Back to home page

How to encourage a speak-up culture in the workplace

World Of Work | By | 1 Oct 2021 | 3 minute read

speak up culture

No matter what industry you operate in – from construction to retail to logistics and everything in between – even the smallest problem can snowball into a major disaster if no one speaks up about it. Rather than fostering a workplace where employees are afraid to mention issues they notice, savvy leaders are encouraging a speak-up culture that praises accountability and ensures the company can get ahead of problems.

Ready to boost communication in your workplace while making it a safer environment for everyone? Here’s how to get started.

What is speak-up culture?

Speak-up culture means transforming a traditional workplace into one where people feel safe and confident to raise issues, concerns and potential problems. Contrary to the outdated notion that workers should be only seen, not heard, a work environment that encourages employees to speak up can help the business identify and reduce any potential threats – issues that might be missed in a workplace that discourages employees from what they perceive as ‘disrupting the status quo’. Case in point: social distancing, which is one of the biggest safety concerns for workers during the current pandemic. Our research found that one in four workers are hesitant to ask their boss to socially distance.

But more than just the safety aspect, a robust speak-up culture is one that encourages your people to feel comfortable about sharing their own views and ideas. That freedom can spark creativity and lead to a variety of positive outcomes, with an innovative business culture opening up potentially lucrative opportunities.

How do you measure a speak-up culture at work?

You may already have existing processes for how to gauge your employees’ opinions on the workplace. Analytics and data are incredibly valuable commodities across all industries, so it’s important that you have a variety of strategies to tap into your team’s insights.

While a highly efficient speak-up culture won’t happen overnight, you can measure it in a few different ways:

  • Anonymous surveys: These can reveal critical data such as: whether an employee has ever raised a workplace concern; whether they know about the proper reporting channels; why they decided not to raise an issue after they noticed it; and how they believe the company is responding to problems as they arise.
  • Employee relations: If a team member doesn’t feel comfortable going directly to their manager about an issue, they may still report problems via the HR channels. Make sure you arm your human resources department with the right tools to analyse specific reporting metrics.
  • Focus groups: While employee surveys can reveal static information about a company’s speak-up culture, getting to the heart of things with a live discussion can help people voice their opinions. Allow them to be open and honest, asking them questions about whether or not they feel management is encouraging open discussions, whether they are approachable, whether they have any fears of negative repercussions after reporting an issue, and whether they trust in their leaders to take handle their concerns fairly and efficiently.

3 tips to encourage a speak-up culture

If you find that your current approach isn’t hitting the mark, there are a few different ways you can make people more comfortable to speak up for safety and other issues. Here are three tips to kick-start your speak-up culture:

1. Reward your people

An issue that isn’t raised quickly enough can spiral into a problem that leads to financial and reputational damage. Staff should therefore be proactive about reporting issues, and they will feel more compelled to do so if they are rewarded for speaking up at work. Whether that involves a physical reward system, a department-wide bonus for a month with zero workplace incidents, or something as simple as public praise, find out what will make your team more vocal at work.

2. Make your workplace a safe space

Evidence shows that staff who fear retaliation for reporting a problem are far less likely to come forward about it. To truly foster a speak-up culture, you need to be firm about preventing retaliation. Moreover, your team needs to know that policies around reporting are easy to navigate and won’t make their life more difficult just for speaking up.

3. Be transparent

Aside from the threat of retaliation, one of the biggest reasons why employees don’t report issues is because they believe management won’t take action. Whether that means downplaying the issue or ignoring it entirely, if your people don’t trust you to take action then they won’t bother to speak up. Ensuring your team understands there are robust compliance, safety and legal policies in place – and that their report will be addressed – is the best way to encourage action.

Encouraging your staff to engage in a speak-up culture at work is just one way you can make your workplace safer. Technology like SafetyCulture, for example, is an incredible tool that helps teams inspect, capture issues and take corrective actions through a user-friendly app. Get started for free today or find more insights to improve your workplace at the SafetyCulture Blog.

Like this article? Why not share it!

Important Notice
The information contained in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your specific needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are based on our interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice. We are not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article. SafetyCulture disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article, any site linked to this article, and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.