From our Occasional contributor, Anne-Marie Orrock.
As a HR leader, or manager, we are influencers and agents for creating high performance in our organisation. We often focus mostly on achieving high performance through goal setting, (e.g. OKR’s/KPI’s) or skill and knowledge development. We also employ a variety of other tools and mechanisms such as stacked ranking and HiPo 9 box grids to measure performance. However, there is a critical factor that significantly impacts the outcome of raising the bar on employee performance, and that is wellbeing.
The OC Tanner 2020 Global Culture Report surveys 38,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners and executives across 21 countries across the world across six essential elements that impact a thriving culture. Amongst a sense of purpose, opportunity, success and appreciation, wellbeing is also a key element. The report defines wellbeing as: “Caring of an employee as a whole – their physical, social, emotional and financial health.”
Ensuring we are diagnosing how safety is impacting employee engagement and health has a direct correlation to performance. Often the perspective around safety management can focus on a Safety Management System ensuring the risk management and compliance of staff physical safety – and the ‘wellbeing’ partner of ‘safety and wellbeing’ plays second fiddle, if it gets a place on the stage at all.
Whether you are primarily a white collar or blue collar (or both) workplace, psychological safety plays a large part in how effective an employee’s performance is. When an individual employee does not feel psychologically safe commitment unravels, and then performance starts to erode. When a team of employees don’t feel safe lost potential in performance is compounding.
When your whole workforce is operating at a level of fear you are reaching levels of emotional toxicity that is extremely debilitating. The collective mindset, and employment relationship, degenerates to a measured transactional arrangement. You get mediocrity at best, with increasing turnover and risk, and at worst, huge risk and extreme safety outcomes potentially costing lives.
In February 2003 the world witnessed the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia. NASA conducted an investigation with an independent safety investigation provider and found that there was a systemic failure of leadership to address the employees’ safety concerns years prior to lift off. Corners where being cut, cheaper materials used, and there was a culture of fear as employees were fired, demoted or promotional opportunities bypassed as punishment for speaking out against the problems and issues surrounding the space program. Failure was punished, and people were covering their backsides or keeping quiet to hold on to their jobs. The ultimate outcome of this environment was the loss of seven lives, impact on families, and hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on an unsuccessful mission.
The global pandemic has been a wakeup call to many HR professionals and leadership on where wellbeing sits as a priority in our safety management systems. Is it a cursory nod? or do you have robust and meaningful programs around social and emotional health?
As HR leaders we need to think more consciously on how we drive high performance through safety and wellbeing as a core driver of culture, rather than an afterthought.
Examples of when in attention to a workplace safety culture adds up and leads to a lack of psychological safety include:
- Lack of robust safety management system in place that is known and supported by all staff and leadership.
- Avoiding expenditure on tools and equipment with enhanced safety features.
- Taking risks with procedure and process (e.g, how a task is done) that has known safety risks. (i.e. accepting the status quo)
- Ignoring or down playing known safety hazards or complaints and issues raised by staff that have a safety basis to them (either physical, social or psychological)
- Letting safety training lapse and go long overdue.
- Failing to produce or maintain safety materials, resources or education schedules.
- Engagement surveys that don’t address safety & wellbeing elements of workplace.
- Disengaged and inactive Safety Committees.
- Failing to commit an adequate budget to wellbeing initiatives and remediation.
Wellbeing ensures an individual can be their strongest, most capable and most authentic selves at work. You can set goals and KPI’s and spend on skills training, but without investing in wellbeing as a strong core foundation is like holding sand in a sieve. Efforts at achieving ‘high performance’ without strong psychological safety and wellbeing are ineffective.
Reach out to C-Suite Safety today for a Proven Safety Solution and implement or maximise your Safety Management System to ensure high performance outcomes.
Anne-Marie is a seasoned HR business leader, and experienced HR Management Consultant.
Over 15 years of proven Senior HR business leadership in strategically driving change and transformation.
An entrusted business partner and advisor supporting the business to the next level of sophistication and efficiency.
See Anne-Marie’s profile here