Talent seeks organisations that offer psychological safety

Talent seeks organisations that offer psychological safety

Today, employees are evaluating employers on this critical metrics of employee health and safety

The technology world continues to be rocked by a talent crisis that has left human resource teams throwing their arms around for a solution. The challenge is simple; there is no template to follow to come up with an answer. The pandemic has made people reset their priorities. In the last 30 months, employees have witnessed death of their near and dear ones, realised how fragile life was, and have huddled for comfort with their families when working from home. Psychological safety became paramount, and today employees are evaluating employers on this critical metrics of employee health and safety.

A leader is the safest person in the room

A McKinsey survey shows that a climate conducive to psychological safety starts at the very top of an organisation. The survey sought to understand the effects of senior-leader behaviour on employees’ sense of safety and found that senior leaders can help create a culture of inclusiveness that promotes positive leadership behaviours throughout an organisation by role-modelling these behaviours themselves. Team leaders are more likely to exhibit supportive, consultative, and challenging leadership if senior leaders demonstrate inclusiveness– for example, by seeking out opinions that might differ from their own and by treating others with respect. The leader should be the safest person in the room. Someone with whom one can share their innermost fears, seek guidance and help. They are looking for leaders who show compassion by saying what can they do to help.

The survey also shows that investing in leadership development across an organisation– for all leadership positions– is an effective method for cultivating the combination of leadership behaviours that enhance psychological safety. Employees who report that their organisations invest substantially in leadership development are more likely to also report that their team leaders frequently demonstrate consultative, supportive, and challenging leadership behaviours. They also are 64 percent more likely to rate senior leaders as more inclusive.

Reskilling opportunities build trust

One of the way employees seek psychological safety is to evaluate companies on the opportunities it provides for reskilling. People are worried about being redundant as technological advancements automate tasks. While money is important, top candidates care about working with newer technologies, building up their skills, being part of a culture that values technology, connecting with a purpose they find meaningful, and, most importantly, working on interesting and inspiring problems. Trust is a key element of psychological safety, and employees trust organisations that demonstrate willingness to invest in their future.

The employee value proposition (EVP) is critical in addressing these points. One European public-sector institution was having trouble filling 400 tech roles. It refocused its EVP on its mission to work for the “greater good,” such as establishing digital services for all citizens, improving the citizen experience, and making services provided by the administration faster and more reliable. It was able to significantly increase the number of applications received and thus shorten the process to fill positions to a matter of weeks rather than the many months it used to take.

The EVP needs to be backed up “on the ground” with programs and a culture that explicitly deliver on the promise. If talent sees that there is a disconnect between the stated EVP and the reality on the ground, they’re quick to leave and, worse, tell others. That can be devastating, because the most common way job seekers learn about companies is by reading company reviews from third-party sites, such as Glassdoor or Blind.

Focus on developer happiness, productivity & performance will follow

Retaining top talent requires an environment where developers are treated like innovators, not code writers, and are active participants in the business. McKinsey’s Organisational Health Index research, however, has shown that IT functions overall score well below the average in terms of organisational “health” (the ability to align around and execute strategic goals).

Business leaders can reverse this situation by making the quality of the developer experience a primary metric of success and using data to closely track job satisfaction. Microsoft, for example, turned to calendaring data (among other sources of information), which revealed that in the company’s devices unit, management practices related to meetings were reducing engineers’ job satisfaction. One of the most important metrics is how many of your developers are recruiting other developers, because it signals how strongly your people believe in your company and its vision. So, make referral programs transparent and efficient.

Growth is also essential in building an engineering culture, and it can take many forms. Top engineers don’t want to just bang out features; they want to experiment with new code, become better developers, and follow passion projects, such as reducing tech debt or optimising systems. Top companies build in extra buffer time to allow engineers to try new languages or tools that aren’t necessarily “in scope.” By the same token, however, engineers expect clear targets and rapid feedback loops to let them know if they’re hitting their marks.

Creating an environment of “psychological safety” (where developers feel safe raising issues quickly, for example) is also an important element of an engineering culture and is the number-one enabler in terms of technology’s impact on business performance. Tech leaders can role-model specific behaviours, such as demonstrating concern for team members as individuals rather than just employees and actively soliciting their input.

Stop turning great engineers into bad managers

Don’t expect your engineers to aspire to become people managers. More than two-thirds of developers, in fact, don’t want to.These experts instead prefer to keep their craft sharp and pursue ever more sophisticated digital challenges.

For this reason, digital organisations often have both managerial and non-managerial career paths for tech talent. Leading companies use lateral career moves to promote career growth and exciting career options. At Amazon, for example, people are encouraged to move across different products, channels, and/or roles to learn new skills and gain expertise in multiple areas of the business. Similarly, at Salesforce, it is common for engineers to move laterally across multiple products to gain experience. The technical track should be organised around clear “job architectures” and expectations for advancement at each level.

It is virtually impossible to imagine a business today succeeding without a strong base of tech talent. Only by accepting that overriding reality and making an all-out push to acquire the right tech talent can companies expect to capture the value that digital promises. And talent today is looking to gravitate towards organisations that generate the warm and fuzzy feeling of care, trust, and psychological safety.

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