What Corrective Action Looks Like in the Workplace

What Corrective Action Looks Like in the Workplace

Whether it’s down to unforeseen circumstances, communication errors or mere accidents, mistakes are bound to occasionally happen in the workplace despite one’s best efforts to prevent them – systems can fail unexpectedly, technology can be unpredictable and even the best of employees can slip up sometimes. When such an event occurs, an employer must take steps to ensure that any negative impact on the company is mitigated and normal work procedures can continue with as little disruption as possible. 

corrective action targets the root cause of an issue

One way that employers can ensure the consequences of a workplace incident are contained is through pursuing corrective action – a method of addressing a workplace blunder or ‘non-conformity’ in a manner that eliminates the possibility of its recurrence. Corrective action seeks to rectify workplace actions, processes or behaviours when they produce errors or are lacking in their methodology. A common example used to understand corrective action is the idea of a potential workplace fire – with corrective action as a focus, the aim would not only be to put the fire out but to investigate why it occurred and solve the issue at the cause so it does not reoccur.

Examples of Corrective Action

Corrective action takes on different forms depending on the organisation, the specifics of an incident, and the industry it is being utilised in. The changes brought about by corrective action are most tangible when tied to quality assurance and control as this often results in changes that are either physical in nature or cause a noticeable shift in workplace processes. 

Common examples of this include:

      • Equipment being updated or replaced
      • Security alarms being installed
      • Eliminating inefficiencies in business processes
      • Changes in the way data are processed or stored
      • Replacing and/or recalibrating tools and devices 

When it comes to employee management, corrective action revolves around taking action to seek change within a single or group of employees if they have engaged in behaviour that risks harm to the organisation or fellow employees, goes against their contractual obligations or poses ethical concerns that must be addressed.

The specifics of performance-based corrective actions are very dependent on context but generally involve measures such as warnings, suspensions, training programs, coaching, informal or formal counselling and employee dismissal. For example, in the case of workplace discrimination or harassment, the offender may be required to undergo specific training in order to mitigate the risk of future instances, in which case they may be dismissed to eliminate the possibility of recurrence. 

How to build a corrective action plan

The aim of a corrective action plan is to address a workplace accident or incident by first establishing the ideal resolution to the event, and then outlining and following through on the steps required to achieve that outcome. In this manner, employers are able to take an issue impacting the business and understand on a step-by-step basis how it must be addressed to reach the most beneficial result for all parties involved and minimise any consequences. 

Furthermore, the documentation of the plan is important as organisations have a system through which corrective action plans can be reflected and improved upon over time and ultimately increase efficiency and effectiveness whilst improving work processes and employee performance. 

Whilst there is no one formula for creating a corrective action plan, ensuring the inclusion of certain key elements helps make sure that the actions taken accomplish their intended purpose. 

The key elements include:

1. Defining the issue

Whilst it may seem obvious what the purpose of a particular corrective action plan is, taking the time to clearly identify and lay out what the exact problem is, how it has been impacting the company and what needs to be changed is vital. This way, it is easier to understand the need for the plan to exist and what issues will be addressed through its implementation. This is necessary in ensuring that everyone is on the same page and understands the parameters that you will be working within and not lose sight of the final goal. 

By defining the exact issue the organisation is dealing with, finding potential solutions that leave all stakeholders satisfied becomes an easier hurdle to jump. It also helps to break down each step into individual actions, establish who will need to be involved in each aspect, adhere to the established timeline and foresee any constraints or limitations that must be navigated. 

2. Identifying a root cause

The root cause of an issue is the heart of what the corrective action plan seeks to address – seeking to understand what occurred behind the scenes of an incident provides valuable information when attempting to put together an effective strategy to rectify or improve the situation. The purpose of root cause analysis is to ask questions that probe beyond what may seem like a surface-level issue to identify if there are any underlying problems that may result in a recurrence or fester into an even greater problem down the line.

