Case study

Creating speak-up cultures in financial services by reframing whistleblowing through immersive learning

Speaking up about wrongdoing becomes rightfully seen as a preventative measure against financial, legal, and reputational risk.

The challenge

The FCA has long emphasised the need for firms to have speak-up cultures and ensure that diverse perspectives are heard. Despite this, the view that whistleblowers are troublemakers that potentially harm a business is still prevalent. According to research by Protect into whistleblowers who work in the City, 70% of those who spoke up about workplace wrongdoing were victimised, ignored, or felt forced to resign after doing so. Because of this dangerous and outdated attitude towards whistleblowers, people may feel unable to flag the risks they see early enough (if at all), and organisations only hear about problems when it is too late to address them - leading to significant financial, legal, and reputational risks. Recent legal developments and publicity around whistleblowing cases has brought this to the forefront for many financial service firms, who ask for our help to upskill leaders to create a psychologically safe environment where people can speak up, are listened to, and where appropriate steps are taken to investigate and manage the concerns raised.

The solution

From our teams’ experience as seasoned employment lawyers, advising on countless whistleblowing cases, we regularly run sessions for organisations that reframe the concept, explaining its close connection to inclusion, risk management, and employee engagement. Immersive learning sessions have been shown to boost knowledge retention by 75%, which is why our preferred process is to utilise Forum Theatre, where actors play out workplace issues, either live or through videos. This includes simulating situations of employees finding it hard to raise concerns and managers not picking up on signs that someone has a concern to raise, which are then reflected on and discussed by the learners. Together, we explore the ramifications for not getting it right, and highlight the firm’s policies and support available.

The impact

The feedback we receive on these sessions is consistently positive and has been used by multinational firms in financial services with regular success. We use polls to measure people’s comfort levels speaking up on issues within their company, both before and after the session, which routinely show a significant difference. One such client asked us to roll out our sessions globally to their staff on different continents, after seeing its tangible impact on leaders in the UK.

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