Learn from the champion of SpeakUp Culture

We invited Roland Notermans, founder of the De Compliance Academie, for an interview about the challenges with creating a SpeakUp culture. Roland Notermans runs De Compliance Academie through which he hosts courses on the topic of compliance. From the mere basics to webinars and masterclasses. His 20 years of experience in the field, including being the Head of Compliance at various Philips divisions and the last 10 years as consultant, make him THE expert on this topic.

In the past years, multiple Pitters have visited his Academie at a wonderful location in Doorn. However we deemed his courses so valuable for lots of Pitters that, starting last year, he now hosts an annual in-house course for People Intouch on the foundation of compliance.

We asked Roland what the biggest challenges are when creating a SpeakUp culture.

1. We have come to get to know you as a true champion for SpeakUp Culture. Why is this so important?

A so called SpeakUp culture to me stands for a safe, inclusive, respectful environment in which each employee is appreciated for and feels comfortable raising concerns and suspicions. Without fear for negative consequences. Where employees want to share mistakes and learn from them. Such an environment is strongly preferred by employees. It enables an organisation to improve day by day, thanks to tips, suggestions and reports from employees. However, international research indicates each year that almost 60% of all employees who want to report a suspicion of misconduct prefer to remain anonymous. That is a shocking percentage, which should encourage all of us to contribute to a better culture.

2. What is your golden tip or rule when it comes to “Speaking Up”?

As with many challenges in life which are hard to overcome, no simple solution exists. It is hard work for many years. But the rewards are tremendous. It starts in my view with your core values: what kind of organisation do you want to build together? Respect. Inclusivity. Ambition to improve. Listening. Learning. Self-reflection. Integrity. Are these mere words or actually living values? If the full board is convinced and the HR function as well, my golden tip for Compliance Professionals is to focus on supporting managers. At each level. They are the true change agents who influence behaviour more than others.

3. What is the biggest challenge for managers below the Board?

Each manager should encourage employees to remain honest, to play the role of the ‘fool-at-the-court’ or court jester. An employee who has the courage to express a different opinion is a jewel. Or share mistakes and lessons learned. Employees find it very difficult to challenge or critically address their own boss. Managers could simply start moving in the right direction by introducing the so-called AAA-method:

  • Address a business dilemma or concern and discuss how to deal with them, based on your organisation’s core values and code of business conduct;
  • Agree in your team how team-members will deal with such dilemma’s or concerns as from such date onwards, and also agree to;
  • Address personally on a one-to-one basis any suspected deviation from such agreement.
4. What is the biggest challenge for HR?

In my view to support managers to become consistent in their messaging. In case integrity is really important, then ‘put your money where your mouth is’ by using the promotion and annual appraisal process to not only focus on which targets an employee met last year, but also how they behaved. So appraise on responsible business conduct as well as hard targets. This is a laborious and difficult challenge for HR. But if you keep rewarding employees only on what targets have been achieved but not how, the compliance program loses credibility. Some employees will go for the money, not for ethical, responsible business conduct, thereby endangering the organisation. But remember: an effective compliance program can only be successful in case each employee takes responsibility, every day, for responsible business conduct!

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