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Is your organization a place where employees feel they can commit to their work without fear of failure or retribution? How exactly has the hybrid and remote work environments affected your employee psychological safety over the past three years? What even is psychological safety, and how can HR leaders implement it to create a safe workplace? We invited Chris Estes, MBA, SHRM-SCP, to join one of our podcast episodes to answer those questions and more. Let’s first start with finding out more about Chris

Who is Chris Estes?

I had a great chat with Chris Estes on our podcast. According to his LinkedIn profile: “If I had to brand my approach to People Leadership, it’d be this: Every aspect of the employee life cycle revolves around three key pillars. Performance, Engagement and Development. Every interaction with an employee in those areas is an opportunity to re-engage or disengage them. It’s the People team’s role to equip leaders with the tools and skills necessary to navigate those interactions. It’s the leader’s role to learn to do it well.

Human Resources professional with 10+ years experience developing, leading and influencing every aspect of the employee lifecycle across multiple technology start-ups. My passion for taking care of people where they work and utilizing technology has afforded me the opportunity to work with C-Suite and Senior Leaders through individual contributors; on individual and team-based strategic initiatives and projects. I am consistently recognized as a top performer for my partnerships, dependability, creativity, and adaptability.”

Chris got his start in college when he created his own merchandising business while studying to be a software engineer. By chance, Chris took an HR course as an elective where his professor said something that would change his course of career – Chris’s generation will change the field of HR. Now, Chris combines what he learned in the elective course with his passion for engineering to partner with other engineering teams to “help geeks do what they do best.” 

Now, let’s dig into the topic of the podcast…

What is Psychological Safety for Employees?

Psychological safety may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the interaction between HR and the workforce. That may be because it’s not promoted as often as it should be, especially with the remote and hybrid work environments that have been introduced over the last three years. So, what exactly is psychological safety? 

Psychological safety is somebody’s ability to commit without fear of failure or retribution if their work isn’t 100%, 100% of the time. This fear is stifling for creativity in the workplace, both in-person, but especially in the remote world where there’s already a disconnect via separation of physical location. This can be an ambiguous concept for people and companies. Employees don’t necessarily expect a company to provide for psychological safety directly, instead, they think in terms of benefit. This is where a company can be a differentiator from competitors in the market. 

How do HR Leaders Implement Psychological Safety?

There are 5 parts to employee wellness that should be considered as an HR leader, some of which you may be aware of already. However, psychological safety is actually a key part of the 5 parts of wellness, which are:  

  1. Psychological safety 
  2. Career
  3. Physical
  4. Financial
  5. Community 

It’s one step to know the 5 parts of employee wellness, and it’s another task to implement it. How exactly is that done? The first step HR leaders can take to implement psychological safety in their organization is to create clear expectations of what it means to be an employee. Create clear job descriptions and expectations of the roles. Leaders utilize the skills of feedback and recognition to measure what is expected and communicate what adjustments are needed, if any. You can also use these skills to measure where employees are at, asking the following questions to help: 

  • Do you know what’s expected of you at work? 
  • Do you have connections at work that you care about, either in your team or outside of your team?

What Impact will Remote Work have on Psychological Safety?

These kinds of assessments may have been easier in a world before remote and hybrid work environments. Yet, there’s still work that can be done by HR teams to handle initiatives to protect the psychological safety of the workforce. 

There are pros and cons to remote work. One camp of thought is that remote work allows workers to waste time and not actually get work done. While a differing camp of thought is that remote work frees up the opportunity for workers to work throughout the day, relying on trust for the employees’ work ethic. 

Rather than sticking to one camp of thought, create one on one connections with your workforce. In a remote world, this needs to be fostered more than ever. Set expectations of what should be completed while working remotely, and measure it in an appropriate way for the employee’s work style. Create company-sponsored channels for communications that utilize a “come and go” connection approach. The HR team is an enabler and is key in promoting the value of employee psychological safety.

Use a measured approach, create the culture, and put a value to psychological safety.

Discover More

There’s much more we cover in the podcast, such as:

  • How can HR leaders dig deeper into the concept of psychological safety?
  • How have hybrid work scenarios changed the ways HR teams protect the workforce?
  • What areas or potholes can HR avoid while creating psychological safety?
  • And much more!

Listen to the whole podcast here: How To Create Psychological Safety For Employees. This quick 17-minute episode explains what exactly psychological safety is for employees and how HR can dig deeper toward implementation. Enjoy!