Vocal culture is the key to psychological safety

When talent leaders strategically implement a culture of voice, employees feel more psychologically safe, which has positive effects on employee engagement and a myriad of organizational outcomes.

“How can these things not affect you at work?” Now more than ever, it’s impossible not to talk about it. There’s no way he’s not making it to the workplace, because he’s gotten to a point where he’s impacted so much of my days and thoughts. It impacts how you interact with the people you work with. It impacts your work and your job performance. This has an impact on the level of trust of the people you work with.

That was the answer to my question regarding the impact of the shooting at an Atlanta spa last year where eight Asian women were killed. I sat down with Asian American co-workers and had a conversation, where they shared their experiences with racism and identity. After the conversation, we all expressed our gratitude that there was an office culture where their thoughts, ideas and concerns could be aired.

As an employee engagement and voice researcher, I have always believed that creating a culture of voice is key to creating a psychologically safe work culture and, therefore, the state of engagement. of an employee. In a psychologically safe work culture, people feel free to take risks, whether it’s creativity, innovation, or exercising their voice.

I used to feel this employee voice only related to organizational matters. But over the past two years, I’ve come to realize that voice must also include the factors that influence how employees choose to be present and engaged when they show up for work. COVID-19, racial and social justice issues, a hyper-partisan political landscape and the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine are impacting engagement, well-being and how they present themselves in roles employee professionals.

What does the research say?

The researchers found that employees believe that being listened to is the most important factor in determining the value they place on their organization. However, employees do not feel comfortable talking to their bosses about problems or organizational issues. These employees choose to be silent. And that silence robs organizations of potentially valuable information that can impact wellbeing, performance, and productivity.

After the complexities of the last two plus years, having a voice culture becomes critical and necessary. by Perceptyx Allie Behr argues that today’s leaders must shape their organizational designs for the “future of work” that incorporate hybrid/remote work management, work/life balance and childcare, well- being mental and physical and the disparate experiences of employees with diversity, equity and inclusion.

A culture of voice has been found to drive positive organizational outcomes, such as performance, well-being, retention, and brand. Conversely, a culture of silence promotes burnout, poor performance and high turnover. Jennifer Garvey Berger suggests that in complex times like these, leaders can solve pernicious organizational problems by asking questions and seeking multiple perspectives.

Whether the culture of the organization is voice-based or silent can dictate the success of solutions. My research with public servants shows that when people work in a vocal culture, they feel more valued, safe, confident, and available. Conversely, when these same officials are in a culture of silence, they feel fearful, useless, overwhelmed and insecure. If you seek creativity and innovation from your people, what culture do you think aligns with these goals?

How to create a vocal culture?

First, leaders must ensure that people are heard. For CEOs and change agents seen as command-and-control leaders, lacking emotional intelligence, or eager to hear multiple points of view, creating a culture of voice will be a challenge. Without leadership buy-in, exercising voice over thoughts, ideas, and concerns will be stifled due to perceptions of fear and futility, resulting in employee and organizational silence.

It allows us to see the establishment of a voice culture through the prism of change management. McKinsey researchers have found that only 30% of change initiatives are successful, and in the public sector the success rate drops to 20%. Most change initiatives fail for three reasons: 1) leaders and change agents cannot embody the “coming” state of change; 2) inability to address and mitigate resistance; and 3) resource challenges.

Defining Success: Organizational leaders must constantly define and articulate what success looks like and why creating a culture of voice is important to the organization. I tend to align Why from a vocal culture to the core values ​​of an organization. Defining success with clear goals provides clarity and a line of sight to create a culture of voice. In addition, this joint provides a target when assessing effort.

This definition of success should include assessing the current culture to determine if the culture is aligned with voice or silence, and other strengths and weaknesses. Often skipping this step results in actions that fail due to feelings of fear, retaliation, and futility. Additionally, without including employees (and other stakeholders) in this process, solutions may not hit the mark. This assessment can be done using climate surveys, blitz surveys, or even as informal as using slips of paper to capture anonymous thoughts.

The definition of measuring success and culture provides the basis for identifying why what and How? ‘Or’ Whatregarding the development and implementation of a culture of voice and its integration into the fabric of the organization.

Train and develop emotionally intelligent leaders: One of the main drivers of creating a culture where all types of conversations are possible is having supervisors and leaders with the skills and desire to connect with staff. Leaders, especially HR managers, need to create and implement methods and practices to ensure that emotional intelligence is part of their talent management systems. Faroshia Ashleythe founder of Emoworks, based in the Netherlands, says that emotional intelligence is used to create connection and a culture of voice, because the ability to manage emotions is at the heart of an organization’s ability to respond to change, resilience and performance.

Empower employees: Klaus Schwab, CEO of the World Economic Forum, says empowered employees and customers are the key to organizational success, which is achieved by having emotionally intelligent leaders. Additionally, empowered employees provide better customer service than disengaged employees. Employees often hear about problems and understand the corresponding potential solutions. According to researcher Lina Xiong, when employees are empowered to take risks and resolve customer questions, it has a positive impact on customer service and organizational brand. When employees feel their ideas, thoughts, and ideas are heard and put into practice, they feel valued, secure, and confident, which has positive effects on productivity and accountability.

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