I’m the type of person who enjoys taking on the projects that nobody else wants. Typically these are things that get put to the bottom of other people’s piles. Things that other people see as boring. And yes, sometimes they are boring, but important nonetheless.
I’m not a general dogsbody or suck up. I like a challenge and taking a bit of ownership. I enjoy doing the research required, laying the groundwork for a thorough job. It’s a chance to learn new things and work with different people. I can offer a new perspective, perhaps with my unique sense of humour thrown in, if appropriate.
I’ve carried out this exercise numerous times over the years with projects relating to finance, health and safety and good governance. They’re subjects that tick all the boxes above – boring, but important. Often there are also laws, auditors and regulators that all require certain things to be in place.
Despite this, it can be difficult to get employees to engage in these areas. Once they’ve been hounded one too many times, they might take a cursory glance over the required policies and sign to say they understand and agree to abide by their terms. HR can rest safe in the knowledge that it has something to wave in their face should they ever break those rules.
I’ve realised that although the subject matter is wildly different, there is a common vein running throughout. It’s all about employees knowing what to spot and how to report it. The vast majority of employees are honest and trustworthy. They know when something feels wrong. It’s often knowing what to do next where they get stuck. They don’t know what to do so they don’t tell anyone. Or they unwittingly tell the wrong person, or try to solve the issue themselves and scupper any proper action that needs to be taken. They can’t really be blamed when these details are buried in a dry and wordy policy that no one has attempted to bring to life for them.
In most cases we’re never going to convince people of the importance. It’s not high on priority lists, particularly as the issues we’re asking people to look for are, thankfully, a rare thing. However, I find something simple and positive works best. I actually think there’s one phrase that sums it up for many of those dry subjects – “go with your gut”. It plays on that feeling we get in the pit of our stomach when we know something’s wrong, telling us to act. It’s putting the onus on employees. Giving them ownership and trusting them to use their initiative. Ideally there would be an accompanying graphic, something sharp and punchy to grab people’s attention. Like a large stomach with the catchphrase tattooed across it. Of course the obligatory policy summary is going to more appropriate, but I think I know which would stick in people’s minds more…
Image credit: telegraph.co.uk