It operates under the notion that all actions and systems are interrelated and that working backwards step by step will eventually lead you to the origins of a problem. Utilising this approach is great for ensuring you’re eliminating the cause of a problem, and not just treating a symptom that might arise again in another form.

Corrective action can impact other stakeholders as well.

Typically, a root cause analysis will proceed through the following elements:

    • Physical causes: Tangible, material items failed in some way 
    • Human causes: People did something wrong, or did not do something that was needed. Human causes typically lead to physical causes 
    • Organisational causes: A system, process, or policy that people use to make decisions or do their work is faulty 

3. Action items

Action items are a pivotal aspect of CAPs as they detail the exact steps the company has decided to take in order to correct the defined problem. They explain what actions will occur, who will be responsible for them, what resources will be utilised and any related costs that need to be addressed etc. Documenting the action items in this manner makes it far more convenient to track the progress of the plan, identify the need for any changes and foresee any potential issues that may cause complications. It also makes it convenient and more convenient to build a risk assessment matrix which is useful for guiding the plan towards decisions with the best risk-reward ratio.

 

4. Metrics for success

A corrective action plan must also detail what metrics will be utilised to judge how well the plan has been implemented and addressed the defined problem. Having metrics for satisfactory completion is necessary for the CAP to progress smoothly towards a final goal. It also makes it easier to reflect on the success of the plan and understand how similar goals can be tackled in the future by examining the successes and weaknesses of the implemented plan.

5. Reflection and reviews

After completing the corrective action plan, an evaluation of how well it served as a resolution to the issue is a must for the continued growth of the organisation’s corrective action processes. During this review, you may find there were areas of the plan that could have been adjusted to make the process faster, more convenient, cost-efficient or produce a better outcome.

At this stage, if there appears to be a significant benefit or opportunity that has been missed, the process can be restarted on a smaller scale. In other cases, these reflections may be utilised to help the company continue tweaking its corrective plans by adjusting the process and considerations made when developing them.

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Utilising corrective action in the workplace allows employers to address issues in such a way that their potential to become a greater or repeated threat to the organization’s safety or quality is minimised.

The process of taking steps to address the root cause of a problem serves as a mechanism for organisations to continue improving their processes and mitigating threats over time. Implementing corrective action plans to accomplish this ultimately enables systemic issues to be addressed and improves the safety, reliability and productivity of the workplace. 

ESG Scores and Why Employers Should Care About Them

ESG Scores and Why Employers Should Care About Them

The term ESG score refers to the measurement of an organisation’s sustainability and ethical impact through differing environmental, social and governance objectives and criteria. The disclosure of ESG scores provides stakeholders insight into issues that are not usually accounted for in a company’s financial statements but have an important contribution to its long-term performance and potential.

The growing importance of sustainable corporate practices has seen ESG scores grow in popularity across industries and play an increasingly important role in workplace decisions. In fact, a 2021 report from the Governance and Accountability Institute found that of the 500 S&P companies, over 90%  actually have some form of ESG reporting in place. In Australia, ASIC is increasing its pressure on company directors to manage non-financial risks, as well as the usual financial risks, and this aligns with some of the components of ESG – particularly the social and governance aspects. 

ESG scores measure exposure to long-term environmental, social, and governance risks

As the components of ESG continue to gain prominence, with everything from carbon emissions to labour practices gaining more scrutiny, it is vital that employers move wisely and make smart ESG decisions. Utilising ESG scores as a tool to guide your approach will help ensure that the organisation keeps up with the evolving expectations of stakeholders.

What does an ESG score measure?

An ESG score measures the performance of an organisation in relation to its ESG-related responsibilities. There are numerous factors taken into account when assessing how a company’s business practices are performing in each ESG category but common examples include; the health and safety of workers, air and water pollution, climate change, board diversity, clean technology and sustainability management.

