Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Engagement Must Start at the Top Otherwise Corporate Reputation is at Risk

The Bank of England’s recently appointed* deputy governor at the Bank of England, Charlotte Hogg, has come under fire in recent weeks for failing to disclose her brother’s role at Barclay’s when joining the bank three years ago. More recently, according to reports, she also ‘forgot’ to mention this at a pre-appointment hearing with the treasury select committee.

What I am most baffled about is that Ms. Hogg had responsibility for writing the Bank of England’s code of conduct which states “the disclosure of close personal relationships with this active in…bank-regulated financial institutions”.

Her defence to this point is that she doesn’t discuss work-related matters with her brother. But, presuming she knew he at least worked for a bank, does this mean that the rules she was writing her superfluous and intended for everyone else except certain individuals? Or, are the guidelines subjective and dealt with on a case-by-case basis? This all sounds a little bit confusing to me.

Now, I am not going to judge or make an assumption on what the intention was – I certainly have no direct link knowledge of this story other than the reports I have read, however, this case does present yet another example of how important it is for leaders, manager’s, indeed any employee to model the behaviours set by an organisation. By failing to do so, you can significantly put the reputation of the organisation a risk – as well as your own.

Organisations need to bridge the gap between external reputation and internal operations

I’ve always been interested in the relationship between brand and employees. The terms employee engagement and culture are much discussed terms within senior leadership circles. However, in my experience, very few actually commit to looking into this relationship and investing in areas where it matters such as training, listening and internal communications.

For me, and many others, it is well documented there is an intrinsic link between brand, reputation and engagement. Just look at the rise of Glassdoor, internal social channels and the rise of employee advocacy.

To help mitigate any potential risk or threat to your reputation, the key rule is to be clear on what you want and what you expect, and live by it. The recent video of Uber founder Travis Kalanick is another example of how advocacy and reputation has to start at the top. In this case, perhaps if the driver had the opportunity to share his ideas and be listened to, perhaps he would have been less forthcoming to make the video public.

When it comes to engagement and reputation, size doesn’t matter

This challenge is very real to organisations of every shape and size. I attended an event last week with the Guardian Small Business Network which was all about confessions of a start-up. During the event, ee heard the confessions of now hugely successful business owners, the overarching message was that their people were critical to their growth and success – right from the start. As a result, both business and individuals were significantly rewarded when targets were achieved.

The lesson: we need to invest more significantly in getting it right with employees

The lesson for in in all this and my message to leaders and business owners is let’s stop talking about engagement, and let’s start to invest in aligning the external and internal. Let’s put in place ways of effectively communicating and listening to employees and responding to potential issues before they snowball into something much bigger.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know what your employees are really thinking/ feeling/ saying about your business?
  • Have you satisfactorily invested in your people to help them understand what’s important, why and the role that they play?
  • Do your people understand why their doing what they do?
  • Have you got a strategy in place for the entire employee journey?
  • Do you know if you’re communicating in the right way?
  • Do you do more than an annual staff survey to gather insights and views?

If you’ve answered no to any of the above, the chances are, you could be at risk.

(*Update: it was announced 14.3.17 that Charlotte has now stepped down from her role)

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