How to empower your staff to speak up
Your staff are the eyes are ears of your business. In these challenging times, your staff can be key to identifying and managing current and emerging risks for the business.
by Scott McLintock
Embracing the unknown and filling that gap by encouraging your staff to raise concerns and identify risks within the business might be unsettling for some, but it can be a real asset to the business. During a Webinar last Thursday, co-hosted with Charles Boulo from Whsipli (link to the recorded Webinar here if you missed it), we explored the topic, ‘How to empower your staff to speak up.’ Central to the success of a speak-up culture is trust. Trust in the process and trust that in having the courage to come forward and raise a concern in good faith, a discloser will be celebrated, treated fairly and free of reprisal.
Set out below are five (5) key points from the Webinar which will get you thinking about your own ethics and compliance program and where tweaks can be made to help your organisation drive a speak up culture that empowers your staff to engage with the process and to raise concerns when they identify them.
1. Effective reporting mechanisms in place for staff to raise concerns in a confidential and anonymous manner
- Legislated requirement under the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 for ‘Regulated Entities’ to have a Whistle-blower policy in place (public and large proprietary companies)
- Consider your audience to determine what reporting mechanisms are appropriate for your business. Having a centralised system to capture disclosures can provide better oversight and helps identify emerging risks within the business
- Making reporting mechanism easy to locate and user friendly for disclosers
2. Training and awareness
- Periodic training for staff on company policies including the Code of Conduct, how concerns can be raised, the mechanisms available to them and where they can be located. Linking remuneration to desired behaviours can be an effective tool (e.g. ineligibility for bonuses if staff don’t meet mandatory training requirements)
- Training for staff on how to handle a disclosure if they receive one
- Communicating the number of disclosures and the outcomes of particular investigations with key takeaways (appropriately anonymised) can be a way of improving transparency in the process and fostering a culture of speaking up and driving desired behaviours
3. ‘Tone from the top’
- Champions of the ethics and compliance program at senior levels who can engage with other senior leaders in the business to drive the speak-up agenda
- Clear messaging from Senior Executives (e.g. townhalls, internal communications etc.) articulating the importance of speaking up and the value to the business of speaking (celebrating speaking up)
4. Relevant policies and procedures in place
- Ensuring you have a whistle-blower policy that is compliant with legislative requirements
- Code of Conduct setting out the expectations of your staff, contractors etc. that includes provisions that stipulate that retaliation against someone making a disclosure or participating in an investigation process is a Code of Conduct breach and can be subject to disciplinary proceedings
- Complaint handling and investigation guidelines/procedures to ensure disclosures are handled, assessed and investigated in a consistent manner
- Where possible, central repository for disclosures to drive consistent handling of disclosures, identify emerging risks and assist with board reporting
5. Appropriately resourced
- Resource the ethics and compliance program appropriately including adequately qualified and trained staff to handle, manage and investigate disclosures
- Supplement internal capability with external resources as appropriate where subject matter expertise is required (e.g. investigative capability, legal advice etc.)
Implementing and maintaining a strong ethics and compliance culture with an effective speak up program at its core, is not something that happens overnight. It is a journey and requires regular tweaking to ensure that it is relevant to the risks of your business, to make sure that your staff remained engaged and prevent complacency undermining the whole strategy. Your staff are your eyes and ears of your business and by implementing some of the above tips, you will build trust and provide them with the tools and courage to speak up which in turn will keep your business safe and sustainable.
Linkedin Blog – How to empower your staff to speak up
By Scott McLintock
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