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Speaking Up (& Being Heard)

Background and Context

What we heard

A culture of openness and positive challenge is important to instil in every organisation, at Board level and all the way down throughout an organisation. Challenges with developing a healthy culture are not unique to banking, these are issues that all industries face.

A core element of culture is ‘Speaking Up’ because the manner in which leaders and organisations manage this process is integral to achieving real, sustainable and authentic cultural change. If an organisation is not serious about fostering an environment where people feel ‘safe’ to air alternative views, be that at meetings or in one to ones, or in ensuring that the process around the handling of formal ‘speak-ups’ is robust, transparent and confidential, then it will be very difficult to succeed in delivering cultural change.

What we did

In 2021, the IBCB commissioned Karian and Box to design and conduct the second staff culture survey, branded as the éist Staff Culture survey. The survey was conducted during the Spring of 2021 a period characterised by immense pressures for many bank customers, staff and the wider economy due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  In addition, there were a number of material announcements from IBCB member banks during this period which will result in changes to organisational structures and the wider banking market in Ireland.

10,648 staff participated in the survey, which is almost 50% of all staff across our member banks. We are very pleased that the results show real progress on cultural change has been made across all IBCB member banks in the period since 2018 – a strong emphasis on the customer is evident across all 5 banks and there has been a material improvement in staff’s confidence levels in Speaking Up – which is core to an effective culture.

3 in 5 bank staff (58%) feel that their organisation’s commitment to building a speak-up culture has strengthened and importantly there has been a 10-point increase to 69% of those who had a concern and felt comfortable to raise it in the period.

The results of the éist Bank Staff Culture survey will shape the areas of focus in our work programme. We intend conducting this survey on two-year intervals.

58% Feel that their bank’s commitment to speak-up culture has strengthened
85% Say that people in their organisation do business ethically
Only 57% are proud to work for their organisation
53% Have felt under constant strain in the past 6 months
Feedback from staff on these events:
‘I left the workshop buzzing as it was such a positive workshop in terms of what IBCB is hoping to achieve. Something that is badly needed in the financial services industry.’
‘The workshop worked as well as it could with the current Speak Up frameworks in place across the sector.  Until some of the feedback in relation to language, sharing MI etc is tackled I fear Speak Up will remain a challenge.’
Key themes which were outputs from the workshops

Speak Up process

Ditch the term 'Speak Up' (negative connotations)

Transparency / lift the veil of secrecy (poor awareness of the process among the 5 banks)

Psychological safety

Tone from the Top

Senior leaders to lead by example

Training (for line managers and  individuals - use case  studies / dilemmas - face to face discussion)

Awareness & Recognition

Recognise those who speak up and celebrate learning from mistakes

Examples of senior leaders who have spoken up and not only survived but thrived!

In October 2018, the Establishment Office of the IBCB commissioned the UK Banking Standards Board to conduct the first culture survey of Irish bank staff. The survey focused on exploring bank staff’s views on a range of issues which lie at the heart of banking culture. The findings of that survey helped inform elements of the IBCB’s work programme, including staff events on Speaking Up, Staff Pressures and Resilience, and Ethics.

The survey (published April 2019) found that one third of all staff said that they had wanted to raise a concern at work over the last 12 months. Of those who have raised a concern, less than 2 in 5 felt that they had been listened to and taken seriously. [1]

[1] Source: IBCB Employee Survey 2018

Key Findings
34% wanted to raise a concern
Only 59% said they had done so
24% chose not to raise their concern
Only 39% said they were listened to or taken seriously
They felt nothing would happen as a result (54%)
They felt that doing so would make them look bad (32%)
They felt it would be held against them if they did (58%)
They said they did not trust the confidentiality of the process (33%)

A working group was formed with senior representation from our five member banks and including sponsors from the Irish Banking Culture Board to collaboratively discuss fostering a culture where staff feel they can safely challenge and ultimately ‘Speak Up’ if necessary.

Following our initial session with the working group on Speaking Up we held a series of workshops in Q1 2020 with staff from various locations, backgrounds, locations, roles and levels across our five member banks, to explore further the issues relating to Speaking Up which were identified in the IBCB staff survey 2018.

Feedback received from staff who attended was that the sessions were extremely worthwhile and engaging.

Below were the key themes which were the outputs from the workshops with bank staff, which we fed back to our member banks.