Most of us are still in quarantine mood, remotely working or in a hybrid working environment. We surely need to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally since COVID 19 is still very much active despite the decreasing statistics.
The BPO sector was greatly affected by the myriad of events when the quarantine started last year. HR and Operations made significant adjustments to cater to the demands of their business. In a news article, Manila Times reported that despite the lack of jobs and economic threat, BPO has hired 23,000 Filipinos in 2020 and is planning to hire at least 450,000 more by 2022. While the target is well on point, the pandemic threat is still present, and the toll on mental health is becoming more alarming.
To keep our employees motivated to work, People Managers must look into the future of work, the demands of the new work environment influenced by generational social shifts. One evident effort to execute is the strong focus on psychological safety, the feeling of showing and employing oneself without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status, or career (Kahn, 1990)
Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School, defined psychological safety as a safe environment where employees are free to ask questions, report errors, offer ideas and innovation without fear of punishment and embarrassment.
In the post-pandemic era, we offer three strategies on how organizations can foster psychological safety.
Create a trusting environment. The pandemic has changed the landscape of work, and integrity has been in a blurry line. People Managers must provide a psychologically safe platform where employees are confident to share their current work status and concerns affecting focus at work. With pandemic we share the same fear, which creates openness to voice out employees' thoughts and concerns with colleagues. This can be an opportunity for collaboration and innovation that may not be pre-pandemic.
Ask for feedback and ensure confidentiality. Filipino culture is not that open to receiving and sharing feedback without fear. That is because we hate to be placed in an uncomfortable situation for fear of explaining ourselves and eventually losing our source of income. People Managers are encouraged to create a work environment that nurtures confidentiality and anonymity, a structure that will protect a speaking employee from possible retaliation. In some organization, a dedicated hotline is identified to cater to these employee efforts, which are treated like an executive escalation. Employees must feel that their feedback and being treated with utmost confidentiality and importance.
Appreciate feedback and suggestions during a transition. As an HR leader, you may not have the visibility and in-depth understanding of the operations and how employees face their customers and other stakeholders. On most occasions, speaking up or bringing the issue forward is a big effort for some employees with valid concerns. When employees transition to a new work environment, they experience varied emotions that may distress them. Cheryl Collins, a psychological safety advocate and principal consultant at Knowledge Waits Consulting, suggests that an effective way to lead employees through a transition is to recognize and reinforce positive behaviors. Further, showing appreciation to employees will make them feel valued and relatable.
With the current work environment in pandemic, work has become more interdependent, tangled with different factors in our lives, which could be unprecedented for most of us. If employees are afraid to share their thoughts, ideas, and observations it is possible to lose opportunities and risk mitigation. Promoting psychological safety at work could elevate HR practice in general, however creating it in a rigid culture of silence and blind obedience could be a leap of faith. People Managers play a vital role in building a psychological safe environment and to truly live the company’s mission, vision, and purpose.