Operationalizing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Through Psychological Safety

December 6, 2023 – Psychological safety, specifically in the workplace, is a shared belief by a team or group of people that that they are safe to express their individuality of self, thought, and expression. “This fostered belief allows team members to contribute, offer perspectives, and even make mistakes without fear of negative consequences,” said Justin Clark, COO of TI Verbatim Consulting, Inc. (TIVC). “When organizations or teams create a psychologically safe environment, employees are able to offer opinions or insight based on their individual experiences or opinions, increasing a culture of inclusiveness and belonging and often helping teams to be more creative and productive.”

Inclusiveness is one of the foundational elements of psychological safety, which sets the stage for individuals to feel valued and accepted as they are, according to Mr. Clark. “This foundational value provides a roadmap for operationalizing DEI. As the elements of psychological safety are achieved and sustained, an organization is better equipped to review policies and procedures through a new lens and members of the organization are more likely to make positive changes. Additionally, organizations benefit from conducting an assessment, including policy reviews, to ensure DEI efforts are appropriately addressed and realized.”

Mr. Clark explains that fostering a culture of psychological safety helps to mitigate and reduce power imbalances between low- and high-status members in a team or organization. “Perceived power distance and leader inclusiveness are a key factor in psychological safety, and when leaders and teams work together to create psychological safety, members of a team are more likely to contribute, challenge ideas, or report adverse events,” he said. “This allows teams and organizations to better avoid predictable failures and approach realized failures as opportunities for learning and improvement.”

Ideally, psychological safety is embraced and cultivated by leaders within an organization; however, it can be achieved without top-level buy-in within teams and groups, Mr. Clark notes. “Sustaining psychological safety is an ongoing practice,” he says. “The first three elements of psychological safety (inclusivity, curiosity, and trust) help with this cultivation. When an inclusive culture is created, employees are allowed to feel curious, which leads to innovation and improvement. When these two elements are combined, mutual trust begins to develop. Leaders, supervisors, and individuals should utilize feedback, follow-up, and modeling to maintain and support psychological safety.”

“The last two elements are collaboration and resilience, which work to sustain psychological safety,” Mr. Clark said. “When trust is built within teams, collaborative behaviors increase. This in turn allows teams to become more resilient to failures, viewing them as opportunities for learning and improvement.”

Measuring psychological safety involves quantifying generally qualitative data, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), according to Mr. Clark. He notes that a baseline psychological safety assessment can help to identify an organization’s current state, collectively, by demographics, or by element. “This is best done through a well-designed psychological safety survey of the workforce,” Mr. Clark said. “Subsequent follow-on assessments can serve as litmus tests as to how psychological safety is progressing. Engaging with a firm that specializes in this type of workplace culture optimization can be crucial in measuring, cultivating, and sustaining psychological safety.”

Mr. Clark also explains that where ethically and legally possible, organizations should strive for transparency, which has substantial implications for trust. “Leaders who are more open to sharing information and decision-making factors instill a higher level of trust in their team members,” he said. “This allows employees to feel more connected to the decision-making process, giving them an increased perception of voice and choice in decisions, policies, or processes and thereby increasing collaboration and resilience.”

Upcoming Webinar

Tomorrow join TI Verbatim Consulting for our interactive webinar supported by Hunt Scanlon Media. The session will focus on the convergence of psychological safety and DEI, where our panelists will discuss what psychological safety is, and how it can be leveraged to drive inclusive behaviors, policies, and operationalize DEI across organizations.

This is a great opportunity to hear first-hand from key players in our industry. They will share how psychological safety is foundational to building a successful DEI strategy as well as valuable insights on how to cultivate, sustain and measure it.

We will be joined by the TIVC’s premier organizational culture and DEI experts as well as visionary leaders shaping the landscape of organizational culture and DEI.

“Attendees of this webinar will have the opportunity to hear from industry leaders in the field of organizational culture and DEI,” said Mr. Clark. “They will share how psychological safety is foundational to building a successful DEI strategy as well as valuable insights on how to cultivate, sustain and measure it.”

Free registration … Click here to sign up!

The Speakers

Justin Clark serves as TIVC’s chief operating officer, where he is responsible for overseeing the organization’s ongoing operations and procedures. Working directly with the CEO, other members of senior management, and department leads to develop corporate strategies for growth. In his role, Mr. Clark oversees the execution of programs and projects both internally and for customers, with a focus on business support services and human enterprise optimization.

Saul Gomez is TIVC’s director of inclusion, diversity, equity & accessibility (IDEA), where he provides organizations consulting services and collaborates with subject matter experts to provide IDEA assessments and training programs. He is a Navy combat veteran experienced in organizational culture and executive-level briefing. Mr. Gomez has led diversity and inclusion initiatives for over 59,000 personnel and is highly experienced in operationalizing diversity, equity, and inclusion. He is a human-centered design facilitator, certified mediator, coach, and expert in agile practices implementation.

Veronica Lawrence is TIVC’s senior director of organizational optimization, where she leads the assessments of organizations’ cultures and climates and provides organizational consulting and change management services.

Veronica is a retired Navy master chief with 12 years of experience in culture and climate assessments, focus groups, and culture optimization strategic planning. She served five years as an inspector general assistant, evaluating the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion initiatives for 437,000 personnel. She is a master facilitator of difficult conversations and a seasoned executive coach. She has a strong background in evaluating the efficiency of diversity and inclusion programs and developing strategic training plans. Veronica is passionate about change management and is an equal opportunity advisor distinguished graduate from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. Moreover, she’s an expert in industrial and organizational psychology.

Orion P. Welch is an organizational leadership expert, a diversity equity & inclusion professional, and senior researcher. Dr. Welch is a respected transformational corporate strategy professional with an exceptional track record of driving business for positive change. He specializes in strategies harmonizing processes, people, innovation, and technology that take organizations to the next level in growth and profitability. A retired navy commander with over 28 years of military service, Dr. Welch culminated his military career serving as a premier subject matter expert and advisor to the U.S. and NATO Special operations command commanders. He possesses a DoD security top secret clearance. Dr. Welch is an expert executive advisor, senior team leader, DEI facilitator, change management agent, and serves as senior advisor for TIVC’s human enterprise optimization branch. He also serves as one of the University of Southern California doctoral researcher and student ambassador, and as a senior researcher for social programs that intersect with race, policing, and the application of law enforcement.

Lorie Hood is founder of The Hood Group, LLC. She is a neuropsychologist, traumatologist, an ICF master certified coach, a board certified forensic traumatologist (diplomate credential), Chaplain, and leadership coach for the U.S. Air Force & Space Force. Dr. Hood developed the high stakes performance and somatic rescripting methods, which increase human focus and performance while reducing the potential for trauma and burnout. She teaches individuals how to function in long-term, high-stress environments consistently and predictably while maintaining access to their brains, bodies, and full range of abilities. Her life’s work revolves around the concept of power, and how it intersects with humans and the systems and structures we create.

Attendance is free. To learn more and register to attend, click here!

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media


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