Why your company needs to be trauma-informed – 11 business benefits you cannot ignore

By Esther van der Sande

I met Matthew, a senior company executive, at a conference. When he asked what I do, I said I help organizations to develop a trauma-informed workplace culture.

His expression was quizzical, so I explained that this involves building a healthier, happier environment in which to work, based on recognizing the impact of past trauma on employees’ emotional and physical wellness. Trauma-informed organizations implement policies, processes, and practices that promote safety, well-being and resilience.

Matthew thought for a moment and replied: “Esther, I can see that’s the right thing to do. My company should acknowledge our employees’ trauma for the sake of their wellbeing. But it sounds expensive and time-consuming. We simply couldn’t afford it. It doesn’t make business sense.”

“You can’t afford not to,” I said. “The business case for trauma-informed practices is overwhelming. Many companies choose to be trauma-informed because it’s a smart, pragmatic, commercial decision that helps them gain a significant competitive advantage. An environment in which employees feel safe and thrive reinforces productivity, performance and profitability.”

I then listed the following 11 specific business benefits that a trauma-informed culture of compassion, understanding, and respect would deliver to his organization.

Benefit 1 – Improved employee relations, engagement and retention

When your company is trauma-informed, your employees are more likely to feel safe, valued, motivated and engaged. They’re more likely to appreciate and trust management. And they’re more likely to remain with you over the long term.

They’re less likely to burn out or engage in absenteeism caused by physical or mental health issues.

This leads to a more stable, productive workforce.

Benefit 2 – Enhanced communication and collaboration

By prioritizing trauma-informed practices, you create an environment in which open communication, collaboration and healthy relationships thrive.

The result is a culture of trust, psychological safety, empathy, understanding, diverse perspectives, active listening and effective feedback. Your organization actively supports conflict resolution with respect.

By giving people who have experienced trauma space and support to heal and learn how to trust others again, you equip them to work with others effectively and solve problems creatively. Your teams can then achieve corporate goals together.

Benefit 3 – Increased productivity and performance

When you address trauma-related issues and promote healthy conflict resolution, your organization has fewer interpersonal disputes and negative behaviours that detract from productivity.

Enhanced communication and collaboration help to reduce misunderstandings, increase efficiency, and streamline processes.

Trauma-informed practices empower your employees to work more autonomously, take ownership of their work, and make decisions quickly and easily.

With reduced stress and minimal distractions, your employees can focus on their work. Lower levels of absenteeism and presenteeism (where people are at work but are not fully functioning) also result in better performance across the organization.

Benefit 4 – More effective leadership

If you’re a trauma-informed leader, you understand the impact of employees’ past experiences and are equipped to practice empathy and active listening. This contributes to a more collaborative, more productive work environment.

As an effective leader in such an environment, you have the tools and understanding to build strong relationships and empower your teams. A trauma-informed workplace culture empowers you to be more effective through enhanced emotional intelligence, better communication, improved delegation skills and the ability to identify, manage, and retain the best talent.

Benefit 5 – Stronger corporate culture

Trauma-informed practices play an important role in shaping a strong, empathetic, cohesive corporate culture.

By understanding trauma and its prevalence, your organization can better support the many employees who may be dealing with its negative effects. You can then work to mitigate these effects and build corporate resilience.

You can equip people with the skills and resources to cope with stress and adversity, contributing to a stronger, more adaptable workforce that can navigate challenges, overcome obstacles, and maintain productivity in the face of potential change or uncertainty.

Benefit 6 – Reduced costs

The long-term cost-reduction benefits of investing in trauma-informed practices invariably outweigh any initial upfront expenditure.

A reduction in absenteeism and presenteeism leads to greater efficiency and considerable cost savings over time.

A decrease in employee turnover is financially beneficial, as replacing your employees is expensive, with unavoidable recruitment, onboarding, and lost productivity costs.

Better employee relations reduce the incidence of potentially expensive conflict and disruption. A trauma-informed culture that promotes inclusivity and understanding also diminishes the risk of legal issues and their associated financial costs.

Benefit 7 – More innovation and creativity

Addressing trauma-related issues and providing support enables your employees to feel psychologically safe and have lower stress levels. As a direct result, they’re more likely to take risks, share ideas and explore innovative solutions to problems without fearing judgment or reprisal.

