Revisiting old ground – whistleblowing, courage in the workplace and employee engagement
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I gave a presentation today at an event run by our friends at The Learn Centre (http://www.thelearncentre.co.uk/).  My presentation was on a familiar theme – how many of the behaviours that whistleblowers demonstrate can be incredibly powerful in a non-whistleblowing context.

However, I was listening to a number of the other speakers at the event (copies of their presentations are available on the website) and what struck me was a common theme of employee engagement. 

Those of you that know me will know that I will talk for hours on employment engagement (in fact I arrived at whistleblowing through a combination of the work we have done on courage in the workplace and recognising the links between engaged employees and whistleblowers).  I am naturally a cynic when it comes to latest fads and fancies – 15 years in HR have made me realise that ‘fixing’ an organization’s ills cannot be achieved with one new program. 

However, employee engagement, despite vain attempts by Consulting firms to hijack it to their own ends, has become a short-hand phrase for linking 50 years of Human Resource Management research (yes, that’s where HR got its name) to hard business deliverables such as productivity, profit, customer satisfaction and so on.

Back to the plot.  I was listening to employment lawyers, seasoned HR professionals and Benefits Consultants and almost every one of them had a message which essentially said “listen to your employees, demonstrate flexibility in the way a situation is handled and treat them as individuals”.  In other words – engage with your employees.

While I was asked a couple of questions about help lines (I’m not against them honest, just against firms who use them as an excuse not to listen), there was general nodding to my central theme that connecting with employees with two-way communication, developing their courage competency and creating a culture that encourages employees to speak out will reduce whistleblowing.  And almost as an afterthought, it will increase employee engagement which in turn will lead to higher operating profits.

Maybe we should have a new strapline – connecting your employees (Chris tells me I need to work on it still).