Why did not anyone tell us sooner?
In Stora Enso we value openness and honesty, we actively encourage and value employees raising their opinions and speaking up when things don’t seem right. Good communication and open conversations, on all levels, builds trust and healthy company cultures. However, it’s not uncommon that employees remain silent about important issues that they see at work, or that they have spoken up but have not been heard. This can lead to unaddressed problems and end up costing time and productivity, or in the worst case accidents, injuries or serious breaches of our Code of Conduct. That is why the Ethical Spotlight is now aimed at giving instructions for both the managers and employees on how to create a Speak Up culture.
Generally speaking, there are two things that people need to feel in order to voice their opinions or concerns. Firstly, they need to feel trust. They need to feel safe to speak up and know that their superiors welcome diverse opinions and perspectives and no judgement will be made against them for speaking up. As a manager, you need to assure your employees that you are open, ready and willing to discuss and listen. Even if the topic is hard or unpleasant to talk about. Secondly, they need to know that their opinion matters. Even if fear is one of the big reasons why employees don’t speak up, an even bigger reason is that they feel powerless in a sense that their opinion doesn’t matter, nothing will change even if they voice their opinions and they end up feeling that it’s not worth their effort. Speaking up is fundamentally about the wish to change something and make a difference and it’s important that our employees feel that everyone in this company has a voice and that voice matters. Creating a culture where everybody feels encouraged to voice their opinions goes also beyond just speaking up about misconducts. Without everyone feeling safe to make suggestions and bringing up new ideas, growth or new innovations will not happen.
Speaking up is important – listening is crucial. Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen can have a major impact on your team and the quality of your relationships with others. Active listening means that you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated. Pay attention to the person speaking, don’t be distracted by your phone or your email or anything else going on around you. Don’t form counter arguments while the other person is still speaking and acknowledge during the conversation that you are actively participating into the discussion. Acknowledgement can be something as simple as a nod of the head or a simple “uh huh.” You aren’t necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening can also help you to actually pay attention.
In these busy times, where everyone’s schedule seems to be more than full, time seems to be our most valued asset and it might seem hard to find some to put aside and have those discussions with our managers, colleagues or subordinates. However, it’s vital that we do and really hear what each other have to say. Saying to your team that your “door is always open” simply isn’t enough. You need to be an active player in creating open lines of communication. You need to have the time to talk to your team members. Ask for feedback and keep asking. Not everyone will feel comfortable to talk to you the first time but when you keep coming back to them, it will eventually happen and you have the opportunity to address issues before they become problems.
As a manager, you also have a very important role in bringing forward serious complaints to Internal Audit and Ethics & Compliance for further investigation and actions. When to do this, and when to handle issues on local level in your team is a judgment call, but serious breaches of our Code of Conduct such as corruption, breaches of competition laws as well as serious harassment or violence should always be reported. And if not sure, always pick up the phone and discuss with Internal Audit or Ethics & Compliance.
While we think that everyone should feel comfortable raising their concerns with their own manager, sometimes for one reason or another it’s not possible. In those cases, you always have the option to reach out confidentially to the Head of Internal Audit, HR or Legal. If you even find this option not comfortable, you can report anonymously to our Speak Up hotline.
Very often when we read about corporate scandals, we read that there were people who were aware of the issues, problems or misconducts but did not dare to speak up, or were not heard, often leaving the management to ask the question: “Why didn’t anyone tell us sooner?” Stora Enso is our company and working place. All of our opinions and voices matter. Let’s all act in a way, where we are not left asking that question in the future. Go over the Spotlight material from here and learn together with your team, how to make speaking up more easy and part of everyday life.
Ethics and Compliance team