Learning from workplace errors

There is potential for innovation and best practice to be discovered when errors are made, and the best way of achieving this is through shared learning environments that put employees central to transformation.

We accept that workplace errors are unintended and while some do not directly result in harm, many of them do. This harm is not limited to clients or customers of a service, but also includes the impact on employees who are recognised as ‘secondary victims’ to workplace errors.

We know that workplace errors are recognised as an international problem and most are preventable, but why do they occur and what problems do we have learning from them?

Barriers to learning from workplace errors
One reason that creates the conditions for errors to occur are when organisations offer multiple services in which roles and functions are ill–defined and where funding, regulations and disciplinary procedures lack clarity. This is especially true in times when organisations are experiencing rapid change as existing systems become disconnected and communication failures increase, all of which may mean that the impact of errors may not surface for some time.  During these times it is important to have a robust positive learning culture so that staff are able to identify when and where errors have occurred and share learning from them.

Factors that need consideration when developing organisational learning from workplace errors include:

• The resilience and wellbeing of employees may be seriously affected by being involved in a workplace error due to personal trauma experienced during/after the incident

• Fear of blame which makes it is difficult for the individual(s) to share vital knowledge that could prevent the same error being made in the future

• Lack of knowledge and/or experience of developing psychologically safe environments in which individuals and organisations can learn that positive change can come from workplace errors

If you would like to develop your learning systems to include learning from workplace errors please click here.