[Expert opinion] How HR can improve psychological safety in the workplace

Temps de lecture : 4 mn
Emmanuelle Abensur
Emmanuelle Abensur
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Temps de lecture : 4 minutes

Human Resources (HR) has many roles within a company. One of these is managing the quality of work life (QWL)—a topic that remains a priority for 49% of employees!¹ In response to these high expectations, more and more companies are introducing workplace well-being initiatives. Some try to encourage physical activity, while others promote healthy eating or even offer more flexible/hybrid work schedules. However, many forget that what employees really need is psychological safety in the workplace!

Psychological safety in the workplace refers to employees’ ability to take risks, show initiative, and share opinions freely, without fear of negative repercussions. This is one key lever for improving well-being at work, but it’s also necessary for developing employee engagement and retaining talent. 

Human resources have a key role to play in satisfying this need for psychological safety in the workplace. But where should it start, and what are the best practices to put in place? For that matter, which practices should it avoid?

To answer these questions, we interviewed Juliette Laoul, Head of Talent at Talkspirit. In this article, find out her best HR practices for developing psychological safety in the workplace!

Mistakes that undermine your teams’ psychological safety in the workplace

Before we explain how to meet the need for psychological safety, let’s take a look at the mistakes you shouldn’t make! For Juliette Laoul, there are several factors that can prevent your teams from feeling psychologically safe at work:

  • Lack of recognition
  • Poor work atmosphere
  • Lack of social support
  • Lack of autonomy and/or room for moving about 
  • Unsuitable management practices 
  • Lack of meaning in assigned tasks
  • No right to make mistakes
  • Inability to express negative feelings and take initiatives
  • Poor listening skills among managers and colleagues
Quote of Juliette Laoul about the importance of not having unattainable expectations for employees

How then can you avoid these mistakes? That’s what our human resources manager shares with you below. 👇

Good HR practices to promote psychological safety 

To meet the need for psychological safety, Juliette Laoul recommends that HR teams implement these 10 best practices: 

  1. Set an example by normalizing workplace vulnerabilities. This includes being comfortable with straight talk like “I don’t know,” “I’m going to need help,” and “I made a mistake” to encourage others to do the same.
  1. Encourage managers to share their own mistakes and learnings with their teams, so as to develop collective intelligence—and then encourage their teams to do likewise.
  1. Support managers in such a way that every member of their team has a say.
  1. Give meaning to work by providing a shared vision, clarifying work processes, and showing employees that their contribution has a positive overall impact on the company.
  1. Be the guarantor of corporate culture, supporting managers and teams in the reflection, creation, and deployment of corporate culture, and ensuring consistency between vision and reality.
  1. Ensure that company charters and policies are respected (on issues such as the right to disconnect, diversity and inclusion, compensation, etc.).
  1. Take an active part in company life to create a good social climate. For this, you can rely on an enterprise social network like Talkspirit. Our solution makes it easy to share information via a news feed you can organize by groups and a customizable home portal. Employees can engage, and that’s all the more reason to make your internal communication more dynamic. 😉
  1. Stay close to the teams, and keep an open, enthusiastic, and dynamic mind. The aim is to position yourself as a contact person close to the field, while keeping in mind the company’s performance challenges.
  1. Help teams assess their workload and identify whether they have the necessary resources to carry out the expected workload.
  1. Support career management to help employees identify and use their skills and develop new ones.

Examples of concrete initiatives to be implemented

How can these best practices be applied in the workplace? Here are some initiatives companies can launch to meet the need for psychological safety: 

  1. Set clear objectives, using the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) methodology. This methodology allows you to align your teams’ goals with those of the company, bringing greater clarity to the expected results.
Defining OKRs on the Holaspirit platform in order to bring more psychological safety in the workplace
Defining OKRs on the Holaspirit platform
  1. Don’t overlook culture fit when recruiting (i.e. aligning your future talent with your corporate culture).
  1. Involve the management committee in psychological health and safety issues at work (for example, by including a dedicated item at each committee meeting).
  1. Integrate psychological safety into managers’ objectives. And help them implement the actions needed to achieve these objectives. 
  1. Ensure employees understand they have the right to make mistakes. This encourages them to take initiatives and create value on their own.
  1. Set up common onboarding processes for all teams. For example, at Talkspirit, all our employees are assigned a mentor to help them integrate into the company.
  1. Help teams develop active listening skills. On a day-to-day basis, this practice is based on four steps: listening, clarifying, researching, and paraphrasing.
  1. Track quality of work-life indicators. These can include the volume of hours worked, the number of surveys and managerial reviews conducted, the level of commitment, flexible working hours, and more. Don’t forget to keep these KPIs up to date so they can be adapted to your organization’s needs.
  1. Establish rituals to develop company cohesion. For example, suggest that teams get together every Monday morning for a “before work” meeting.
Quote of Juliette Laoul about the before work initiative, and how it can improve psychological safety in the workplace
  1. Set up regular HR meetings to support employees and managers, and enable them to freely express their ideas, concerns and questions—without fear of judgement or retaliation. The frequency of these meetings should, of course, be adapted to your company’s size and rhythm.

To conclude

To unleash their full potential, employees need to feel psychologically secure at work. For human resources, this means involving and supporting the whole company in the process: management, managers, and employees. In addition to sharing best practices for developing psychological safety in the workplace, you’ll need to ensure your teams have all the right tools to put these practices in their daily game!

Want to find out more about best practices for meeting the need for psychological safety in the workplace? Download our white paper, “How to Develop Psychological Safety in the Workplace,” produced in partnership with Holaspirit!

Access the White Paper

In this white paper, discover methods and tools for measuring your team’s level of psychological safety, an example of a participative workshop to involve your employees in the company strategy, as well as one testimonial from a company that has implemented this methodology.

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