Blog: Research Hub Blog - How are Aviva encouraging an open culture?

A key finding in this year’s Ethics at Work survey is that, of the third of European employees who have been aware of misconduct at work during the past year, just over half of them (54%) spoke up.

So how do you encourage an open culture? One where employees can have the confidence to speak up about issues, and trust that they will be listened to and their concerns acted upon without fear of repercussions?

IBE subscribers, Aviva, silver supporters of the Ethics at Work survey, are examining ways to encourage greater trust in their Speak Up and investigations process.
"Back in 2014, we implemented our ‘Right Call’ system and process across the Aviva Group,” says Graham Bell, Senior Forensic Audit Manager. "We know we are compliant, but we wanted to do more to improve the journey for our employees raising concerns. We wanted to benchmark ourselves against other organisations who had implemented a similar Speak Up solution.”

"At Aviva we wanted to understand why the proportion of investigations we received through ‘Right Call’ appeared to be lower than the proportion received by other similar companies. We worked with Swiss Re to conduct a project using ‘Behavioural Economics’ to help us understand how our employees felt about whistleblowing and whether they would use the Right Call process. We used one location in the group with a wide age range, length of time served, and hierarchical demographics, which returned some very interesting responses. The results from our behavioural economic project highlighted that we needed to improve our employees understanding and awareness of the whistleblowing process.”

The IBE’s survey has found that employees across Europe are saying similar things. In addition, the IBE’s survey also highlights that employees have limited trust in their whistleblowing service and their concerns are not listened to – a belief that nothing will be done is cited by 28% of Ethics at Work survey respondents who’d witnessed misconduct and not reported it.

Aviva set about changing its employees’ perception of the Right Call process. "We wanted employees to feel not only that it was safe to call, but it was the right thing to do,” says Graham. "We used IBE seminars to kick start the process, by having conversations with our peers in other companies about the journey they’d been on.”

Using insights from behavioural economics, they began by making the whole process more welcoming. "The most important change we made was to simply change the name from Right Call to Speak Up. Next, we removed negative wording – like fear, detriment, sanction, reprisals and created new educational posters and leaflets”.

Aviva opened up this process so that it could be used, not only for financial crime, but for any concerns, which are then triaged and then forwarded onto the appropriate team to investigate and conclude with oversight and tracking remaining with Group Investigations to ensure all concerns are dealt with consistently.

Whereas ‘Right Call’ implied that the only way to report wrongdoing was via the telephone, Aviva has now opened up multiple channels both internally and externally – including web reporting, email and telephone and a free, 100% anonymous app via Expolink.
With greater channels available and more accessible messaging, the next task for the team was the educational piece.

"Historically investigations teams had an image of being shrouded in mystery,” said Graham. "So, to change this perception we initiated ‘lunch and learns’ to raise awareness of the team and talked through some high profile cases. Going forward, we will be posting regular statistics on our intranet site, which will not only show volume of cases, and dismissals, but just as importantly the proportion of cases we have proven to be unsubstantiated. It is possible that in events where we find no wrongdoing, we may instead identify potential control weakness. That gives us an opportunity to make improvements. We have also translated our Speak Up Intranet site and all supporting literature into nine different languages giving it a truly global look and feel.”

With Roadshows and Pop-up ‘meet and greets’ planned, the message is clear that Graham and the Group Investigations team are "here to listen.” The process is one of continual improvement, says Graham: "While we remain an investigations function within Aviva, our strategy is to raise our profile within Aviva and develop a more ‘Community’ side to the team – one where you can simply ask for guidance.”

This increased visibility begins at induction, with onboarding including training on what the team does, and the Speak Up process. "We talk about how speaking up about any wrongdoing is their responsibility as an Aviva employee.”

The IBE’s Ethics at Work survey found that employees throughout Europe are facing increased pressure to compromise ethical standards than previously. This means it is even more important for organisations, like Aviva, take a frank and honest look at their processes for dealing with employee concerns. Having a compliant hotline is now simply not enough – it needs to be backed up with education, messaging and robust and consistent investigations. 

To be truly effective, as Aviva’s experience illustrates, organisations need to listen to employees’ concerns about the system, and more importantly, act on those concerns.

Posted: 18/07/2018

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