How a Speak-Up Culture Can Help You Mitigate Risk
How a Speak-Up Culture Can Help You Miti...

How a Speak-Up Culture Can Help You Mitigate Risk

A strong speak-up culture is your early warning system for challenges.

Kelly Maxwell Content Marketing Specialist, OneTrust

clock4 Min Read

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By now, you’ve probably heard the phrase “speak-up culture.” A quick Google search of the phrase yields millions of results, because the conversation is evolving fast, and the impact of a strong speak-up culture continues to become more clear. Business leaders and ethics and compliance teams alike are talking about how to build a speak-up culture, but the benefits echo throughout your entire business operation. Have you considered how your risk visibility is incomplete without a robust speak-up culture? Unpack the strategic value of a speak-up culture, how to improve it, and how it can become your early warning system for challenges like litigation or external investigation.

Download eBook: How to Build a Speak-Up Culture

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The Strategic Value of a Speak-Up Culture 

Your hotline’s value far exceeds the regulatory box-checking requirement it fulfills. It provides insight into compliance issues, gives your team the chance to resolve issues before they leak to the press or social media, and it prepares you to deal with risk. But it can only accomplish all the above if you are capturing an adequate number of reports—and that’s where your speak-up culture, or lack thereof, becomes your biggest asset.

Although fewer reports received may represent fewer instances of misconduct in the eyes of company leadership, ethics and compliance practitioners know that unsubmitted reports signal invisible and immeasurable risk. Practically speaking, if employees throughout the business are witnessing misconduct, but lack faith in the reporting process, then you won’t become aware of that misconduct until it’s too late.

What is Speak-Up Culture? 

A company with a strong speak-up culture is a workplace environment where all employees feel safe to come forward and report their concerns and ask questions, doing so without fear of retaliation. Employees who come forward, if their corporate speak-up culture is strong, will feel confident that management will appropriately follow up on their report and act if necessary. Research from Coqaul, formerly the Center for Talent Innovation, shows that companies with “two-dimensional diversity,” meaning management makes it safe to give feedback and ensures that everyone is heard, are 45 percent more likely to see their organization improve market share.

Speak-Up Culture: Your Early Warning System 

A healthy helpline supports speak-up culture and is a vital component of your “speak-up ecosystem,” preparing your company for challenges like litigation or external investigation. Your hotline isn’t just a supercharged messaging service; it’s a portal to case management that captures a detailed record of complaints and the associated documentation and actions taken. That audit trail is an essential element of your defense when a third-party regulator comes knocking.

Minimizing the Impact of Lawsuits and Prosecutions 

Both the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have been known to offer non-prosecution agreements or deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) to companies with robust compliance programs in place—and that includes your speak-up culture and hotline.

In some cases, hotline audit trails can also deter lawsuits. Because the hotline information is discoverable, the reporting party’s attorney can access it and review the actions of the company and their own client. In cases where the litigant has misrepresented the facts of the case to their attorney, this level of access to the case history can sometimes act to halt further legal action.

How to Improve Speak-Up Culture 

Convinced that a strong speak-up culture is a vital component of your company’s ongoing growth, health, and risk management? Still looking for ways to improve speak-up culture within your organization? Although it can feel like a steep uphill climb, overcoming fear of retaliation, lack of faith that reports will go anywhere, cultural barriers against “snitching,” and lack of awareness, there is hope. Many companies have overcome those exact scenarios, and we’ve compiled the resulting insights in our ebook about how to build a speak-up culture. Here’s a preview of the exercises we include in the eBook:

6 Ways to Improve Speak-Up Culture: 

  • Conduct a listening exercise
  • Raise awareness of the helpline
  • Address “fear of the unknown”
  • Address fear of retaliation
  • Address cultural barriers
  • Ensure employee confidence

To dive into a step-by-step process for each method of improving speak-up culture listed above, download the eBook.

Download eBook: How to Build a Speak-Up Culture

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