Safecall’s top tips for building an open culture

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Encouraging feedback is vitally important to the success of any whistleblowing or speak up programme. If people don’t feel their feedback on “business as usual” topics is welcomed, then raising a concern about something bigger is an impossible task.

The ability to ask for and receive honest feedback is one of the first building blocks of an organisation’s culture. Here’s how we believe financial services organisations can build an open culture and meet the expectations of regulators.

Recognise the value of low level reports

Receiving multiple reports of what appear to be low-level issues can be a symptom of something more serious. Quite often employees may only notice bits and pieces of a much bigger issue; they are viewing things from their standpoint and just know something is wrong. Getting an employee to speak up on anything is hard enough, so don’t dismiss their concern, no matter how low-level, as having little or no value.

Have far-reaching involvement

Employees of all shapes and sizes, at all levels and pay grades, are the eyes and ears of your organisation. As you continue to shape and enhance your whistleblowing or speak up programme, ensure you encourage honest feedback from all levels about how the programme is communicated and how it will be received across the organisation.

Help, train and support your front line

Managers are often placed as the ‘go to’ person to report concerns, and quite rightly so; however very few managers have either the knowledge or the confidence to deal with directly reported matters. The FCA report highlights the importance training has in the transformation of an organisation’s culture, so ensure your managers are not only aware of their role, but receive regular training to update on the current state of affairs.

Those who call out poor behaviour need to know they will be supported

Employees are unlikely to put their head above the parapet to speak up if they think they’ll fall victim to a sniper. Communicate and embed the knowledge that speaking up is safe, that they will be supported, and that they are encouraged to report wrongdoing.

Don’t be afraid of anonymous reporting

Stepping out and speaking up is a difficult thing to do and a number of employees will never feel comfortable enough to give their name. Financial services organisations must accept this fact and work to provide the employee with the best mechanisms to engage with you in a meaningful way, even if that means they remain anonymous.

Move culture conversations up the agenda

The topic of culture is often a 10 minute slot on the agenda, if it makes it at all. Managers and board members find it a difficult topic to address as their focus is outward-facing and target-driven. The FCA is gently encouraging a shift in this behaviour. Finding time to give focus to this topic is no longer negotiable.

Build a culture that will last

Be careful about what you commit to do and then do what you said you would do; this is the beginning of a journey that is ever-evolving. Being sincere and delivering against your promises builds trust and consistency within the organisation.

Open cultures make good business sense

Employees who feel like they are part of a community rather than a cog in a wheel are more likely to stay at an organisation. A sense of belonging to an organisation that really lives the values it talks about is what most job applicants are looking for in a company. If you ask any top performer what keeps them with their employer, the answer you will hear is “the people”; a workplace culture focused on people, employees and customers, has profound appeal.

A positive workplace culture attracts talent, drives engagement, impacts well-being and satisfaction, affects the overall performance, and protects the reputation of the organisation. It takes time – years, in fact – to build the type of culture that supports an organisation through both good and bad times. It is, however, very quick to destroy culture. It also needs to evolve as your organisation does, as culture can quickly get stale if you “do” culture and then leave it alone. Personnel changes, people change, so constantly evolving and reiterating your commitment to an open culture is the only way to keep it alive.

These precepts support and are aligned with some significant changes in organisational thinking as noted by Crispin Marriott Global Client Relationship Director at Willis Towers Watson.

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