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One-Page SpeakUp Policy

Inspired by Tony’s Chocolonely’s well-known one-page employment contract, we figured it was time for a One-Page SpeakUp Policy. Why? Because legal talk and ethics talk simply don’t match.

In short:

  • The European Whistleblowing Directive forces organisations to implement a Whistleblowing Policy.
  • Besides to the purpose of the policy “explaining ones duties and rights”, the policy furthermore plays an essential role in encouraging a silent witness to take the first step. Therefore: keep it simple!
  • Finding a fitting, trustworthy, tone of voice lowers the barrier. Obviously, this tone of voice can only be efficient if the organisation can live up to the promises made.

From the early days, we have promoted to step away from legal and complicated wording when communicating about your SpeakUp Policy. Ditching the word “whistleblower” or “whistleblowing” has been one key check when advising our customers. We created a SpeakUp Policy template in 2006, which we have updated continuously. Features are: No legal terminology, no use of the word “whistleblowing”, positive framing, principle based, simple, no tough choices for the reader and do not make promises that you cannot keep. For those companies that did not want to go this far, we recommend to use a simple version in your communications to the employees, with a referral to a full document. This pragmatic approach was often followed, and recently we updated the SpeakUp Policy, even leaving out the word “policy” and choosing an FAQ format.

One step further is the One-Page SpeakUp Policy: it is somewhere between a poster and a SpeakUp policy. It has the purpose of providing the most important information instantly and encouraging the silent witness to take the first step.

We believe in simplicity when communicating about something as sensitive as speaking up on ethics. In our SpeakUp Success Model, one of the components is “the story”. To share the key take-aways from the SpeakUp Success Model:

  • Decide upon your “story” as a basis for communication strategy
  • map your risks and reporting personas
  • make the story positive
  • make the story fitting
  • connect the story to existing organisation framing
  • do not use the term “whistleblowing”
  • do not use legal terminology
  • find the right level of communicating about the process to achieve clarity
  • separate formal procedures from user friendly guidelines
  • repeat the story
  • prove the story by means of transparency (statistics in annual report or anonymised case studies for learnings, “thank you for speaking up campaign”).

We have said again and again: any organisation has a very important objective to achieve, alongside the objective of being compliant with “whistleblowing” laws. This objective regards early transparency by means of speaking up, so that ethical wrongdoing can be detected as early as possible. Even though these objectives appear similar, they actually often conflict. This occurs mainly when organisations take strict compliancy with whistleblowing laws as the means to generate early transparency by means of speaking up. This results in legal terminology, complicated formal process steps, exceptions, and complicated scope restrictions. Do not fall for this trap! Do what is right for your employees! Please read again our blog on Ethical Leadership.

Please visit our SpeakUp Knowledge Portal for more information about the SpeakUp Policy. This portal is only accessible for SpeakUp® Clients.

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