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Managing Risk

Four Policies To Mitigate Risks Caused By Your Employees

There are threats which are all relatively new on the business landscape and companies get tripped up by them every day.
Four Policies To Mitigate Risks Caused By Your Employees
Image credit: Shutterstock
Deputy Managing Director, Middle East/ CEO of UAE, Al Futtaim Willis
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Your employees are your company’s biggest asset; however, they can also be its biggest threat.

This may sound like hyperbole but where there are people, there are risks. Employees represent the biggest risk to your cybersecurity. Their health and welfare have a direct impact on productivity and workplace harmony. And any inappropriate behavior towards one another or towards clients could land you with a costly lawsuit. As we’ll discuss, this of course applies to leadership as well.

These threats are all relatively new on the business landscape and companies get tripped up by them every day. But you can mitigate the risks by implementing the following policies at work.

1. Educate your staff 

The days when racism, sexism, xenophobia, and bullying went unchecked in the workplace are over. Prominent movements like #MeToo and #WordsAtWork have scored some high-profile victories in the battle for equality and mutual respect, and businesses have had to get on board fast or suffer the consequences.

Most companies now have four generations working together, which can bring a wide variation in attitudes, especially towards acceptable language. Older workers might be surprised by the reaction to calling a female colleague ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling’; younger workers may be unaware of the offence caused by swearing.

Something that one employee regards as an innocent comment can rapidly escalate into a lawsuit. So, there is real need for companies to have a behavior policy in place and to educate their employees in every aspect of acceptable behavior.

How to help employees be mindful of their behavior: Education is the key.

Operational risks, such as cybersecurity, must be mitigated by educating all staff in the pitfalls and how to avoid them, so unwitting mistakes don’t happen. Many companies overlook this and suffer heavy losses as a result. Make sure you have a clear policy on appropriate language and behavior too– one that adheres to best practice. It should aim to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and equally, and that management understand how to treat employees in a non-discriminatory manner.

Implement a training program that teaches your language and behavior policy to all your employees. Provide examples of unacceptable behavior to help illustrate the point and make sure you get buy-in from all staff. Also, check your employment practices liability insurance policy. Any definition of wrongful employment should be broad enough to include allegations of racial or sexual discrimination.

Related: How A Healthy Workforce Can Boost Your Company's Profits

2. Tackle mental health head-on
In Europe, Middle East and Africa, 29% of employees report having suffered severe stress, anxiety or depression within the last two years. This is according to the Willis Towers Watson 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Surveywhich analyzed responses from over 31,000 employees across the globe.

Employee mental health issues feed into absenteeism, lost productivity, higher staff turnover, and increased compensation claims. Leaving them unaddressed, therefore, is a big risk. While some companies are introducing initiatives to help employees take care of their mental health, the general response to this threat is still inadequate. According to the same survey, only half of employers run any sort of stress management programme.

How to help encourage mental health awareness: HR departments should take a two-pronged approach to employee mental health. On an organizational level, you need a program to educate employees on the signs and symptoms of mental health problems. To help them tackle these issues, you should offer resilience training and mentoring schemes. On an individual level, provide conflict management training and redesign job roles if necessary to limit sources of stress.

3. Operate true openness and transparency
Most companies have an open-door and fairness policy. But how many actually enforce them? In the Willis Towers Watson 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards and Global Workforce Studies, just 55% of employers reported a formal process to limit bias or inconsistency in performance reviews. 

Most companies start out with good intentions but end up finding it difficult to fully enforce complete transparency or recognize where they are falling down. Lack of fairness or transparency are issues that employees tend to notice before employers. Fairness is a growing expectation for workers. It breeds trust and ensures there are no barriers between them and management. So, it’s important to enforce such policies and keep testing them to find out where, if anywhere, they’re failing. 

Related: How To Secure Employee Loyalty In The Middle East

If a company isn’t being transparent with its employees about such polices this can prompt some staff to turn to less reliable sources for the information. Misinformation can breed misunderstandings and drive risky or demotivated behavior.

How to implement a fair and transparent working environment: Start by making sure your compensation policy supports your company culture and strategy. For example, employees should know how their base pay and bonuses are determined. Compensation software can help you achieve this. It assists employers in comparing jobs across regions and then making decisions that are based on fairness. Train your managers to ensure they are fully aware of relevant company policies, then reiterate that it is an expectation and not a choice.

4. Lead by example
Everything I’ve talked about so far falls under the banner of company culture. Without an ethical and compliant culture, organisations will always be at risk. But just having the values isn’t enough. Leaders need to carry the banner for them and show all other employees that the company principles apply across the board. If senior management don’t practice what they preach, don’t expect anyone else to. 

How leading by example brings results: Make adherence to your company culture one of your leaders’ KPIs, alongside the usual gauges such as finance and sales. This will encourage them to build behavioral leadership into their day-to-day work and will help to maintain compliance with important workplace policies.

Lastly, maintain a positive culture. The way you manage your employees is the key to whether they are an asset or a threat. Engage them regularly in the company culture and educate them all in the behavioral standards expected in the modern workplace. This will make them feel valued, cared for, and clear about their own responsibilities. Leaving it to chance is no longer an option.

Related: Need To Protect Your Business? Here's How Risk Engineering Can Help

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