Utilising ESG criteria to examine organisations offers valuable information not only to stakeholders but also to employers – a study conducted by Oxford University showed that in 90% of companies that made sustainability a priority,  higher cash flowers were enjoyed and operation performance was also improved. Furthermore, a good ESG score helps the organisation to stand out amongst the competition and demonstrate its potential for greater long-term performance. 

In total, there are several hundred ESG indicators and not all of them will necessarily be as important as each other or examined every time an ESG score is calculated. Some common examples of the factors are listed below under their relevant ESG pillar: 

 

Environmental issues can include:

  • Carbon emissions
  • Water sourcing
  • Biodiversity & land use
  • Toxic emissions & waste
  • Packaging material & waste
  • Electronic waste

Social issues can include:

  • Labour management
  • Worker safety training
  • Ethical supply chains
  • Product safety & quality
  • Income equality
  • Consumer financial protection

Governance issues can include:

  • Diversity and inclusivity on the director’s board 
  • Executive compensation
  • Accounting practices
  • Business ethics
  • Tax transparency

 

How are ESG scores calculated?

ESG scores are calculated by third-party rating firms which utilise data from varying different sources, such as financial statements, government databases, securities filings etc, to make their judgement.

This includes any information that is available through frameworks such as the  UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and  Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) which provide valuable information about an organisation’s impact on ESG issues.

By utilising an unbiased third-party group, the risk of any manipulative influence on the score is minimised and stakeholders are able to place greater trust in the result. Each firm has its own method of scoring and investigating a company’s performance and operations and each factor is also given a different level of importance given its significance – typically, factors that have the potential for the greatest impact within a period of two years are given more importance.

Once a score has been calculated through a combination of algorithms and analysis for a particular factor it is then categorised and incorporated into the relevant environmental, social and governance scores. These scores are then eventually combined to form the final ESG rating.

Why are high ESG scores beneficial?

1. Investors: 

Companies with higher ESG scores are often more attractive to investors because they generally have lower exposure to potential future risks as well as fewer liabilities. ESG metrics are increasingly seen as markers for long-term potential success and as result, companies with higher ESG scores attract more investors. Furthermore, investors can place greater trust in the organisation’s operations and align more of their values together which helps build a better relationship between the two.

ESG scores include a wide variety of considerations for an organisation

2. Customers:

Customers are more like to purchase the products and services of organisations with higher ESG scores in reflection of their own personal values and desire to support sustainable and ethical businesses. As a byproduct, these companies also have a better reputation amongst consumers and are able to better retain their customer base. 

3. Attracting talent:

ESG scores also help to attract talent to the organisation and retain it – research by Deloitte indicates that employees who are satisfied with their organisation’s societal and environmental impact are more likely to stay with the company in the long term.

4. Risk Management:

Companies with strong ESG scores are less likely to be impacted by environmental and social risks such as natural disasters, labour disputes, and community backlash. Additionally, companies with strong ESG scores are more likely to be in compliance with regulations, and less likely to face legal and financial penalties.

5. Financial performance:

Organisations that focus more on ESG issues tend to have better long-term financial performance, as they are more likely to be resilient in the face of economic and regulatory changes. This allows them to better face challenges without compromising their bottom line.

6. Innovation:

Companies that focus on ESG issues tend to be more innovative, as they are more likely to think creatively about how to reduce their environmental and social impact, while still achieving their business goals.

How can an organisation improve its ESG score?

To understand how to improve your ESG score, it’s important to first understand what is actually considered a good score and why. Many agencies assign an ESG score on a scale from zero to 100. Typically, a score of less than 50 is regarded as poor, while a score of more than 70 is considered excellent.

