Why is this an important question? Not only the company’s reputation is at stake, but your board members risk (personal) liability when misconduct cases evolve into scandals. If a board is not in control they expose themselves to possible imprisonment and fines.
So what do we mean with ‘being in control’ at board level? Imagine a serious sexual harassment case involving a high ranked officer taking place entirely outside of the headquarters’ view. In this situation it is imperative that board members receive relevant information as soon as possible so they can take responsibility and act upon it.
How to be in control of misconduct?
To start with, you have to give your people a chance to speak up about misconduct in order to receive the relevant information. Most companies have multiple reporting channels: being able to go to your manager, to go to compliance/legal/HR or, for very sensitive cases, report (anonymously) through a misconduct reporting system. Especially those very sensitive cases should be received directly at headquarter level.
When someone leaves a report via a misconduct reporting system, the real work begins. How can you make sure that sensitive information reaches the right people?
We suggest to go for the triage set-up, or as we like to call it, ‘central intake-decentral handling’.
In short, this is how it works: all misconduct reports are initially received by a dedicated, small (existing out of two or three people) intake-committee at headquarter level. They make the first judgement call: can a case be handled locally or is it so sensitive that immediate escalation to upper management or an ethics committee is required?
Going back to the #metoo by a high ranked officer: sensitive, business critical information should not be available to all in your organisation. It should be handled on a strict need-to-know basis. It’s all about information control.