What's the role of HR in fostering a psychologically safe workplace?

Expert from TELUS Health to speak at upcoming National HR Summit New Zealand

What's the role of HR in fostering a psychologically safe workplace?

HR leaders have a "big part" to play in fostering psychologically safe workplaces, according to TELUS Health, in the wake of employees casting doubt on their organisations' efforts.

The latest TELUS Mental Health Index revealed that nearly four in 10 employees in New Zealand believe their employer does not support or they are unsure about support for psychological health and safety.

It found that only 46% of employees favourably rated their company's culture around mental health, while 18% have negative perceptions.

HR leaders' 'big part' in the workplace

Julia Cressey, TELUS Health general manager New Zealand, said HR leaders play a "big part" in fostering a psychologically safe workplace.

"From an HR perspective, you can most definitely look at making sure that leaders, people, and individuals in the organisation understand the basics around role clarity," Cressey told HRD in an interview.

HR leaders should let employees know what they're meant to do from a role perspective, who they deal with, and how people deal with each other in the workplace, she said.

"Individuals like to understand and have clarity around what they are allowed to do and obviously what they're not allowed to do.”

But due to the "multifaceted" nature of psychological safety, employers are still learning, Cressey said.

"It's complex. I don't think you can easily describe it because there are so many facets to people feeling psychologically safe at work, where there's policies, there's processes in place by the organisation," she said.

From a cultural perspective, Cressey underscored that this refers to how well people colleagues behave towards each other - from leader to member relationships, among others.

"It's critical that these things like the performance is managed, that poor behaviour is managed, that positive behaviour is managed and celebrated," she said.

Benefits of psychologically safe workplaces

Organisations that are able to foster psychologically safe workplaces can get the "best outcomes," according to Cressey.

"If people feel safe to come to work and they can be their authentic selves in a workplace, you're always going to get the best out of that person," she said.

"You're always going to get the best possible outcomes. You're going to get retention, you're going to get highly productive and engaged workforce - all the things that any organisation is looking for when it comes to their people."

National HR Summit

Cressey is expected to deliver the welcome remarks for the upcoming National HR Summit New Zealand, where a psychologically safe workplace is among the list of topics to be tackled.

Such events are important because they bring people together to share experiences and knowledge, she said.

"It's a really nice opportunity to hear from people around what they've been doing in their organisation and what has worked and what maybe hasn't worked, because everybody's striving for the same outcome, which is to have high, productive, engaged workforces, good people and well-looked after.”

The upcoming National HR Summit is set on April 10 at The Pullman in Auckland. Register now here.

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