Ratings can also be assigned with letters (where CCC or C is the worst rating and AAA is the best) or described as either ‘excellent, good, average, or bad’. If your organisation’s ESG score is not one that you are satisfied with, an ESG strategy should be developed to help improve it. When doing so, key considerations to take into account include:

    • How well are you meeting the requirements of any regulations you follow?
    • What ESG risks is the company most vulnerable to?
    • Are you taking ESG trade-offs into account when making any changes?
    • What ESG-related issues are most relevant to your organisation and stakeholders?
    • How will you maintain your bottom line whilst prioritising ESG within your operations?
    • What ESG areas does the company need to improve on most?
    • What are you doing to make sure your ESG framework will be able to handle future challenges and changes?
    • How is your organisation monitoring your ESG prominence?
    • What steps will you take to build your ESG strategy into your employee culture, policies, and procedures?

Whilst it’s necessary for every employer to ensure that ESG concerns are addressed, it’s important to keep in mind that ESG scores are not the sole measure of a company’s overall performance and should only be utilised in conjunction with various other metrics to make any key decisions.

Furthermore, the lack of a unified approach to ESG scoring and the differences between each agency’s approach to ratings has raised questions about a lack of transparency surrounding ESG grading criteria. It’s also difficult to assess the validity or reliability of a company’s ESG-related disclosure due to the lack of regulatory standards.

As such, whilst ESG scores offer valuable insight and information about an origination, they are not without fault and should be utilised cautiously and mindfully.

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To conclude, the business climate of today makes it necessary for employers to invest time and resources into ensuring that their ESG scores remain competitive. Failing to do so, can negatively impact the long-term growth and success potential of the company as well as its ability to attract investors, retain customers and manage risks.

With environmental, social and governance issues becoming increasingly complex and multifaceted, understanding what ESG scores are and how they operate is essential for ensuring that your origination is able to meet changing demands and remain competitive in the long term.

 

The Biggest Mistakes Made in Investigative Interviews

The Biggest Mistakes Made in Investigative Interviews

Within any workplace, investigative interviews are highly valued resources that play an important role in uncovering important information and evidence about the circumstances or events being investigated.

However, in order to utilise them to their full potential and validate their usage in a legal setting, they must be conducted in a thorough manner that is unbiased and judicial. An investigative interview can take considerable deliberation, planning and effort on part of the employer and investigative team handling the situation.

Depending on the nature of the issue, the employee being questioned and the existing evidence, a number of things must be taken into consideration before the investigative interview is commended.

For example, deliberation on the following will be necessary in order to ensure the aim of the interview is met:

      • Who will conduct the interview
      • The interviewer’s approach to the conversation
      • A list or guideline of questions or topics to be addressed
      • What form of record taking chosen
      • Any relevant policies of the company
investigative interviews are crucial sources of evidence

Successfully conducted investigative interviews will provide essential information that allows employers to establish the facts of a case, support or contest the accounts of other interviewees and decide if any employee misconduct has occurred.

Ultimately, these steps will help the employer decide what the next steps in the investigation are and allow it to proceed smoothly and efficiently, In contrast, a poorly conducted investigative interview that is not procedurally fair or thoughtfully planned can cause serious harm to the company’s reputation, negatively impact the employee culture or result in potential lawsuits.

This article will explore some of the most common mistakes interviewers make when questioning their subjects, from the moment they enter the room to the conclusion of the session. Ensuring you actively avoid these pitfalls will ensure that your interviews are able to gather valuable and relevant knowledge without risking the investigation’s integrity and validity as a form of statutory evidence.

Biggest Mistakes Interviewers Make

Mistake #1: Poor technique 

When an investigator sits down to conduct an interview that aims to be relevant and useful, their approach to the questioning has a major impact on how the conversation proceeds. In order to obtain the information you need, its important to:

      • Prevent the interviewee from going on irrelevant tangents  
      • Not to use leading or suggestive questions that are implicative in nature
      • Refrain from questions that are excessively aggressive
      • Interrupt while a question is being answered
      • Avoid asking multiple questions at the same time

Engaging in any of the behaviours above is a sign of poor interviewing technique which could risk the viability of the interview as a form of investigative evidence. A good approach would encourage the interviewee to speak freely and go into detail without interruption (as long as what they’re saying is of relevance).

