Control your company’s destiny with a work strategy

In many ways Brexit news hit like a splash of cold water – a shocking surprise. In the weeks that have followed, many organizations are now experiencing a constant, sprinkler-like flow of information and activities needed to manage internal and external stakeholders with preparedness during business as usual (BAU). But BAU this is not.

As this period of uncertainty continues, organizations need to think about alternative strategies for deploying its future workforce to manage potential risk exposure.  Rather than start from scratch, organizations can leverage existing principles and methods for workforce planning to be more agile through the Brexit process. Whether Brexit impacts your business or not, workforce planning can be a lynchpin for delivering on strategic goals and driving greater workforce performance.

Whether Brexit impacts your business or not, workforce planning can be a lynchpin for delivering on strategic goals and driving greater workforce performance

An unsettled and potentially divided workforce

One of the benefits of the E.U. has been free movement of labor and access to a single market for talent. An unintended (or perhaps intended?) consequence of Brexit could be the loss of easily accessible, highly skilled talent beyond the local market, like those in technology who are critical for building out and scaling key capabilities.

Not only is this is an opportunity to think of alternative strategies for talent deployment, but it also can be a strategic pivot point in how an organization makes talent sourcing decisions overall.  To what degree do we need to “own” our talent going forward, and how might that differ for critical or hard-to-fill roles?  How important is it that we are in a “center of innovation” (like London) or is there something to be gained by following a non-traditional route to work?

Triage the work

Given the magnitude and lasting impact of these potential decisions, organizations need to work through some key steps to determine the best approach for themselves:

1. Work strategy

What are the business priorities and what is the critical work that needs to get done?  When thinking about critical work, organizations should step away from a job mindset to one of “work models” to determine needs and priorities. A work model lays the foundation for how work flows through the organization:

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With work and work flow defined, now some of the alternatives for getting work done may be considered. If our premier work, as outlined in the level one descriptor above, is currently based in London, we can look to alternative strategies such as basing the work in another labor market, evaluating the benefits of co-location with the work found in level two, and so on.

2. Workforce planning

With defined work requirements and prioritization, the data review and scenario planning aspect of workforce planning can occur. How many people will we need by work model or role in the future?  How many people will we have based on our historical workforce dynamics?  How will external market factors and potential Brexit activities and timing influence labor supply and demand projections and what talent gaps (shortfalls and surpluses) could be created?

3. Action planning

With both strategy and evidence in mind, the organization is better positioned to understand the trade-offs for moving high-value or high-volume work from London to Paris or Frankfurt. In addition, this same approach allows for more effective decisions on where to keep the work intact in these markets, or conversely, automate some of the work and change the roles at the same time.

While the degree of uncertainty may lead some organizations to “wait and see,” those that are more proactive in planning their future will likely end up with a significant strategic advantage.  In essence, they are managing the flow of talent intentionally and systematically vs. making bigger, more dramatic shifts later in the transition.  To come back to our analogy, they are watering through a drip irrigation system – with ongoing attention to the nature of work and action planning that provides for an efficient and effective outcome.

Turning whistleblowing to your advantage

According to, since its inception in 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has awarded $85 million to 32 tipsters. A third of those awards have come in just the second quarter of this year, including the second largest award to date: a $17 million award for a tip involving an unnamed financial institution.

Whistleblowing is set to become a permanent feature of the American business landscape

Under the rules of the program, whistleblowers that provide unique and useful information to the SEC can collect 10% to 30% of a penalty when it exceeds $1 million.

Sean X. McKessy, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower noted, “The recent flurry of awards reflects the high-quality nature of the tips the SEC is receiving as public awareness of the whistleblower program grows.”

The plaintiff’s bar is aiding the whistleblowers

In fact, the success of the program has resulted in many of the largest white-shoe law firms establishing dedicated whistleblower-representation practices. These practices specialize in helping whistleblowers navigate the process, protecting the informant’s interests and, of course, helping them earn their whistleblower rewards.

More awards, larger awards, and specialized plaintiff attorneys all suggest that whistleblowing is set to become a permanent feature of the American business landscape. Therefore, it is important that financial institutions embrace the power of whistleblowing and use it to their advantage. If your institution hasn’t already taken the following steps towards developing an appropriate internal whistleblower program, do so. Welcome the opportunity to improve your institution. Don’t fight the trend. The alternative is to face fines and headlines that could result from an adversarial confrontation with the SEC.

Developing an appropriate internal whistleblower program

Formalize your internal whistleblower program and communicate it.

Publicize your program internally and encourage senior management to promote it. Not only is this essential for the practical success for any program, it is a vital means of demonstrating your commitment to regulators. Companies are often willing to encourage new ideas for improvement, but hesitate when it comes to reporting bad behavior.

Address concerns immediately.

Make sure the reporting process is transparent, anonymous and independent from management and human resources. Incentivize reporting and share the positive results with the entire firm. Keep the whistleblower informed about any follow-up.

Respond appropriately.

When managed correctly, internal whistleblowing programs can be a low-cost way to correct liabilities that your firm has otherwise overlooked

How your institution reacts to a concern that has been identified may be monitored by the SEC or a whistleblower’s counsel. Make sure your team responds with professionalism—and records those responses meticulously. Your internal communication must make it clear to employees in its policies and procedures that retaliation of any kind will not be tolerated.

Right attitude / better results

In 2015, the SEC received nearly 4,000 whistleblower tips and paid out more than $37 million in awards. Any stigma that may have been attached to whistleblowing in the past is gone, and Dodd-Frank has provided financial incentives for employees to come forward. The SEC has stated that they will be particularly diligent about investigating possible retaliation against whistleblowers.

Rather than begrudgingly adhering to the Dodd-Frank requirements – embrace them. Instill them in your management. Understand that, now that whistleblowing is part of our business culture, it can be harnessed to benefit your institution. When managed correctly, internal whistleblowing programs can be a low-cost way to correct liabilities that your firm has otherwise overlooked. It is time to think of whistleblowing as constructive criticism and recognize the benefits that it can offer.