Power to the people

A major multinational organisation had developed an internal tool that allowed employees to flag issues (big or small) internally through an anonymous whistle-blowing tool. The initial uptake was low, but the client was convinced that there were issues that employees wanted to raise.

Understanding employee behaviour

We analysed data from an accompanying survey that asked employees about their habits around ‘speaking up’ to their colleagues and supervisors.

We combined this with an understanding of the context in which employees were making decisions; and carried out a diagnosis of the potential behavioural drivers that were keeping different people from speaking up.

We also ran Behavioural Economics workshops with the legal and human resource teams to help them understand how behavioural drivers could be barriers, even when employees claim they don’t have a problem speaking their minds.

The reasons behind the lack of uptake

Some teams were more comfortable speaking up than others and the personality of the manager and the environment and culture they had created played an important role.

There had been too much focus on the legal and compliance aspects of the service which meant that the wider context was missed (e.g. there was a physical box to submit grievances but it was visible in the hallway, so people did not feel comfortable using it).

Social proof was important. Most employees knew that the service was never used so it felt odd to use it for a ‘small’ issue that they may have observed.

As a result of our in-depth analysis and workshops, The client altered the questions of the employee survey to learn more about the context. They also identified options to trial different ways of communicating and offering the service. This included a training programme for new managers that included help on how to deal with problems and encourage teams to speak up.