It can be helpful to bridge gaps and pauses with gentle prompting but don’t feel the need to fill in every silence as these moments can actually be an encouragement for greater detail and clarification from the employee. Using phrases that are open-ended such as “explain/describe for me”, “what happened next”, and “how did you” is a great way to do this and help yield greater information from the individual.

Closed language should only be reserved when you are attempting to clarify information and cement details whereby starting questions with ‘who, what, where, when, why’ would be more appropriate. 

Mistake #2: Not breaking the ice

When it comes to having a fruitful conversation in the investigative interview, rapport is key as it allows the individual being questioned to feel comfortable and secure enough to share their thoughts and experiences freely. Rapport refers to the sense of trust, connection and confidence between the interviewer and the interview and it’s incredibly important to try and establish it from the moment you greet each other. Failing to make the interviewee feel comfortable or at ease, especially in the beginning, will translate throughout the rest of the interview and potentially jeopardise it.

To prevent this, an investigator can attempt to establish rapport in a variety of ways, including:

      • Attending to basic needs e.g. offering water
      • Exchanging pleasantries at the beginning instead of jumping into the questions 
      • Keeping open body language throughout e.g. eye contact, open palms etc.)
      • Checking in on how they’re doing throughout the interview
      • Thanking or praising them for responding openly and honestly 
      • Making sure they’re aware of the interview process and what to expect afterwards
      • Show engagement in what’s being said 

Many investigators either skip or rush through the rapport-building process, and whilst this may reduce the time it takes to get through the required questions, it can greatly reduce the quality of answers received.

It’s in the best interest of the investigation to take the extra time needed for good rapport – in fact, research even suggests that the amount of information an interviewee remembers changes based on the tone established during the first few minutes.

For this reason, it’s important to be conscious and deliberate about rapport – it might even be a good idea to have an external party taking the interview notes so you are able to focus without disruption or a break in the flow of conversation. 

 

speak-up culture encourages employees to voice their thoughts freely
Mistake #3: Not having adequate preparation

A good investigative interview takes time and preparation – an investigator cannot expect to simply walk into the room with a basic grasp of the situation and yield great results. An unprepared interviewer does not have the knowledge, skills or preparation to get the needed information, encourage a confession or make good progress in the investigation. All interviewers should do their due diligence and prepare in advance to maximise the potential of the interview towards achieving its purpose.

Some preparation tips include: 

      • Know who you’re interviewing; their employee background, their role, current duties and responsibilities etc.
      • Have a draft of potential questions
      • Ensure you arrange it at an appropriate time, preferably during the interviewee’s work hours
      • Know what company policies are relevant to the situation
      • Having one or more established aims that will guide the questions asked and the general flow of the conversation 
      • Prepare the space accordingly and make sure there are no distractions – the focus should solely be on the conversation
      • Go over all existing information and evidence 
      • Make sure the team is all on the same page
      • Establish how the interview will be recorded e.g. note taking, audio/video recording etc.

One method of ensuring that you are adequately prepared for the interview and are able to garner all the required information is to make use of the P.E.A.C.E model which offers a flexible framework for investigative interviewing by breaking down the steps you need to take to make sure your aims are met.

Mistake #4: Not documenting investigative interviews correctly 

The documentation of investigative interviews is absolutely necessary for a multitude of reasons. The form of recording is up to deliberation depending on what works best for you and the interviewee (note that you must inform the interviewee that their repones will be recorded and obtain their consent) but it’s crucial that it is done correctly and adequately.

This is because recording an interview is not only important for the procedural documentation of the investigation but also because it can be used for evidence in legal settings whereby it will play a very important role in shaping the outcome of the court. If note-taking is used, all important information must be recorded in as much detail without becoming oversaturated with irrelevant information.

