Is there anybody there?

26 February 2020

Tags: Speak Up, Supportive Environment

Encouraging employees to speak up about the things that concern them at work (“whistleblowing” if we must) is a key task for organisations in their commitment to creating an open and ethical workplace culture. However, creating such a culture is easier said than done.

To be effective, Speak Up arrangements require significant investment. They are, of course, worth the commitment as they constitute a key weapon in the armoury in the battle of trying to stay on top of corporate culture. That is, assuming people can actually access them...

It was recently reported that the Bank of England was going to begin supervising a financial services organisation after finding out that one of the firm’s advertised Speak Up channels wasn’t working – and hadn’t been for 16 months!

The article reminded me of an experience from some work I had done previously, helping one of our Supporters with the update of their global code of conduct.

Like many codes, the inside front cover provided all the relevant contact numbers for the Speak Up arrangements in all the countries where they operated. One of the final checks before going to print was a couple of hours spent dialling through the list of numbers to ensure that they were all correct, and working as intended. While certainly not a glamorous exercise, it was a useful one.

It quickly transpired that they had a bit of a problem. Almost all of the numbers seemed to be incorrect! Some were getting through, but many seemed to be unrecognised numbers. The list wasn’t looking good. After a while, the call handler at the service provider suggested that the issue might be a result of the advertised numbers being local-rate numbers, which were only accessible in country.

A few quick calls to some Ethics Ambassadors in the relevant countries soon confirmed this to be the case. The list of numbers we had was indeed correct, but could only be accessed from in country. It also meant that we could provide a new piece of intel in the communications related to Speak Up, particularly to colleagues who may have wanted to contact the arrangements while travelling.

Taking proactive steps to understand the process from the reporter’s perspective, could be the difference between receiving a key piece of information and a potential reporter giving up on their attempts to let you know about something that concerns them. Collectively, the little things make a big difference.

Contacting a Speak Up line can feel like a daunting experience for any reporter. Their courage and desire to report an issue may quickly disappear if what they’re encouraged to do doesn’t work the way you’ve told them it would. Carrying out regular ‘mystery shopper’ activities will help you stay on top of the experience, especially if there isn’t actually anybody there to answer the call. 


Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson

Head of Engagement, IBE,

As Head of Engagement, Dan leads on, manages and coordinates the IBE’s relationships with supporter organisations and key contacts to promote mutual benefit and aid efforts to embed ethical values and ethical cultures across organisations.

This is Dan’s fourth  role within the IBE having previously held research, project management and products and services roles.

In this role, Dan acts as Secretary to several of the IBE’s practitioner working groups.

Dan is also a trained project manager and trainer, and represents the IBE with various public speaking engagements, facilitated training sessions and webinars.

Prior to re-joining the IBE on a full-time basis, Dan was seconded to BAE Systems for 6 months where he acted as the Business Conduct Manager. In this role, Dan led the activities for the update of the global Code of Conduct, and authored guidance on the role for an international network of ethics ambassadors.

Before this, Dan was employed in the CR team at Pentland Brands, responsible for data management and risk mapping Human Rights and Modern Slavery in the supply chain.

Dan holds a Master’s degree in Corporate Social Responsibility from the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Nottingham, and won Best Essay in the under-25 category of the ICAS Sustainability Essay Competition when he was a student.

To do what is right is excellent. To teach what is right is even more excellent, and much easier… – Mark Twain

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