Why organisations should invest in psychological safety

Psychological safety, the belief that it is safe to take interpersonal risks in the workplace is proven to be the most important trait for high performing teams. Moreover, research shows that having employees who feel psychologically safe is not only beneficial for the team or effected individual but also for the organisation as a whole. This means that psychological safety in the workplace can affect the success of an organisation.

Thus, how do organisations benefit from psychological safety in the workplace? These are the top three benefits:

  1. Psychological safety leads to better performance. When people feel more psychologically safe, they ask more questions, admit difficulties more easily and ask for help more. These are all examples of learning behaviour. This increase in learning behaviours in turn leads to better performance. The relationship between psychological safety and performance was also the main conclusion drawn from by a large study by Google. Google found that psychological safety was the most important as well as foundational trait that separated high performing teams from low performing teams. They found that the teams that felt psychologically safe exceeded their sales revenue target by 17% and that teams that did not feel safe missed their target sale revenue by 19%. 
  2. Psychological safety leads to more creativity. Moreover, you need psychological safety for creativity and innovation. When people do not feel psychologically safe, their instincts will try to protect their identity by not taking any risks such as putting forward ideas, asking questions etcetera. However, a prerequisite for innovation and creativity is the ability of people to come up with new ideas, uses or questions. For creativity you need people to dare to speak up and say something out of the ordinary, something new. When people do not feel safe to take these risks, their as well as the company’s creativity and innovation will be hampered.
  3. Psychological safety leads to a lower turnover percentage. As you can imagine, people feel much more happy at a job where they will feel safe. In a study conducted by Gallup it was found that if the number of people feeling psychologically safe in an organisation rises form 5 out of 10 to 6 out of 10 there would be a 27% reduction in turnover. 

Finally, psychological safety can be used as a competitive advantage. A beautiful example of a company that uses psychological safety as a competitive advantage is Pixar. The Ceo Ed Catmull knows that psychological safety is one of the most important conditions to be innovative and to compete in this highly competitive market.

Would you like to know more about increasing psychological safety in your team or organization though leadership behaviour?  Contact our experts: Leonie Arkesteijn (l.arkesteijn@samhoud.com), Roosmaryn Spliet (r.spliet@samhoud.com) or Koen Husmann (k.husmann@samhoud.com).

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