In the course of the whole organisation going through an accredited safety training programme, one of our clients found that their staff brought up a huge range of issues that needed to be addressed.
Initially, the members of staff were cautious – they were afraid to ‘criticise’ the company and were concerned that they would be victimised or penalised for speaking up. We instituted the Chatham House Rule and also had a chat with the Directors.
The Chatham House Rule
“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed”
The question we asked the Directors was, ‘Would you prefer to know where there are problems that could result in risks to your staff, premises and business, without knowing who brought them up – or would you prefer people to keep their concerns to themselves?’
They were 100% in favour of knowing where things needed attention and were quite happy that people retained their anonymity. Their view was that, if there were things they didn’t know about, they were risking their business, which isn’t a very businesslike approach!
The staff should be the eyes and ears of the organisation – the Directors or owners can’t see everything. However, often they’re not encouraged to provide feedback.
In fact, there is a regulation that requires employers to consult with their employees over safety issues. Unfortunately, many employers pay lip service to it, but really don’t want to know about bad practices that have developed, unsafe environments or anything else that will require effort and, perhaps, an investment of time and money to rectify.
Training rooms are often an environment where issues come up – and offer an opportunity for the organisation to improve. Whether the owners or directors choose to take the opportunity is often the difference between an organisation that excels and one that just gets by.