Building a Psychologically Safe Workplace: Strategies for Employee Retention

Welcome to our exploration of psychological safety in the workplace - a critical factor in employee retention and overall organisational health.

In today’s fast-paced work environment, especially within councils facing unique pressures, creating a space where employees feel safe to voice their concerns without fear of retribution is more important than ever.

Our insights delve into how psychological safety affects employee engagement and the steps your council can take to foster a more supportive and inclusive workplace.

Psychological safety for employee retention

If your council is experiencing elevated levels of employee churn, it might be worth considering whether psychological safety is a factor.

Understanding employee perceptions

Our insights paper – Revolving Doors – looks at the difference between onboarding and offboarding scores to understand how employee perceptions change over time.

Revolving Doors revealed a significant decrease in the psychological safety score, comparing when employees first started to when they left the organisation.

FACT: On exit, only 63% of employees said they felt safe to tell the truth even when it was unpopular, a drop of 19%!


What is psychological safety?

A Harvard Business Review article describes psychological safety as "The belief that one can speak up without risk of punishment or humiliation." The article goes on to say that "psychological safety has been well established as a critical driver of high-quality decision making, healthy group dynamics and interpersonal relationships, greater innovation, and more effective execution in organisations”.

Why is it important?

Providing an environment where your people are confident to speak up without consequence is critical. Especially where there are sensitive issues in play such as bullying, harassment, or intimidating behaviour.

Every organisation is potentially at risk, especially when the stakes are high or other pressures are present. The recent enquiry into Red Bull’s Formula One team is a case in point.


Feedback as the pathway to improvement

Take the approach where all feedback is viewed positively. Even if it’s constructive or challenging, your team member cares enough to share their thoughts, paving the way for improvement. Be the bigger person and accept the feedback in the spirit in which it was shared.


The impact on employee engagement

For those who think this is all mumbo jumbo, think again! Psychological safety is important because it enhances employee engagement. When people feel safe at work it is easier for them to connect and engage. The benefits are many and include reduced churn, greater productivity, less stress, more engagement, greater collaboration, and faster learning. Not only that, but your employer brand will benefit as well.


Establishing a feedback-friendly environment

Start by establishing a safe environment and processes for people to provide their feedback. Listen to what is being said, and make improvements. And then repeat.

Sometimes the best way to surface issues is to run an anonymised survey, where people are unencumbered by identity and feel freer to speak up. Whatever the results are, own them, and share them.

And when someone raises a new or current issue, ensure there are absolutely no recriminations.


Our top tips to build psychological safety at work:

  • Inclusive decision-making: Involve employees in decisions to make them feel valued.
  • More transparency: Acknowledge mistakes and learn from them openly.
  • Adapt to accommodate preferences: Tailor your approach to fit individual and team needs.
  • Build a feedback culture: Embrace a cycle of asking, listening, and acting on feedback.
  • Encourage work-life balance: Support employees in finding a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives.


In summary, the importance of psychological safety in the workplace cannot be overstated. It is the bedrock upon which innovative, resilient, and high-performing councils are built.

By incorporating strategies such as inclusive decision-making, increasing transparency, adapting to individual needs, fostering a feedback-rich culture, and encouraging work-life balance, councils can create an environment where employees feel valued, safe, and engaged.

Taking these steps not only reduces employee turnover but also propels your council towards a future marked by enhanced productivity, collaboration, and a robust employer brand.

Let's commit to building workplaces where every voice is heard, respected, and valued.

Date: 20th September 2022
Category: Psychological Safety
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