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A psychologically safe place to work

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
An inclusive recruitment process is all well and good but the benefits will quickly be lost if the organisation can’t retain these same employees. An inclusive recruitment process is useless if  not part of an inclusive culture . An inclusive culture is a lot harder to achieve than an inclusive recruitment process.
So you attracted all that diverse talent now what? All too often they won’t stay. Leaving not to advance their career but frustrated and disillusioned by their experience. They assumed that your recruitment process was an indication of an organisation with an inclusive culture, one where they would feel welcomed, a psychologically safe workplace where they would be accepted for who they are without feeling at a disadvantage, marginalised or excluded. Somewhere where what they had to offer would be valued.
Instead they found an organisation determined to hit diversity recruitment targets, strong on equality and diversity rhetoric but with managers lacking the confidence and skill to tackle openly and honestly the issues that arise in a diverse workforce, a staff group unsure of how to react and a leadership lacking the courage to challenge and be challenged.
Employees report feeling unsupported by managers who trivialise concerns or dismiss them as personality conflicts, colleagues who are insensitive, ill informed and accepting of stereotypes and senior managers only to willing to abdicate responsibility to HR and avoid any negative publicity.
Most organisations see the solution as awareness training currently this takes the form of unconscious bias awareness training. The intentions are good but from the outside this can look like window dressing. It is part of a tradition of assuming that some special training is required when it comes to equality and diversity. As if this is a recent add on to managers responsibilities.
 An alternative way of looking at this is as part of the management culture of the organisation and the importance the organisation attaches to people management skills. Are they seen as important as financial management skills or performance management skills? Probably not. If the organisation is a psychological safe work place, a place where people speak up without fear of retribution or humiliation, where employees feel listened to and valued, where debate is opened up by management not closed down, where mistakes are acknowledged without resorting to allocating blame, where initiative is encouraged and feedback is helpful, where HR is seen as important to the organisation’s success as finance is, then there would be no need for a one day unconscious bias course.
But if the organisation is not a psychologically safe place to work then an inclusive recruitment process won’t change anything.

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