Safety cultures and happy employees

A group of happy employees in an office

Happy, safe employees generally stay longer at their organizations, are more productive, and cause fewer incidents. Successful leaders know this and actively develop safety cultures— climates in which people are comfortable being (and expressing) themselves—to make sure that everyone is safe and feels valued.
Some things, like high turnover or no one speaking up in meetings, should prompt you to check whether your culture needs work. But don’t worry! If there is a problem, there are things you can do. Here are five tips.

Communicate openly

Trust is the basis of a healthy organization, and communication is the basis of trust. Communication, though, needs to go two ways.

First, treat people like adults. Tell them what they need to know, be clear and honest, and, if in doubt, err on the side of openness. Second, listen. Normalize feedback. Make it easy for your team to tell you what they think with regular opportunities for discussion and multiple forums dedicated to commentary and criticism. Genuine two-way communication will foster that all-important trust that turns a group of people into a team. Transparency is the magic word.

Act reliably

People doing what they promise to do is surprisingly rare. This is great for you, because being (or turning into) one of those rare people is an easy way to set yourself apart. Your team have more confidence in you because of your history of follow-through.

If you can foster reliability throughout your organization, even better. Staff will be more prepared, confident, and effective. Conversely, widespread unreliability causes a kind of professional introversion, where people prioritize individual goals above organizational goals and, in serious cases, don’t trust communication from managers.

Show vulnerability

If you are uncomfortable with emotional situations, you’re not alone. But being vulnerable in the workplace can actually be beneficial. For example, people are often afraid to admit mistakes, but owning them and explaining what happened is usually the best option. The error gets fixed, everyone will trust you not to sweep problems under the rug, and your team will learn from your example. Win-win-win!

Be kind

People don’t become robots just because they’re at work. Actually, it’s the opposite. The workplace can be a difficult and stressful environment, so be kind, encourage people to look after their mental health (and back up that attitude with concrete actions), and watch loyalty and productivity soar.

Talk about the safety culture

Okay, so safety is important, but sometimes people genuinely don’t know how to be safe in the workplace. So talk about it! Explain your expectations and demonstrate the behaviours you want to see. If you only talk about safety once a year, no one will think you’re serious. You need to model good practices consistently if you want them to stick.

For more on safety cultures and fostering them in the workplace, take a look at ITIL® 4: High-velocity IT.

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