Your supportive workplace environment promotes empathy, understanding, active listening, and collaboration. This, in turn, stimulates creative thinking and the open exchange of ideas.

Your employees are empowered to approach complex challenges with flexibility, curiosity, and resourcefulness.

Benefit 8 – Better customer relations

The positive impacts of creating a trauma-informed workplace also extend to customers and clients.

When empathy, understanding, clear communication, and active listening are an integral component of your organizational culture, they translate to the way employees interact with customers daily.

By supporting and empowering your employees, you enable and encourage them to provide outstanding customer service, which invariably leads to higher customer satisfaction levels and increased customer loyalty.

Your employees are also better equipped to navigate challenging situations and resolve issues in a way that preserves customer relationships.

Benefit 9 – Improved risk mitigation

A trauma-informed culture can help your company to mitigate legal and ethical risks in various ways.

An environment that promotes inclusivity and respect reduces the likelihood of legal claims related to discrimination or harassment.

Prioritizing your employees’ physical and mental well-being leads to fewer legal claims related to workplace stress, negligence, or a failure to provide safe working conditions.

Also, by ensuring your organization promotes ethical conduct, integrity, and accountability among employees, you reduce the risk of legal or ethical violations such as fraud, corruption, or conflicts of interest.

Benefit 10 – Enhanced reputation

A trauma-informed workplace culture contributes to a stronger reputation outside your company’s walls, particularly in the employment market.

By prioritizing employee well-being and safety, your organization enhances its brand and is better equipped to attract and retain top talent.

A lower employee turnover rate suggests corporate stability, which positively impacts your company’s reputation among prospective hires, customers, communities, and even shareholders. Also, when customers view your organization as being compassionate, understanding, and values-driven, they’re more likely to trust and remain loyal.

Benefit 11 – Increased diversity and inclusion

Creativity and innovation are enhanced through the exchange of different ideas and viewpoints. By valuing and respecting your employees’ diverse backgrounds and experiences, your trauma-informed organization can tap into a wide range of insights.

Decision-making is also improved through the consideration of different perspectives and the avoidance of groupthink.

A diverse workforce better understands the needs of a diverse customer base, leading to more effective sales, marketing, and product development practices.

Studies have shown that companies with more diverse workforces outperform their less diverse counterparts in terms of profitability.

The trauma-informed approach in practice

The benefits of a trauma-informed workplace are not just theoretical. Many organizations around the world have implemented a trauma-informed approach and have gained numerous business-related advantages.

For example:

  • Online shoe retailer, Zappos, has a long history of implementing trauma-informed practices, including open communication and the provision of generous mental health benefits. The company credits the approach with fostering a creative, innovative environment that contributes dramatically to its success.
  • When Hilton, worldwide, recognized the financial burden of employee turnover, it implemented a trauma-informed strategy that focuses on flexible work arrangements and the provision of mental health resources. The resulting decrease in employee turnover has led to substantial cost savings.
  • ABN AMRO has experienced a significant decline in absenteeism and an improvement in employee engagement since implementing a comprehensive program that focuses on employee wellbeing. The program includes stress management techniques, awareness training, and access to mental health professionals.
  • Social innovation company, Le Wagon, cultivates a sense of safety and control in its workplace. It prioritizes employee well-being with open communication, a four-day work-week, and unlimited paid time off. Le Wagon credits the approach with increasing employee satisfaction and the company’s ability to attract and retain top talent.

How training can help

Creating a trauma-informed workplace is not just the right thing to do – it’s also a smart business practice.

With so many practical benefits, it’s surprising that some organizations, like Matthew’s, still resist a trauma-informed approach to developing their workplace cultures.

If you want to explore the implementation of trauma-informed strategies, an important step is to engage with the right training for your executive leaders and their teams.

Beside Consulting offers a variety of in-company programs that can help your organization build a culturally sensitive, inclusive, and harmonious workplace.

Step by step, we provide foundational information first, so all participants develop a shared understanding.

Each program can be delivered in a format – such as a face-to-face workshop or a series of coaching sessions – to suit your organization. We also provide opportunities for reflection and action planning to ensure all participants are equipped to lead cultural transformation initiatives.

For further information, feel free to reach out to us today. We’re here to assist!