HSBC, the BSB and running a behavioural trial on Speaking Up

This article is being published from the BSB by a guest writer, HSBC Head of UK Employee Insights and Engagement, Helen Smith.

As a member firm of the BSB, we participate in the annual BSB assessment which looks at our competence, culture and engagement as told by our people.

One of the key themes explored is ‘Openness’, of which Speaking Up is a part. In the current changing circumstances, this theme remains as important as ever.

At HSBC, we’re keen to work together in an environment where everyone is able to speak up, be heard and appropriate action be taken, so this section of the assessment shows us how we’re doing.

We’re always keen to improve, and to try new things. Working with the Banking Standards Board, and their Insights team, we decided to pilot ‘Speak Up Guardians’ in our Branch Network and monitor their success. We’d seen it done well in the NHS with their ‘Freedom to Speak Up Guardians’ approach.

What this meant in practice was us as a host, working with the BSB to set out how we’d do it. This meant applying the academic theory to us as a ‘live subject’.

Our work with the BSB helped us understand the impact that Guardians had on our Speak Up culture using some very robust data.  We learnt from the behavioural trial that Guardians made a positive difference to those who have been involved with the programme. The implication is that for the programme to be effective, genuine engagement is required.  We are considering very carefully where and how to use Guardians in our Business to gain the most benefit.  We will be combining the results of the trial with other insight we have (for example the results of the BSB survey and our own internal engagement survey) to inform the decision about and investment in Guardians.

In the next feature on this behavioural trial, the HSBC team will outline the lessons learnt during the fifteen months’ cultural change program.

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