How to Increase Psychological Safety at Work with Training Simulations

Here we look at how to increase psychological safety at work by leveraging the latest in employee training simulations.

Increase psychological safety at work with training

When Google conducted research into the common factors across high-performing teams (a study code-named Project Aristotle), they uncovered 5 key dynamics:

  1. Psychological Safety
  2. Dependability
  3. Structure and Clarity
  4. Meaning
  5. Impact


So, four of these factors were relatively predictable. You want your co-workers to be dependable, which recruitment and referencing will contribute. Giving the team structure and clarity with KPIs – good management. Meaning – the Simon Sinek ’Start with Why’ stuff. Impact – business analytics will give you the data.

Psychological safety was less standard as a leadership and management concept, and created quite a buzz around 2016 as journalists and media commentators looked to deconstruct some of the secrets to Google’s thinking and success.


Psychological Safety Meaning

Psychological safety is an individual’s belief that they won’t be punished or embarrassed for speaking up, making mistakes, or offering new ideas in a team setting. In teams with high psychological safety, members feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks without fear of negative consequences.

Researcher Amy C Edmondson has been the leading thought-leader and proponent of psychological safety, and has written popular books on the subject – notably ‘The Fearless Organization’ and ‘Teaming’.

Edmondson writes:

If you change the nature and quality of the conversations in your team, your outcomes will improve exponentially. Psychological safety is the core component to unlock this.

So while recruitment can help to bring dependable employees into the business, a company vision and mission can add meaning to the work, and process can ensure structure and clarity, it’s culture around the freedom to express oneself and potentially make mistakes that will develop and maintain psychological safety in any given team.

Training that’s developed with increasing psychological safety as a key goal is essential if you want to create this kind of culture in your organisation.

What should HR and L&D teams think about when it comes to the components of this training?


The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

In his book, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, author Timothy Clarke writes:

Psychological safety is a condition in which you feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn, (3) safe to contribute, and (4) safe to challenge the status quo—all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way.

How to deliver training in a way that feels inclusive and safe for learners? This is where training simulations can have a powerful effect on overall business performance.


Benefits of Training Simulations for Psychological Safety

Leaders and managers can practise their interpersonal and performance management, while employees can practise critical skills for their role – without fear of failure.

Leadership / management and interpersonal skills have traditionally been practised in a group, role-play environment. This is true to life, but the feeling of safety varies wildly according to individual personalities and team dynamics.

One of the leaders in immersive learning and simulation based training that’s accessible at scale is Empower The User (ETU).

ETU immersive simulation learning solutions

The simulation training solutions developed by ETU don’t require headsets, as they are all accessible via any computer with an Internet connection.

They’re used by many of the world’s biggest brands, such as Microsoft, pwc, IBM, Macy’s and Merck.

ETU solutions are used extensively for two areas of training in particular – leadership and diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI):

ETU have also written a useful article on the subject of developing psychological safety in the workplace over on their blog.


More learning benefits from this approach are mentioned on our guide to simulation training, which includes a definition and some of the leading providers.