We know that safety is an integral part of any healthy workplace culture. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we need to feel safe before we can move on to achieving self-actualization—self-actualization being what inspires us to do our best work. When employees feel safe they’re able to trust their managers and peers, allowing them to focus on being productive and engaged.
HR leaders know this. But sometimes our partners, who aren’t as well-versed in HR best practices, need more convincing.
To get stakeholders to sign off on our ideas, we need to know how to speak their language. It’s not enough to explain why implementing safety-forward programs is important; we have to be able to show their projected bottom-line impact on the business.
To help you sell executives on your safety programming, we’ve put together four data-based arguments that show them not just the cultural relevance of your work, but also the quantifiable business impact. This data will help convince any money-concerned stakeholder that your projects will pay off.
1. Cultural safety promotes productivity
Cultural safe environments are defined as environments that are “…safe for people; where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience, of learning together with dignity, and truly listening.”
Safety-focused cultures that anticipate and respect employee needs have a proven impact on workplace productivity.
Fewer workplace incidents and accidents
Culturally safe workplaces by definition have mechanisms in place that protect employees from both physical and psychological harm. Investments in safe and accessible physical spaces, anti-harassment policies and training, cultural awareness, and code of conduct creation and enforcement will reduce the risk of workplace incidents.
The cost of workplace injuries in the United States is estimated to be $192 billion per year, and workplace illnesses at $58 billion. Especially during pandemic times, for both financial and reasons we have to be extra careful about workplace safety. For example, to prevent COVID spread in our offices, we need to be conscientious of workplace hygiene and monitoring illness.
To encourage employees to stay home if they’re feeling unwell or in a high-risk population, a safety-forward approach is to provide them with the tools they need to work from home efficiently. Employees who know they can work productively from a safe, or safer, environment will be more likely to stay home and keep others healthy.
In 2018, workplace sexual harassment claims in the United States were estimated to cost $2.6 billion in lost productivity and $900 million in other costs, including lawsuits. To avoid these steep fees, and to keep your employees safe, you can put in place anonymous reporting measures, a clear code of conduct, and a no-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. These small but meaningful measures can save your organization millions of dollars.
1. Diversity and inclusion’s connection to productivity
An integral part of building a culturally-safe workplace is creating a culture that celebrates employees from all backgrounds and walks of life, including race, socioeconomic status, gender identification, sexual orientation, age, and religion.
According to a guide to diverse cultures at work published by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, “It can be expected that individual perceptions of a safety climate may vary in a culturally diverse work team. Creating a constructive safety climate in a diverse workforce requires special attention. Therefore, work teams should pay particular attention to developing a shared vision of the safety climate.
With respect to participation, this means that management of OSH [occupational safety and health] in a culturally diverse working environment demands an approach that includes multiple voices, and one in which it is possible to considerably broaden the knowledge base for alternative decisions and to increase the number of possible paths leading to solutions to problems.”
Diversity and inclusion are positively correlated with increased feelings of belonging, safety, and engagement, along with productivity and better decision-making. A study of diversity in the mutual fund industry published by the Social Science Research Network showed “diverse portfolio manager teams outperform homogeneous teams and have a higher active share, and tracking error…[with] evidence consistent both with improved decision-making due to the increased variety of perspectives, as well as increased monitoring by heterogeneous team members.”
They attribute the positive impact of diversity to increased openness and safety within diverse teams, stating that, “political polarization has a strong limiting effect of diversity on performance, consistent with a reversal of the benefits of diversified perspectives when external forces negatively affect team trust and cooperation.”
According to research published by McKinsey, US companies across industries showed an 8% increase in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) for every 10% increase in the ethnic and gender composition of senior executive teams. This is an enviable increase that sales and revenue teams fight to achieve—and with the right policies in place, you can be the one to nail that goal.
HR influencer and expert Josh Bersin is familiar with the struggle to explain diversity and inclusion’s importance to unconcerned stakeholders. In an article titled Diversity and inclusion is a business strategy, not an HR program, Bersin writes, “If you’re struggling to move your diversity metrics ask yourself a simple question.
Is D&I an HR program or is it truly essential to your business? Are you ready to empower women, minorities, or local nationals [to] really run your company as it grows? Are you ready to let young leaders take the reigns from older leaders, or empower leaders in their 70s to come back into the workforce?” He knows that, without wholehearted support from senior leadership, your best cultural safety efforts will stall out.
Your stakeholders might not understand the value of a code of conduct or extra alcohol-based sanitizer, but they probably understand the impact of a million-dollar lawsuit. By explaining your truths in financial terms, you’ll have an easier time signing them on.