we don’t necessarily have to worry too much about the minor details because when we all uphold our company values, the small things will take care of themselves.

Post by: Emily Gunther, director of human resources for Metalwest
Feature image from: Halo Psychology

For more about company values, also check out the NIM Core Values post.