Communicating risk management to your organisation
THE TAKEAWAY: It's imperative that your communication is two-way. Provide information in as many ways as possible, and seek (and act on) feedback.
This is the second step in a seven-stage risk management process, though it is, in fact, an ongoing step. You need to be continually communicating what you're doing in relation to risk management and why you're doing it.
Before embarking on the risk management process it's worth reviewing why you are doing this - review this help sheet if you're not sure of the benefits.
Once you're clear on your aims, you need to ensure you're clearly communicating those aims to everyone in your group, as well as external stakeholders who might be affected by the process and its outcomes, so that everyone is aware what's at stake.
Good communication is essential for any effective risk management strategy. Managing risks involves everyone in your organisation: board/committee, staff, volunteers, players/clients/members/visitors - anyone who comes into contact with your group.
It's vital therefore that everybody in your organisation understands what risk management is and why it is important, and that they are involved in developing and implementing a risk management strategy.
You need to bring them into the process right from the start so they are not scared off and do not feel that decisions are being imposed from above. At the same time, members of your group should get the message that there is a commitment from leaders of your organisation to effective risk management.
Implementing risk management may well require a significant culture shift in your group, affecting the way you operate at every level. Effective communication is therefore vital.
You also need to develop systems to ensure good communication between different levels of the organisation, as well as a feedback loop - you don't want all the communication to be going one way.
There are many possible ways of communicating risk management to your organisation, apart from just keeping the lines open on the subject all the time (which you should do anyway). Some ideas are outlined below.
Form a risk management sub-committee
While good risk management is the job of everybody in your organisation, having a core group of people dedicated to the task is a good idea.
It's important that strong communication links are established between the risk management sub-committee and your board - regular reports should be included in board meetings.
The size of a sub-committee will depend on the size of your organisation. Large groups may have an eight-member committee with specific risk management roles assigned to each person. For a smaller group it might only be one or two people who take on the job of overseeing your risk management strategy.
Someone from within this group must be tasked specifically with communicating progress throughout the organisation.
Getting everyone in one room (if that is possible) is possibly the best way to start the risk management process, so you can explain face to face what it is about and why you are doing it.
This initial meeting should give people the opportunity to ask questions and provide input into the process.
Further briefings (the shorter the better - you don't want to turn people off) held at regular intervals should aim to keep people informed of what stage of the process your organisation is at, and give them the opportunity to help shape progress.
Meetings will continue to play an important role after the risk management strategy is in place, as part of the continual monitoring and review of the strategy.
Brainstorming is one of the simplest but most effective methods of drawing on the wisdom of the crowd to shape your risk management strategy, as well as promoting 'ownership' of the strategy among all stakeholders.
Essentially, this involves everyone in your group racking their brains to come up with any answers they can think of to a particular question. The questions you will be asking will have much more than one answer; for example: "What aspects of our organisation could put people at risk?" You need to capture them all.
The easiest way to brainstorm is get everyone in one room and have someone up the front writing everything down on a whiteboard or sheets of butchers' paper. In these situations, there are no wrong answers - write everything down.
Brainstorming sessions are excellent communication tools because they make everyone feel involved and they also draw on your best resource: the people who know most about the risks. A specialist committee could work on risk management for months but not realise one of the cricket helmets is missing a visor, something one of the players, or a parent, could point out straight away.
Newsletters and bulletins
Getting everyone to meetings is not always possible, so it's useful to put down on paper what's happening in risk management.
Providing a written account of your risk management strategy will also help to dispel any misunderstandings or rumours about what's being done and why.
Your notes can be distributed through your newsletter (hard copy or online), through email, in flyers or posted on your noticeboard. You should include the results (or a summary) of any brainstorming session and decisions made at meetings, so everyone is kept aware of what's going on.
At the start of the risk management process and at critical steps along the way, it can be a good idea to send out a questionnaire to invite people to outline risks they perceive in your organisation's activities, and ideas for their abatement.
You can do this through a written survey, or set up an online survey using a tool such as SurveyMonkey.
Write a guide
A risk management guide is an excellent tool for ensuring everyone involved in your organisation is aware of risk management issues.
It can be used to define key terms so everyone is working on the same wavelength and can also serve as a reference throughout the risk management process, for information and as a reference point to ensure nobody strays too far off track.
A risk management guide can also include a component that invites feedback from your staff/volunteers/members.
Keeping it going
Communication does not start and finish with a single meeting to explain the risk management strategy, or one notice on a noticeboard. You have to continue to communicate what you are doing, and why you are doing it, at every step of the risk management process.
Take feedback seriously and remember to always ensure that you keep the context of your group in mind.
Aim to document every step as sooner or later board members (or insurers) will want to refer back to what has taken place. Also remember to ensure that you keep documentary evidence of risks you identify and any incidents that occur.
Communicating risk management is the second step in a seven-stage process of successfully tackling risk management in your organisation. The third step is identifying risk.