It is now broadly recognised that even the best ‘formal systems’ of governance – compliance, regulation and other such artefacts – are far from foolproof. What’s more, no amount of refinement can address their inherent shortcomings. Therefore, it is paramount that we devote more attention to enhancing the ‘human systems’ of governance within our institutions.

A cornerstone of any robust human system is employee voice – people must feel that they can, and should, voice and enact their values. It is one of the most effective ways to supplement an organisation’s formal compliance mechanisms. By cultivating cultures where people have the skills and confidence to effectively use their voice, organisations are far more likely to become aware of and appropriately address wrongdoing in its formative stages, prior to a ‘whistleblower’ being required to lift the lid on a big scandal. The challenge is making this happen.

The conventional approach one takes when embarking on a ‘cultural’ journey is to spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the role of leadership. This approach has a lot of merit. After all, doesn’t culture start from the top? Although we are not averse to this approach, we cannot neglect the responsibility of the follower. Any programme or training initiative that aims to increase the likelihood that people within an organisation will use their voice and enact values must equip them with the skills to do this effectively.

Apr-Jun 2017 Issue

Human Systems Advisory

University of Virginia Darden School
of Business