Amy Edmondson studied it, Google proved it, and your employees are looking for it.
What is it?
Today, we’re talking about psychological safety.
Well, Hanna Kontinen is.
Hanna is the Head of Talent and Culture at Brella, an event networking platform.
She talks to us about why and how Brella nurtures psychological safety to build a working environment where everyone feels heard and comfortable saying what’s on their mind.
“I’m proud of the level of the psychological safety we have reached here at Brella,” Hanna says, "This has definitely been a team effort. The founders created a foundation for everything, our hiring process aims to support these initiatives, and lastly, our people are really keeping the bar high here. Always supporting and encouraging each other!"
Psychological safety is when people can share ideas and feelings without fear of being punished or shamed.
When psychological safety is high, people feel comfortable taking risks (and failing) without feeling stupid.
Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard, and author of The Fearless Organization, introduced the idea of team psychological safety as a path to business innovation, connection and collaboration.
In fact, researchers at Google (who were looking at the factors that make a high-performing team) found that individuals on teams with higher psychological safety were:
--> less likely to leave Google,
--> more likely to explore diverse ideas from their teammates,
--> bringing in more revenue,
--> rated as more effective.
Sounds like a winner, right?
Anyway, back to Brella.
Connection and collaboration are the starting points when nurturing a psychologically safe culture.
“Most, if not all HR initiatives are a team effort. They require a strong collaboration with the employees to work. You can’t force these things.”
So how exactly has Brella achieved this?
The People team stay very close with every Brellaneer, starting with regular check-meetings while every employee is onboarding.
“We have many check-in meetings with every Brellaneer during the onboarding process and even after that. It's important to build trust and a safe environment from the very beginning. We hope that from the get go, every employee knows that they can speak freely or voice any concerns with us,” Hanna explains.
The support for Brella employees doesn’t stop there.
Brella provides company-wide training on DEI topics (e.g. allyship) preparing employees to better support, collaborate with and advocate for each other.
“We’ve tried to create an environment where everyone can respect and empathise with each other by giving everyone the tools they need to make this work,” says Hanna.
Leadership is critical when it comes to psychological safety. At Brella, the People Team actively coaches team leads on topics such as: how to create a strong feedback culture; how to handle difficult conversations; and how to lead by example when it comes to psychological safety.
And it’s not just training and development that helps create psychological safety.
When it comes to recruitment, Brella has a strict ‘no assholes’ policy, setting the bar very high.
“We really believe that all employees have a responsibility to create and maintain a safe working environment by being aware of how their behaviour may affect others,” Hanna explains.
“We wouldn’t have made the progress that we have without having stringent vetting processes when hiring new talent.”
So, what does progress look like at Brella?
A DEI Committee made up of employees and some of the leadership team, meet once a month to discuss varied DEI actions.
At the moment, the DEI team are co-creating a new Compensation and Career Path Model for Brella to make sure that they can guarantee a system of fair, equal and inclusive career development and pay for everyone. Having a standalone committee means that progress is constant in DEI.
To close the loop, Brella measures employee engagement actively, and has anonymous feedback channels to make sure everyone feels safe to give constructive feedback as well if needed.
“Based on the feedback, most of our people seem to feel safe and respected. At the moment our psychological safety NPS metric is 89. The feeling of belonging seems to be relatively high here at Brella, despite the challenges that come with being an international and hybrid working environment,” Hanna reveals.
Hanna believes it’s the sum of all these small initiatives that have helped nudge Brella’s culture in the right direction… but there’s still a way to go.
She continues, “In general, we try to lead with empathy, not ego. However, we’re definitely not perfect when it comes to DEI. We still have a lot to do and learn, but I feel that we’re on the right track.”
We think so too, Hanna!