Current State

Psychological safety is when people feel comfortable being themselves and expressing themselves in the workplace. They feel safe taking risks and stretching themselves; being authentic and transparent.

The biggest driver of psychological safety is creating a culture of inclusion. 87% of professionals actively involved in DE&I initiatives in their organizations told Brandon Hall Group that an inclusive work culture is important or very important. And our HCM Outlook 2021 Study rated it as the top people strategy for 2021.

Top Five People Strategies in 2021


Building and sustaining an inclusive workplace culture has two major prerequisites:

Getting buy-in from the C-Suite. If this already exists in your organization, you are off to a great start. If not, HR and/or key business leaders must advocate for diversity and inclusion and unconscious-bias awareness training at the C-Suite level. This means creating a safe space for these top leaders to ask awkward or embarrassing questions before leading organization-wide inclusivity initiatives. Once top leadership is comfortable and on board, they can be a driving force for setting an authentic, inclusive tone for everyone.

Integrating inclusivity into your core values. Core values should be re-evaluated periodically, especially during periods of disruption. If your organization’s core values already include an inclusive culture, great! If not, you will need to get buy-in from top leadership to update them.


An inclusive work culture that supports psychological safety is critical for employees to navigate change and take the necessary risks to perform and achieve individual and organizational goals. Organizations that fail to create this environment are at a competitive disadvantage.

Critical Question

• Does your organization understand the barriers that may prevent an inclusive culture that enables employees to be their authentic selves at work and contribute to organizational success?

• What adjustments in your organization’s core values or leader behaviors are needed to promote an environment of psychological safety?

Brandon Hall Group POV

Leaders must actively model inclusive behaviors and reinforce their importance toteam members. Success is determined by the daily interactions and experiences within the organization, both between leaders and their reports and between peers. Everyone is important and everyone is responsible.

Here are several examples of how leaders can help build an inclusive workplace culture that creates psychological safety for all:

• Model inclusive language. For example, learn and use the preferred pronouns for employees in your company and use “spouse” or “partner” rather than the gendered “husband” or “wife” to refer to someone’s spouse.

Be curious. Everyone has a story to tell about their experiences, interests, cultures, backgrounds or beliefs. Show interest in your employees and connect with them on a personal level.

• Check-in regularly with your employees. Check-ins are often associated with performance management, but these one-on-one meetings are also opportunities to build relationships and trust. Trust is critical to enable the open dialogue that allows employees to honestly express their needs — or discuss challenges they may experience in your workplace (particularly those of a sensitive nature).

Create safe spaces, both physical and virtual. For example, think about the needspeople may have for privacy and safe places while working, including lactation rooms for new mothers, prayer or meditation spaces, or quiet workspaces for workers who may be distracted or overstimulated by open floor plans. For remote workers, you can create digital safe “spaces” by encouraging employees to add pronouns to their email signatures and user names. Inviteemployees to reserve time for prayer and other personal needs by blocking it out on the calendar. You have to take actions that work for your culture, but these types of accommodations demonstrate acceptance of differences and build trust.

• Recognize and reward everyone’s performance. Recognition drives employee engagement and boosts morale. Singling out and rewarding specific behaviors also reinforces your company’s values.

Create events and initiatives focused on inclusivity. This is easy to do because there are already so many days, weeks and months officially designated to acknowledge diversity and inclusion. For instance, you can have events or discussions related to Pride Month, Black History Month, Ethnic Equality Month, Gender Equality Month, National Women’s History Month, Celebrate Diversity Month, Earth Day, World Autism Awareness Day, Juneteenth and many more. This builds awareness, connectedness in your team and demonstrates that you value diversity and want to include everyone.


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Claude Werder

Claude Werder oversees Brandon Hall Group's analyst team, new product development, corporate development, the HCM Excellence Conference 2015, publishing, and social media and marketing strategies for Brandon Hall Group. In that role, he manages Brandon Hall Group’s research priorities, Membership Program and Member Center, and Brandon Hall Group’s exclusive KnowledgeBases of research data and HCM solution providers, services and products.