SUMMARY: This framework can help guide a review of your organization's policies and procedures for potential impact on psychological health and safety. It covers the five elements of a standard management approach (policy, plan, implement, check and review), and applies it against different employment life cycle stages.

A group of executives, labour leaders, health and safety professionals, government agency representatives and experts in law and policy came together to look at the implications of Dr. Martin Shain's paper entitled, "Tracking the Perfect Legal Storm: Converging systems create mounting pressure to create the psychologically safe workplace". The group was tasked with considering what employers need to know and/or access to provide a psychologically safe workplace in today's economic environment. The full report is also available here.

The following is an excerpt that takes the five elements of a standard management approach (policy, plan, implement, check and review), and applies it against different employment life cycle stages.

Use this to help guide your own planning and review.

The Five Elements of a Standard Management Approach with Recommendations within each Category

Policy and commitment

Recruiting and hiring

  • Define "psychologically safe workplace" for new recruits
  • Articulate the values of organization and how they will be upheld or measured
  • State that no negligent, reckless or intentional injury to employee mental health is tolerated or condoned

Orientation and training

  • Require that the organization values be embedded in both orientation and all training approaches

Evaluation, performance management, discipline and promotion

  • Require senior leaders and those responsible for governance to "walk the talk" of organizational values

Intervention and crisis response

  • Require clear standards of response in the event of crisis

Accommodation and return to work

  • Ensure Understanding of and compliance with Human Rights and Disability Law

Redeployment and termination

  • Ensure leaders are physically present and communicate effectively during times of layoff or redeployment

Organizational structure

  • Consider the potential psychological impact from governance, new development approaches and existing organizational structures
  • Require integration of psychological safety in existing and future programs

Job design

  • Organizational policy to include a process to assess healthy and safe job design (e.g., job risk assessment and cognitive demands analysis)

Planning

Recruiting and hiring

  • Consider Emotional Intelligence in selection and promotion of those whose role involves supervision or support of employees
  • Ensure the hiring process includes consideration of psychological safety for interviewees

Orientation and training

  • Consider how all (or the absence of) orientation and training processes may impact psychological safety

Evaluation, performance management, discipline and promotion

  • Develop a system that supports psychological safety in the approach to management, evaluation, discipline and promotion

Intervention and crisis response

  • Ensure that crisis response programs include aspects related to those with mental health concerns as well as considering the psychological impact of a crisis on all employees

Accommodation and return to work

  • Define accommodation opportunities that address issues related to communication, feedback, directions, relationships, triggers and stressors in the workplace as well as task-oriented approaches
  • Consider the impact on others during accommodation and return to work planning
  • Proactively remove or reduce barriers to work-related psychological safety and support

Redeployment and termination

  • Explore community resources, organizational or benefit provider resources and external providers for approaches and supports available to those who are losing their jobs
  • Consider the psychological impact on "survivors" of downsizing, layoffs or redeployments
  • In times of significant change consider the psychological impact of job insecurity, lack of role clarity, competition or collaboration with newcomers, changing or unclear expectations or values

Organizational structure

  • Collect data that will help guide the development or evolution of the organizational structure including focus on psychological impact
  • Analyze data and involve stakeholders in developing alternative approaches
  • Consider the psychological impact of communication and feedback loops, job security, role clarity, levels of competition and collaboration, clarity of expectations, values and policies

Job design

  • Plan/review jobs to ensure that psychological demands are assessed and psychological safety is addressed

Implementation and operations

Recruiting and hiring

  • Discuss accommodation and organizational supports as well as the process to obtain assistance in the workplace
  • Define cultural and social expectations or norms within your workplace
  • Increase psychological comfort by considering recruiting options such as:
    • Sharing the interview process in advance
    • Providing written questions at the time of interview
    • Offering a choice of sequential versus panel interviews

Orientation and training

  • Define an orientation program that takes into account mental health aspects of the job, the culture, rates of change within the organization, application of organizational values, how to access support or accommodation
  • Set up a management development process that includes awareness of mental health and mental illness, development of interpersonal competence, access to just-in-time resources, and coaching/mentoring
  • Set up a shorter orientation process for job changes within the organization

