This article is based on the chapter with the same name in the book People Before Tech: The Importance of Psychological Safety and Teamwork in the Digital Age, by Duena Blomstrom.
When first hearing about Psychological Safety many people make the assumption that it is a “nice to have”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Psychological Safety has clear, direct and tangible effects on the productivity and performance of teams, reflects into both team and organisational KPIs and provides a strong return on investment if increased.
This is not only anecdotally being experienced by every company that places sufficient emphasis on measuring and increasing Psychological Safety, but it is also evident when we look at the research.
When it comes to the work of increasing awareness, it is extremely important that we are able to have these numbers close and refer to them often.
Most importantly, these numbers are necessary when it comes to creating a business case for increasing Psychological Safety and doing the people work and human-centred organisations either choose one or use a handful to give the concept the priority it deserves.
- Studies show a 40% reduction in safety incidents for teams that have Psychological Safety.
- Psychological Safety has been shown to reduce employee turnover by 27%. (It is notable that these studies date from before the pandemic and there is anecdotal evidence of this number being much higher post-Covid).
- Research shows that teams which have high Psychological Safety are up to 20% more productive.
- Google ran a comprehensive study named Project Aristotle, analysing successful teams by surveying 50,000+ employees. They found that Psychological Safety was the #1 dynamic they had in common, followed by “Dependability”, “Structure and Clarity”, “Meaning” and “Impact”.
- Over 3,600 technology companies were polled by the Accelerate DORA Report which then concluded that the findings from Google’s Project Aristotle around the importance of Psychological Safety applied to most tech enterprises as well.
- Research has shown a direct connection between “employee affective commitment” aka “employee engagement” and Psychological Safety and the effects of employee happiness on the bottom line is undeniable and well documented.
- A recent study directly linked happiness with a 12% increase in productivity and multiple data sources such as a Gallup meta-analysis have previously shown that companies that have higher levels of employee engagement are 22% more profitable than their counterparts. Additionally, one study in Harvard psychologist Daniel Goleman’s book Primal Leadership, shows that for every 2% increase in how happy employees are, revenue grew by 1%.
These are just some of the numbers and there is an emerging body of research to show the impact of Psychological Safety on all industries — from the knowledge industry (in particular with Agile transformation projects), to pharma, healthcare, retail, engineering and more.
To aid in keeping these facts front-of-mind, the PeopleNotTech Psychological Safety Dashboard includes a “Did You Know?” feature to remind users of the importance of the work.
Equally, anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that the numbers above are not only valid cross-industry, and that there is an evident correlation to the improvement of mental health as a by-product of happy employees; but that these results may also be completely culture and gender agnostic, making Psychological Safety an interesting Diversity & Inclusion driver as well.
The exact ROI you can expect when increasing the Psychological Safety of teams is complex, anecdotally extremely high, and depends on a matrix of the strategic objectives of each enterprise. But the numbers above ought to go a long way to building an initial business case to start measuring and bettering this important healthy dynamic of teams.
Come back next week to read about Good Behaviours/Bad Behaviours of Teams