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How HSBC ran their behavioural trial on speaking up

This article (the second in the series on our behavioural trial on speaking up) is being published from the BSB by a guest writer, HSBC UK Retail Branch Manager, Natasha Moore.

Now, how do you condense a fifteen months’ cultural change program into a small blog? The answer is, with great difficulty! However, we hope the following breakdown will give you a flavour of the structure and considerations HSBC had when building the Speak Up Guardians initiative:

  • Blank page – We genuinely started with no agenda other than a desire to move our Speak Up culture forward, and with an understanding that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Autonomy – Our leadership gave their support to our pilot through to its conclusion, irrespective of whether it ‘worked’ or not. They were passionate that we explore all options without bias or prejudgement.
  • Data – Gathering information and ideas from other institutions and other parts of the company were invaluable. We reviewed the findings from the health service as well as established forums and systems internally to learn and incorporate the best of all things.
  • Self-nomination – We asked individuals to self-identify as Guardians, sharing their reasons and motivations to be a Guardian. This was a leap of faith as we were always at risk of personal agendas. Equally had we not taken this approach, we ran the risk of appearing contrived and undermining the ‘trust’ element before we started. The self-nomination process – without any limitation from the centre – actually led to twice as many Guardians as we had hoped.
  • Communication – It was key to tell the story of what we were doing to every stakeholder involved. Our biggest piece of learning was to ensure that everyone involved understood their part in the Guardian pilot and was able to bring the Speak up Guardian message and support to life within their business areas.
  • Training – We learned as we went along that training worked better when delivered in ‘bite size’ chunks at regular intervals. Due to geography, these sessions were delivered via interactive WebEx and lasted for no more than 30 minutes.  We covered different topics each month such as Mental Health coaching, listening skills and financial well-being, to name just a few.  This involved building a suite of knowledge over the duration, providing support tools and ways of accessing information for our people.
  • Feedback – Throughout the pilot, we surveyed our Guardians weekly to understand activity levels from pro-active or re-active enquiries. As confidentiality was paramount, we sought information only on headline topics and themes.  Nevertheless, this gave us enough information to understand trends, priorities and issues in a timely manner.  It also helped us develop coaching and training that we could then deliver in our next monthly update.
  • Escalation – We had a confidential email address and designated senior managers who Guardians could access for support with complex or sensitive cases. This gave our Guardians confidence and a means of raising ideas and/or issues further. This in turn resulted in changes that have benefitted the whole organisation.
  • Measures – At the start, middle and end of the pilot we surveyed our employees for their thoughts and feedback on the impact of the pilot. This gave us insight and ideas, and provoked conversation on what we do next.

If you’d like to learn more about this trial or any other aspect of the BSB’s behavioural insights work, please contact the BSB Insights team at