Each day, leaders encounter a business world that is increasingly interdependent. Technology advances have made it easier for organizations to connect and operate across borders. Companies have more opportunity than ever before to access diverse resources, talents and customers worldwide.

At the heart of international business, though, are the managers and supervisors who have been required to grow and adapt with the global perspective. For example, economic interdependence has forced people to work together as they integrate trade, investment and supply chains. Leaders up and down the corporate structure have had to up their efforts in the interconnected global setting.

What many leaders don’t have in this new environment – particularly when managing across nations and regions – is access to data that provides insight on the challenges employees face. A leader at a corporate headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, for example, can’t easily interpret what employees at their factory in Mexico or China face each day. Similarly, a senior executive here in Raleigh might need insight into what is happening with teams in France, the United Kingdom or Australia.

Using its data science and reach across 116,000 companies, 200 countries and territories and care for more than 79 million people, Workplace Options (WPO) released the “WPO Psychological Safety Study: Global Context for Organizational Success,” a multimedia content hub that puts psychological safety at the center of employee well-being and engagement. The study focuses on employee challenges in nine countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, United Kingdom and United States.

Study finds workplace concerns vary by country

From the study outcomes, leaders find the top three workplace issues that employees from each country are experiencing. The most important aspect is that the data is derived from actual employee discussion with WPO clinicians in those countries, not surveys or opinion polls. The focus on psychological safety is critical, since the topic has emerged as a pivotal factor influencing a host of culture-based outcomes, from organizational efficiency to team collaboration and innovation.

As WPO President and CEO Alan King explains, “A culture built on psychological safety has immense value. Deep-rooted employee engagement leads to greater creativity, innovation and an environment where people can be their authentic self in every aspect of their life.”

WPO Psychological Safety Study: Global Context for Organizational Success

The “WPO Psychological Safety Study” reveals the following key points:

The research underscores the interconnectedness of psychological safety and employee engagement. Employees who feel psychologically secure are more likely to exhibit heightened levels of commitment, motivation and initiative. Empowerment fosters an environment where individuals feel emboldened to contribute ideas, voice concerns and collaborate with peers, ultimately fueling innovation and productivity.

There is a significant correlation between psychological safety and bottom-line business outcomes. Organizations that prioritize psychological safety tend to experience enhanced levels of employee retention, customer satisfaction and overall profitability.

Nurturing psychological safety necessitates proactive leadership initiatives. Leaders must exemplify behaviors that promote openness, trust and inclusion. Prioritizing transparent communication, soliciting feedback and fostering an environment of psychological safety enables employees to feel secure in taking risks, exploring innovative solutions and fostering personal growth.

The data illuminates global trends and variances in psychological safety across diverse cultural contexts. While fundamental principles of psychological safety remain universal, understanding cultural nuances is paramount. Acknowledging unique challenges and opportunities within different teams helps leaders tailor strategies to effectively cultivate psychological safety.

5 steps for creating psychologically safe workplaces

For many leaders, even senior-level executives, the focus on psychological safety is difficult enough, but it’s intensified by the global nature of today’s work world. For those who are trying to identify ways to cultivate psychological safety at home or with colleagues abroad, here are five actionable steps:

Lead by example: Demonstrate empathy, humility and vulnerability to set the tone for psychological safety within the organization.

Prioritize communication: Establish channels for open dialogue and transparent communication, ensuring employees have access to necessary information and avenues for feedback.

Encourage innovation: If you want to win in the new economy, you must actively construct a culture that celebrates risk-taking and innovation, which empowers employees to explore new ideas and approaches.

Invest in well-being: Support holistic well-being programs through wellness initiatives, mental health resources and flexible work arrangements.

Continuous evaluation: Regularly solicit feedback and assess key metrics related to psychological safety to gauge progress and identify areas for improvement.

It is as if the world is spinning faster, but leaders can ground their efforts to grow employee engagement through psychologically safe workplaces. By prioritizing psychological safety and creating a culture where employees feel valued, respected and empowered, leaders across an organization can unleash the full potential of their teams and drive sustainable success in a globally competitive business environment.

For more on psychological safety and inclusive leadership, look for my new book The Inclusive Leadership Handbook: Balancing People and Performance for Sustainable Growth, co-authored with Kurt Merriweather, vice president of innovation at The Diversity Movement, published April 26.

About Donald Thompson

Donald Thompson, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 SE Award winner, founded The Diversity Movement (TDM) to fundamentally transform the modern workplace through diversity-led culture change. TDM was recently acquired by Workplace Options, which brings holistic wellbeing services to more than 80 million people in more than 200 countries and territories across the globe. Recognized by Inc., Fast Company and Forbes, Thompson is author of Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, hosts the podcast “High Octane Leadership in an Empathetic World” and has published widely on leadership and the executive mindset. As a leadership and executive coach, Thompson has created a culture-centric ethos for winning in the marketplace by balancing empathy and economics. His next book is The Inclusive Leadership Handbook: Balancing People and Performance for Sustainable Growth.

Follow him on LinkedIn for updates on news, events and his podcast, or contact him at info@donaldthompson.com for executive coaching, speaking engagements or DEI-related content. TDM has created LeaderView, a leadership assessment tool that uses cultural competency as a driver for improving whole team performance. To further explore DEI content and issues impacting your work and life, visit TDM Library, a multimedia resource hub that gives leaders a trusted source of DEI content.