Evaluation, performance management, discipline and promotion

  • Ensure those responsible for management of people have a minimum standard of emotional intelligence or support to develop this skill
  • Create a performance management system that rules out health problems before beginning discipline and embeds solution-focused approaches in working with employee issues
  • Engage employees in developing solutions that allow them to accomplish the tasks assigned
  • Help supervisors and managers to identify and solve workplace issues promptly and in a sustainable manner

Intervention and crisis response

  • Develop programs for proactive crisis prevention
  • Develop intervention programs to assist troubled employees
  • EAP programs must be relevant to your organization

Accommodation and return to work

  • Create a return to work process that includes consideration of psychological impacts, even for physical injuries or illness
  • Consider refresher or new training for anyone who has been away for 2 months or more, or during a time of change in processes or procedures
  • Develop an accommodation approach that engages the employee fully in finding solutions that allows him/her to be successful at his/her job
  • Support supervisors in understanding and sustaining all aspects of a successful return to work including changes in communication and feedback

Redeployment and termination

  • Provide targeted training programs for those managing organizational change and those who execute terminations
  • Ensure availability of resources to support the employee in dealing with the emotional fallout and subsequent job search
  • Consider the needs of those who may have mental health issues at the time of termination and the psychological safety of those who are terminating

Organizational structure

  • Ensure psychological safety for all positions including those that utilize non-standard approaches such as telecommuting, working alone and other flexible work arrangements

Job design

  • Job design for those in supervisory or management positions includes adequate time to provide a psychologically safe work environment

Checking and corrective actions

Recruiting and hiring

  • 3-6 month review of job-fit to assess the effectiveness of recruiting and hiring practices
  • Measure satisfaction and engagement as well as performance
  • Consider a short survey asking about the recruiting and hiring process to seek input for improvement
  • If necessary provide relevant training and support
  • If changes are needed review again in another 3-6 months as necessary

Orientation and training

  • Require all training and orientation to be assessed for impact on behavior of the trainee and others, as well as outcomes
  • Ask what challenges there were in new job placement to learn how to improve orientation and training approaches
  • Ask about training requirements and training refreshers to understand the needs

Evaluation, performance management, discipline and promotion

  • Take regular account of productivity by measuring outcomes rather than outputs (i.e., measure results rather than effort such as showing up every day or working longer hours)
  • Analyze external influences on performance such as economic pressures, family issues, community disasters, as well as employee conflict, and organizational pressures

Intervention and crisis response

  • Assess efficacy of programs and relevance to need

Accommodation and return to work

  • Have regular follow up for at least the first 6 months of a return to work
  • Have at least annual follow up for accommodation to ensure it is still the most effective solution
  • Make sure that needs are being met

Redeployment and termination

  • Solicit feedback from both those who are let go (exit interviews) and those left behind about the perception of the company response to layoff or redeployment

Organizational structure

  • Audit programs to ensure that psychological factors are measured and addressed at regular intervals

Job design

  • Seek feedback from those in the jobs to assess if the design is psychologically safe and clearly defined
  • Make adjustments as necessary

Review

Recruiting and hiring

  • Annual Review of recruiting and hiring practices overall and analysis of the outcomes

Orientation and training

  • Do scheduled reviews of organization-wide, department and job-specific orientation and training approaches and compare to other measures of psychological safety and engagement

Evaluation, performance management, discipline and promotion

  • Consider the impact of the various systems of management and evaluation and whether they result in desired outcomes
  • Consider pilot projects to test out alternative approaches

Intervention and crisis response

  • Review all programs, look for synergies, and consider gaps

Accommodation and return to work

  • Review annually against human rights or Disability Law changes and for effectiveness from the perspective of employee and supervisor
  • Make changes as needed

Redeployment and termination

  • Prepare for possible future situations by having plans in place or consider next steps if the event has already occurred

Organizational structure

  • Review results using continuous improvement framework

Job design

  • Review job design when new jobs are developed or there are significant changes to jobs