Enhancing Workplace Safety: Insights from HR Executives

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Whether in-office, remote or hybrid, ensuring the safety and well-being of your employees is one of the most important (if not the most important) responsibilities of organizations’ leaders. Domestic abuse, mental health challenges and suicidal ideations impact the workplace dramatically – regardless of position, industry or work environments.

Sikich’s HR advisory and workforce risk management team recently hosted an open forum for over 20 HR executives to discuss how their companies address the critical aspects of security, psychological safety and communication in the workplace.

35% of executives on the line experienced forms of workplace violence within their organizations during the past year.

Here’s what we discussed:

The Importance of Training

business-formal-meeting-conference-discussion-with-coworker.-businesspeople-working-find-solution-together-in-officeTraining emerged as a key element in recognizing and managing concerning behaviors that are often precursors to incidents of workplace violence. Without training to understand the broad spectrum of behaviors that are considered workplace violence, the red flags or warning signs they should be on the lookout for and the importance of reporting those behaviors, employees can’t be expected to appropriately respond to incidents. The goal is to properly equip employees with the resources needed to recognize potential concerns and what to do next. The HR professionals we spoke with shared that they want employees to express their concerns and appreciate when they do so. These are key elements in workplace violence prevention.

Just as important is the need to train people leaders and human resources professionals, who are the front line of response and prevention. Effective training in de-escalation and conflict resolution for managers and coworkers on how to respond to these situations was seen as an essential skill.

One noteworthy practice made especially more prevalent with remote and hybrid work environments highlighted during the conversation was the incorporation of email etiquette training. This seemingly minor training can have a significant impact on reducing misunderstandings and improving coworker relationships to foster a better culture within the workplace. It also can be a powerful indicator of harassment, bullying and even poor management. Think of an email from a manager written in ALL CAPS to “get a point across.”

Cross-Functional Information Sharing

Collaboration among HR, security and legal teams is crucial for the prevention of workplace violence. These functional areas must work together and share information to swiftly address potential threats and implement comprehensive measures that contribute to a safer workplace. Each department has a different yet valuable perspective that plays an important role in maintaining the well-being of the organization and its workforce.

For those companies without dedicated security teams, creating a cross-functional team of leaders and managers who are focused on risk prevention was also identified as a best practice by executives on the line.

Fostering Psychological Safety

70% of executives in the forum were most concerned about increased rates of mental health challenges post-pandemic.

One way in which HR executives create a safe work environment is by championing psychological safety for all employees. Encouraging a non-judgmental attitude and unbiased responses to employees’ concerns is crucial in maintaining a safe, inclusive workplace. Over half of the executives that joined the roundtable consider challenges employees face in their personal lives as the most significant contributor to workplace violence.

Executives also emphasized the importance of planning when conducting performance discussions, including termination meetings, in a manner that preserves the employee’s dignity and prioritizes their emotional well-being. Effective preparation, physical layout of the room and interpersonal dynamics were also recognized as factors that can significantly affect the outcome of these discussions.

Options for Reporting

While most reports are made to a manager or HR, having an anonymous reporting hotline in place is often a necessity. Anonymity can be a powerful tool for gathering valuable information that might otherwise go unreported. These platforms allow employees to report potential situations or threats and provide a two-way confidential reporting system that may not otherwise come to the attention of management and/or HR.

Reminders of the tools for reporting red flag behavior, as well as emphasizing transparency and accountability and protection from retaliation, encourages employee participation. And finally, more than simply collecting reports is the importance of taking all reports seriously and responding to them promptly.

To enhance workplace safety, HR executives should focus on fostering a culture of learning, trust, open communication and support. By prioritizing these principles, companies can intentionally create secure work environments where employees feel safe, valued and equipped to address potential threats.

Interested in being part of our next roundtable? Contact us here.

About our authors



Dave McKeon is a managing director, who leads the Human Resources Advisory practice within Sikich’s Human Capital Management and Payroll Consulting group. Dave is an established HR professional with a unique blend of experience in strategic planning, talent management, executive coaching and business development. With over 30 years of experience developing and leading HR consulting services, Dave partners with his clients to provide optimal talent solutions, strategy, implementation and consulting services.

Matthew Doherty

Matthew Doherty

Matthew Doherty is nationally recognized for his work in violence prevention and threat assessment and management. As managing director of the Sikich workforce risk management team, Matt brings extensive experience gained in three decades of distinguished service across government and the private sector. He helps organizations build and expand violence prevention programs; assess and manage violence risks; train and empower workforces; and gain the business benefits that come with safe and supportive workplaces.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.


Join 14,000+ business executives and decision makers

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Latest Insights

About The Author