Risks within councils aren’t always predictable or preventable. But when poor communication is added to the mix? They escalate.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
By integrating strategies like clear procedures, regular training and risk culture, you can maximise awareness and minimise confusion. So that when a risk does arise, council staff know who’s responsible and how to act swiftly.
Let’s explore the costs of ineffective communication – and the processes you can put in place to avoid them altogether.
Communication: Connecting theory with action
To mitigate risks, you should have developed detailed policies and procedures. But if your people don’t understand them – or worse, don’t know about them – you’re exposing your council to high levels of risk.
A helpful analogy to illustrate this dynamic is to picture your organisation as a single entity with:
- A head: the strategies, policies and procedures developed by your leadership teams – and the commitment they show.
- Hands: your staff who are qualified to carry out the work on the ground.
- A heart: your culture and how you communicate, connecting the head with the hands.
So, if your staff don’t know what they’re supposed to do when a risk arises – or why action is important – then even the best-written procedures are worthless.
But when that heart of your organisation is nurtured and valued, your people will be invested in your broader processes.
They’ll appreciate how risk management isn’t some abstract chore that complicates their job. And they’ll see the value in following the necessary steps – because they’ll know that resolving it early will make their lives easier in the long term.
The causes (and costs) of ineffective communication
If poor communication is all too familiar, two common causes to examine and address are:
- Internal silos: Too often, one arm of a council will introduce a change but fail to engage other stakeholders who would have benefited from a consultation. For example, your finance team might change a payroll process to be more efficient. But in doing so, they may expose your IT department to new fraud risks because they didn’t collaborate beyond their silo.
- Engagement channels: In larger organisations, it’s tempting to take the easy option of sending important information far and wide over a simple email. But details can easily be ignored, skimmed or deleted. So while in-person meetings might take more time in the short term, they foster richer comprehension in the long term – so your people can recall crucial details when the time arises.
Whatever the cause, poor communication can undermine your risk management processes and fester into severe symptoms, such as:
- Undefined responsibility – leading to misunderstandings and confusion
- Sluggish response times and overlooked early-stage risks
- Delayed or unmet objectives – resulting in poor outcomes for council and communities
- Costly financial, reputation and legal ramifications
Consider an example: Your IT team has identified a phishing email that’s circulating. But if that’s not promptly communicated, you’ll increase the likelihood that other staff will expose your council to troublesome ransomware attacks.
Left unresolved, risks like this can quickly compound for your council. The issue might intensify into confidentiality breaches with serious legal consequences.
But, if your people are adequately trained and prepared to manage the risk in its infancy, they can take swift corrective action before it even takes hold.
How to nurture richer communication
If you want to lead the way in effective communications, what steps should your council take? Start by strengthening these four areas:
- Prepare clear policies and procedures: Develop concise risk management processes that your people can follow when the time arises. (Make sure these are communicated in plain English, with an engaging design for maximum clarity.) Learn how to create clear policies and procedures.
- Review your induction and training program: New staff need to know what to do when issues surface. So be sure that common risk areas, like cybersecurity and records management, are core elements of your induction program. Even existing staff will benefit from in-person refresher training every six months.
- Share regular and consistent updates: When risks are identified, follow established procedures to inform stakeholders of the key issues within defined time frames. Make sure you communicate consistently, so everyone is clear on responsibilities and next actions.
- Promote positive risk culture: Are your people comfortable sharing issues they find? Or are they scared they might be criticised if they speak up? Remember, your people on the ground are the ones who will see the risks first. And because they’re the subject-matter experts, they’re also likely to be the best people to resolve them. So foster a blame-free culture of open discussions where everyone is encouraged to speak up.
By embracing effective communication, you’ll improve knowledge, collaboration and culture council-wide. Then, when risks do materialise, your people will know what they need to do, take ownership – and resolve issues at their core.
You’ll spend less time (and resources) solving avoidable risks. And dedicate more time to ensuring your objectives are met. That’s a win for your council – and your community.
Want to learn more about best-practice risk management? Contact your Statewide Mutual Risk Manager for friendly help and advice.