Failing to document correctly can directly impact the credibility of the interview and any conclusions made through it which can pose serious consequences to the investigation’s outcome and also cause legal concern.

Mistake #5: Letting bias impact your interview

Whilst we cannot always prevent the unconscious biases that shape how we view things, it’s important to at least be aware of them, particularly in the setting of an investigative interview. It’s vital for the investigation that an interviewer remains as neutral as possible and does not make assumptions based on factors irrelevant to the discussion such as appearance or rumours.

Also, if the person being interviewed feels they are being judged, they can become defensive and closed off which then impacts the responses they give. During the conversation make sure to phrase your question carefully, refrain from making comments that could be perceived as offensive and do not jump to conclusions in place of listening carefully to what the employee is actually sharing with you. 

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Investigative interviews are an important part of the entire investigation process and the manner in which they are conducted should be carefully thought out in accordance with the context of each case, the employee and the goal of the session. Making sure that you avoid the common interviewing pitfalls will allow you to gain the information needed from the subject and allow investigative interviews to proceed as smoothly as possible. 

Speak-Up Culture and Why Your Employees Struggle With It

Speak-Up Culture and Why Your Employees Struggle With It

Extensive studies and research in recent years have cemented the notion that having a solid speak-up culture at work generally results in improved outcomes for the organisation in everything from operations to communications and innovation.

However, it seems that the efforts of many organisations to build an effective speak-up culture have been largely unsuccessful with data reporting that most employees still struggle to do so. In fact, a 2020 survey of a group of 6000 employees found that over 60% of them only ever spoke up about a few select issues directly tied to their role and of this number, almost 20% never spoke up at all.

This should be concerning for all employers because the idea of a speak-up culture is not only about employees raising concerns or voicing their dissatisfaction – the employee voice also enables the valuable contribution of their ideas, opinions and thoughts towards forming opportunities for improved efficiency, better work outputs and overall company growth.

A strong speak-up culture is vital to a company's continued growth

To understand what they’re doing wrong in their current approach, employers must first understand the challenges and barriers employees face when speaking up. Doing so will allow the utilisation of targeted strategies that encourage a team environment and employee culture in which workers not only feel they are able to speak comfortably but are encouraged to do so. 

Why you need your employees to speak up

The lack of employee voice in an organisation manifests in a range of consequences and untapped potential that inhibits long-term growth and success.

Some of the detrimental impacts of a limited speak-up culture include:

    • The establishment of a workplace culture doesn’t allow for employee input and contribution. Fear of retribution pushes workers to stay quiet and agree with whatever employers or managers say or decide even if they have better ideas.

    • Unethical workplace decisions foster in a workplace where employees aren’t encouraged to speak-up as problematic behaviour, actions or speech go unquestioned and unchallenged, particularly when it comes from those in positions of higher authority.

    • A lack of employee voice reduces the diversity and creativity of overall input in the workplace and results in team decisions that aren’t always the most optimal approach to the task or process at hand. By choosing to not speak up, employees aren’t able to bring their full potential to the table and the employers miss out on making the most of their talent, experience and knowledge. 

Barriers to a speak-up culture

Understanding the reasons why an employee might choose to stay silent or speak up in a particular context is difficult and rarely attributed to a single reason alone. Research suggests that employees are more likely to speak up and share their thoughts if they believe their contribution will have a beneficial impact on themselves and their organisation. However, if they believe that their opinions or concerns have the potential to put them at risk in some way, such as subjecting them to workplace discrimination, they are far more likely to remain silent.

This concept of the ‘social threat’ of voicing potentially controversial opinions or concerns and then facing the threat of workplace retaliation, is often cited as the greatest barrier to a thriving ‘speak-up’ culture. This is somewhat inevitable because no matter how strong the speak-up culture of a company is, it cannot grant complete psychological safety to employees who depend on it in order to put themselves in the vulnerable position of voicing a potentially contentious opinion.

