According to the Harvard Business Review’s article ‘High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How To Create It’, the tech giant, Google, completed a huge two-year study on team performance and concluded that high-performing teams have one thing in common, psychological safety. In this post, we seek to answer the question are employers embracing psychological safety across all aspects of the workplace?
What is Psychological Safety?
If you have not heard of this term, ‘Psychological Safety’ describes the belief that employees have that they will not be punished for making a mistake.
Human beings are naturally judgemental. We judge risk every day, especially at the moment as levels of anxiety increase as we grapple with the impact of the pandemic, that, for many, has resulted in an increase of working from home.
So our time with colleagues, face to face, has been reduced to a greater or lesser extent and the result of less time working face to face will almost certainly have resulted in an increase of communication via email, chat, reports, and other text-based ways of communicating and expressing information and ideas.
I believe that when people refer to ‘psychological safety’ they think about face-to-face interactions with colleagues. The ability to be in a meeting room amongst colleagues and daring to take moderate risks with speaking one’s mind, or ‘sticking one’s neck out’ knowing that at the end of suggesting that ‘bonkers’ idea, one’s neck will still be intact. As the Harvard Business Review states, this type of behaviour leads to market breakthroughs.
I also believe that when a company claims to have developed a working environment that welcomes psychological safety, it is highly likely that this is not being applied to text-based productivity. We joke about the ‘spelling police’ but the reality is that it can be very troubling when one spends hours writing a document about an essential concept for which the business can thrive when the feedback seems to be focused on mistakes with spelling and grammar. Equally, mistakes with spelling and grammar can be distracting and can lead to disrupted reading, ultimately reducing the impact of what was being communicated.
The National Literacy Trust claims that 7.1 million adults in the United Kingdom can be described as having ‘poor literacy skills’. This is about 16% of the adult population and doesn’t include adults whose literacy skills are simply ‘OK’ but experience challenges with their written work being accepted by colleagues.
The British Dyslexia Association claims that at least 10% of the UK population is dyslexic, with 4% severely so.
Both these statistics indicate that there are likely to be many adults in the workplace who dread using written text to communicate due to a fear of judgement taking place about them. This concern about how their work will be received by colleagues will inevitably make the task of writing burdensome, unengaging, bringing about procrastination and last-minute attempts to get that work done.
Fear of judgement is an uneasy bedfellow of poor literacy skills. Making mistakes with literacy can, for some, be an indication of weakness when it is an unfair assessment of one’s mental and cognitive abilities. In many cases, an adult who finds reading and writing challenging could well be worrying about judgement before they even start their work.
So what can employers do to expand the ‘net of psychological safety' when it comes to sticking one’s neck out using literacy?
The obvious place to consider within an organisation is the access that employees have to technology that can help them to increase accuracy with literacy.
Current technology now makes access to literacy open to all. Key technologies are now available that can read out text on screens red feature- reducing the need to stare at a screen for heavy reading sessions thus reducing fatigue. Dictation is now more accessible on a PC on most operating systems as well as with third-party software that provides a more feature-rich experience with dictation into programmes such as Microsoft Word. This helps with simply getting down what needs to be said and allowing for editing for mistakes later before submitting that all-important report.
One class of software that is making a significant impact on productivity seeks to correct spelling and grammar in real-time as one writes. I am personally using Lightkey, which is monitoring how I write and what I write about and makes predictions using AI or indicates spelling and grammar issues. What is satisfying about using Lightkey is the time I save in using it and there is a very helpful dashboard telling me how much time I am saving. There are many alternatives to LightKey, all with their own approach to real-time literacy correcting, but what I am experiencing from using a programme like this is an increased sense of confidence in writing longer articles and reports that are more enjoyable to engage in and if I am enjoying my work then I am likely to do more of it and on time too! I am going to worry less about my colleagues reaction to my spelling and grammar.
Going back to psychological safety, if an employer’s IT policy incorporates technology that supports the literacy skills of employees and actively encourages their employees to use that technology as and when appropriate, then just possibly, the workforce can then truly claim to be implementing psychological safety.
I hope that you have found this post on are employers embracing psychological safety across all aspects of the workplace useful. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Lightkey, click here.