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SpeakUp Success Model 2: Purpose-Focused

Organisations frequently ask that we merge all our insights into one overview. While challenging, this is a request we would love to make an effort for and we came up with the first version of the SpeakUp Success Model. How did we go about this? We created one huge Mindmap gathering all feedback, knowledge and best practices of the past years and we confined them to eight main components. The purpose of the model is to create an all-embracing framework. More importantly, we hope to inspire and encourage an alternative perspective on the topic. The SpeakUp Success Model aims to describe the components which can make this SpeakUp Programme a success. These are:

Read the full introduction to the SpeakUp Success Model Series and its definitions here.
Go back to the first component of the model, SpeakUp Culture, here.

The second component we’d like to discuss in this SpeakUp success series is intended to remind you to never lose sight of what you’re truly trying to achieve when introducing a SpeakUp tool. You have to always keep in mind the reasons why you initiated such a procedure in the first place. While we, as the provider of the tool, are not in a position to define your intentions and purpose for you, we do know that losing focus can possibly damage the vitally important early warning mechanism and ultimately result in an ineffective SpeakUp Programme. Here we’ll be discussing a few topics that could potentially lure you out of focus.

The first and most obvious trap to avoid is a strict focus on regulatory compliance. While it is more often than not a priority for any SpeakUp Programme, it should not overshadow the rest of your objectives, such as increasing transparency or improving communication and company culture in general. In fact, aggressive attempts to comply can have quite the opposite effect on ethical matters. We can’t expect tricky legal terminology, complicated formal processes and scary terminology (e.g. ‘whistleblower’) to encourage anyone to speak up, can we?

Second, we’d like to talk about the formality that the creation of a report is often approached with. As a reminder, the priority of any SpeakUp Programme is to increase transparency via establishing speaking up as a common and well-intentioned practice. This means that people need to feel that they’re in a culturally safe environment which, if for any reason, suddenly feels less safe, still allows them to freely express themselves on the discomfort, whether that’s with their manager (or the person responsible) or by using the anonymous communication tool. The earlier that a potential issue can be discussed and dealt with, the better damage can be prevented.

The third tricky area to be aware of is how to partition importance between the information received through a message and the person behind the message. Undoubtedly, focusing on facts and not on the person is the ultimate whistleblower protection: if no one is aware that whistleblowing took place, no one will wonder who the whistleblower was. Be that as it may, trying to obtain the facts should not jeopardise the report. Try to refrain from lengthy, fill-in questionnaires that could easily scare a concerned person away. Our advice is to come up with a wise strategy for obtaining all the facts without creating feelings of intimidation. Try to keep requirements to a minimum and prioritise building trust.

Our tips for enhancing this second element of success of your SpeakUp Programme:

  • Keep in mind that the purpose of the programme is not to create whistleblowers or reports;
  • Acknowledge that the ultimate purpose of your programme is to establish transparency and to extinguish wrongdoing;
  • Understand that strictly focusing on legislation will have a discouraging effect on those concerned;
  • Be aware that someone who wants to share a concern is not necessarily a ‘whistleblower’;
  • Understand that making use of whistleblower protection law implies that there is a whistleblower to protect. Not being seen as a whistleblower at all is the ultimate whistleblower protection;
  • Acknowledge that whistleblower protection law has its limitations: you can never protect someone from social exclusion or mental distress;
  • Be prepared to sometimes let go of the need to follow the law to the letter and dare to stand for what is genuinely the most ethical thing to do;
  • Take a stand and do what is right for your employees: invest in a preventive internal safety net, your SpeakUp Programme;
  • Protect your employees from premature external reporting;
  • Never (never!) underestimate the difficulty of speaking up. It is something to keep in mind at all times when designing and improving your SpeakUp Programme.

We discussed the importance of keeping things easy in our next post of the SpeakUp Success series. Keep reading!

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