Whilst some essence of this ‘social threat’ will always remain due to it inherently being a psychological phenomenon, employers can mitigate its impact significantly by one simple, consistent action; validation. Open validation of the opinions and thoughts of employees who are speaking up will slowly reduce the ear that employees may feel over time – this does not mean you always have to agree with the employee speaking up, but rather showcase that you appreciate their input and take it into consideration. 

speak-up culture encourages employees to voice their thoughts freely

The personality vs environment perspective 

Two of the key factors often pitted against each other when examining why employees are remaining silent in a certain workplace are personality vs environment. The perspective of ‘personality’ attributes an employee’s reluctance to speak to their inherent personality traits, such as introversion and shyness. In contrast, the perspective of ‘environment’ suggests that the workplace culture is at fault when an employee feels unable to voice their opinions. The workplace environment is thought to be one where the decision to speak up will result in negative social consequences. 

Both of these factors can play a role in the organisation simultaneously and understanding their effects can allow you to adapt and guide your strategies accordingly. When dealing with personalities who naturally struggle to speak up, employers can try and combat this with additional employee training or recruitment programs that focus on hiring individuals with a more proactive nature. If however, the issue is in the environment itself, the employer must work on changing the corporate culture to one that actively encourages and values the ideas and thoughts of their employees and considers them seriously. 

A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that both personality and environment had a significant effect on employees’ tendency to speak up with ideas or concerns.  However, it concluded that a strong culture of speaking up where employees were adequately encouraged and supported in doing so, could actually result in employees who didn’t usually speak-up to do so as a result of the environment. This held especially true if there was actually an expectation at work for employees to speak-up and others around them were openly sharing their thoughts without experiencing any repercussions. 

This is actually great news for employers and suggests that if you want employees to speak up, the work environment and the team’s culture can actually allow you to achieve success regardless of any inherent personality barriers. Encouraging and rewarding speaking up can help overcome an employee’s natural hesitancy to speak-up and in turn encourage those around them to follow suit.

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To conclude, attempting to establish a successful ‘speak-up’ culture is not an easy endeavour for any organisation. However, consistently working towards a workplace environment where opinions and concerns are shared freely allows employers and employees to communicate better, make decisions faster, and build a more tight-knit culture overall.

Understanding the social threats that inhibit the employee voice and combatting them through actively encouraging such behaviour and rewarding workers for it will allow your organisation to find success when attempting to build a strong speak-up culture.

How to Increase Cybersecurity Awareness in Your Workplace

How to Increase Cybersecurity Awareness in Your Workplace

A report by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) found that between 2020 and 2021 alone, there was a 68% increase in cyberattacks on companies that had the potential to compromise sensitive data. Such a figure poses major concerns to any employer who understands the importance and impact of strong cybersecurity in the workplace. 

With the lingering impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the continually rising popularity of remote work, having employees well-versed in cybersecurity has become paramount in ensuring that your company’s confidential information and intellectual property remain unthreatened and secure.

Taking active measures to ensure your employees are educated and trained to practice cybersecurity within their daily work processes is an important step forward in safeguarding the organisation against potential security threats.

cybersecurity awareness is crucial to the overall security of an organisation's assets

There are many approaches to accomplishing increased cybersecurity awareness and the methods you incorporate will depend on your specific needs, employees, goals and current methods. It’s important to take a holistic approach that covers the varying aspects of digital security to ensure that all employees, contractors and suppliers understand how to prevent, identify and mitigate risks effectively. 

Detailed below are some of the strategies you can incorporate as you work towards a more cyber-aware workforce.

Ways you can increase cybersecurity awareness among employees

1. Be as clear and transparent about cybersecurity as possible

In order for employees to take cybersecurity seriously, they must first understand the importance it holds and how the company’s policies and regulations regarding it.

