Global consultants McKinsey & Company recently published a report that promotes the need for psychological safety within teams and wider organisations if they are to survive and ultimately prosper.
The report cites that psychological safety is the key to, amongst other things:
- innovating quickly,
- unlocking the benefits of diversity and
- adapting well to change.
The Need for Psychological Safety
All of these are currently high up on the agenda of organisations as they seek to evolve out of the constraints of the pandemic or even just hold onto their workforce amidst the Great Resignation.
We know that the need for psychological safety – that feeling we get when we trust those around us – for us as humans has always been there; it’s what makes the difference between an environment in which we can thrive and one which saps our will to live, demotivates us and nudges us towards the exit.
But it’s been under existential threat in even the best teams over the last two years, fuelled by remote working, the threat of redundancies and simply the fact that our collective mental health has degraded at least a little in the face of so much uncertainty and disconnection.
McKinsey’s report goes on to assert that the key to ensuring psychological safety is to train leaders to establish it in their teams. We would probably all acknowledge that climates of psychological safety are dependent on the actions and examples of leaders but simply focussing on training them to achieve this has inherent risks.
That approach alone places the onus, burden and expectation on one person; they may not buy into it and do nothing with the training. They may wish to develop these skills, but the nature of human relationships is that they are shaped by everyone involved in them and don’t always respond well to unilateral efforts to change them.
By considering Bloom’s taxonomy of learning we’ve spent the last three years trying to work out how best to get people to apply skills and behaviours around mental health rather than just understanding them. In a busy timetable with ever-growing demands on our time, it can seem almost impossible to achieve, leaving people thinking “I really enjoyed that day’s training but when am I ever going to get around to implementing what I’ve been taught?”.
Current Mental Health Education Offerings
Over the last few years approaches to education around mental health, which has a direct correlation to psychological safety that cannot be understated, seem to have diverged into three broad offerings;
1. old-school live training events that seem great at the time, but the knowledge is rarely put into action in the long-term.
2. individual e-learning where distracted learners click through the slides in a vain attempt to pass the end of course test the first time.
3. highly technical app-centric systems that promise data insights but have limited uptake; typical adoption rates are about 15-25% across an organisation.
The disappointing truth that we came to accept is that, despite our best efforts, most people don’t remember what they learned in a day-long course or e-learning; most people don’t engage with apps over the long-term; people tend to engage with people because that is how we are put together. Changing cultures and challenging embedded stigma is a collective responsibility and expecting it to change for the better is leaving a lot to chance.
That’s not to say these methods don’t have huge potential and their place in a wellbeing strategy but they don’t typically fit into the flow of daily work, they don’t noticeably impact culture and they have limited impact on the psychological safety in teams.
The question that we asked ourselves when we were trying to work out how to solve this challenge was: “How do we as colleagues make best use of existing relationships and the time we spend together, at the same time as removing the excuses we all make to not address this vital topic?”
Answering this question has led us to the Genesis approach, which is about teams engaging at a more human level, becoming more comfortable with typically uncomfortable topics, improving connection and psychological safety.
We also believe that using Genesis in teams helps organisations to get more out of other wellbeing provision – such as apps, EAPs and e-learning – by establishing more collective awareness and incentive to engage with them, going way beyond the impact of a traditional comms campaign.
This video gives a bit more detail on how Genesis approaches this challenge.
Initial engagement with clients suggests that we’re on to something but we’d love to get more feedback and insight.
We have a number of no-cost Genesis pilot opportunities for organisations who want to help us shape the future of the mental wellbeing narrative. If you like to get involved, please get in touch at email@example.com