Index Shows more Kiwi workplaces need to prioritise psychological safety: Reveals that Government employee needs are not being met

Jane Kennelly, Director People and Stakeholder Management at Skills Consulting Group, brings together some insights about workplace wellbeing from their 2023 Skills Group Work Wellbeing Index.

If you’ve ever been shot down in a meeting for suggesting an out-of-the-box idea or brushed off when you’ve voiced a workplace concern, you’re not alone.

According to the latest research by Skills Consulting Group, psychological safety - the belief that you won’t be disadvantaged for speaking up - is not alive and well in many Kiwi workplaces.

The 2023 Skills Group Work Wellbeing Index shines the spotlight on what employees really want from their workplaces and where businesses stack up with delivering it – and their most recent survey highlights a significant gap in psychological safety. While 86% of employees and 88% of businesses agree that psychological safety is important, only 25% of companies were confident they could create a psychologically safe work environment. Furthermore, a dive into the Government sector revealed that 90% of employees ranked psychological safety in the workplace as important, but just 18% of them felt their employer made it a priority.

That’s bad news for businesses and employees alike because, as the Work Wellbeing Index clearly illustrates, psychological safety is intrinsically linked to employee wellbeing, productivity and retention – three key issues currently facing Kiwi businesses.

“Our research shows that employee wellbeing and effectiveness are slowly trending down, but the good news is, psychological safety is a powerful tool to improve both,” explains Jane Kennelly, Skills Group Director People & Stakeholder Management. “The more a workplace prioritises psychological safety, the higher the wellbeing and the more effective employees are, which leads to greater job satisfaction, motivation and retention.”

In fact, of the 1055 employees surveyed, those who worked for organisations that prioritised psychological safety recorded 85% job satisfaction and 91% job motivation – a stark contrast to the 48% and 69% recorded by employees in workplaces where psychological safety was low on the priority list.

So why aren’t more Kiwi companies focusing on this?

“Psychological safety is essential for high-performance teams, but creating it takes commitment. It requires training, senior leadership commitment and resources, and there are also cultural barriers to navigate.”

And that adds up to a lot more than just box ticking. Introducing daily fruit bowls, lunchtime yoga, or one-off programmes like wellbeing month won’t cut it. A culture of trust, belonging and connection needs to be developed to make a genuine difference.

“Creating psychological safety requires an organisation or Government sectors to embed it into the culture,” adds Jane.

“Through promoting a more strategic and long-term approach to wellbeing initiatives, we can inspire New Zealand business and Government to make a real and lasting impact.”

On 16 August 2023 IPANZ and Skills Consulting Group hosted a webinar on the findings of Skills is subject, which you can find here.