    Cybersecurity awareness should be included in all relevant aspects of the employee experience. In particular, the employee onboarding process should set the expectation for the policies and processes they must follow to mitigate any security risks that may accompany their role.

    Making sure that you communicate the importance of each individual employee in threat detection and prevention can help encourage them to be more conscious about following cybersecurity protocols. For example, focusing on their personal computer and networks when dealing with external threats focuses the issue onto their individual actions which helps them to relate to the risk on a personal level. 

    Communications surrounding cybersecurity should also be diversified, especially when there is an active threat targeting company systems which employees must know about as quickly as possible. Using methods such as email alone is not only inefficient, but it can also seriously expose the organisation to threats by simply getting lost amidst the abundance of daily correspondence. Combing emails with other methods such as security alerts on systems and verbal communication from managers will help ensure that cybersecurity news is spread quickly and efficiently.

    When communicating with your employees, try to use simplified language in place of technical jargon. This prevents confusion and makes sure all employees are aware of what’s happening as not all of them will be technically included or be familiar with the company’s processes or current situation.

    2.  Keep track of devices with access to company systems 

    With over 60% of employees having access to company data and information through personal devices and 15%  of security breaches resulting from missing or lost devices, having strong cybersecurity awareness and policies in place is necessary for employers.

    All employees should be trained on best practices when accessing company data and systems through either personal or corporate devices and understand the guidelines which govern their usage.

    Some key points to consider when attempting to educate employees on secure device usage include:

        • Having a strong BYOD policy in place which outlines how personal devices may be used in relation to work-related tasks
        • Reminding all employees that authorised usage is confined only to them and letting partners, kids, friends and coworkers use the device can increase exposure to a threat
        • Educating employees on what is considered personal or company relates usage of the device
        • Ensuring employees understand why and how company devices may be monitored for their usage and be subjected to certain restrictions 
        • Making sure that all devices are updated regularly to meet any new security requirements and/or updates
    3. Train employees to identify cybersecurity threats 

    Beyond understanding the importance of cybersecurity, employees should also know how to identify potential threats that could result in a data breach. Training them to pick up on signs of suspicious activity will help them pick up risks earlier and manage them before they cause serious harm to the organisation. 

    When these signs are noticed, they should be reported and investigated as soon as possible so steps can be taken in the scenario the threat poses genuine concern and is serious. Examples of potential threats to watch out for and avoid include:

        • Suspicious emails (unusual content, sense of urgency, grammar and spelling errors, unfamiliar domains)
        • Pop-up or ad alerts that claim the device’s security has been compromised 
        • The device suddenly slows down, lags or stops responding to your mouse or keyboard commands
        • Any offerings of free money, prizes or products
    cybersecurity awareness strategies should extend to all employees, contractors and suppliers
    4. Secure all passwords and digital tools

    Remote work combined with the usage of personal devices can result in employees falling complacent when it comes to following best practices for passwords, which have a strong influence on maintaining strong cybersecurity. Make sure to educate and remind your workers on following password protocols and put in strategies to ensure the integrity of authentication methods you’ve implemented on a regular basis.

    A few ways you can do this include:

        • Ensure that your cybersecurity offboarding process includes changing all relevant passwords when an employee leaves the company
        • Have regular password changes conducted on all organisational tools
        • Implement two-factor authentication for increased cybersecurity 
        • Advise against using one password for multiple purposes
        • Use regular training as an opportunity to educate employees on strong vs weak password practices and their consequences through real cases

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    Learn more about how Polonious can help you improve cybersecurity awareness in your workplace.

    To conclude, employee awareness of best practices for cybersecurity and knowledge about how to address and mitigate risks is growingly important, particularly in an era of remote work and constant online communication.

    As an employer, taking steps to educate and train your employees about workplace cybersecurity allows them to understand the individual role they play in protecting the company against data breaches.  To encourage strong cybersecurity awareness, your approach and message should be consistent, easy to understand and effective in conveying the significance of the issue.

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