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How can companies be accountable?

How can companies be accountable? Watch this video with Nathan and Adiba to find out.
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<v ->I think one of the accountability measures</v> could be in a public sector, you would have the, for some organisations, you have a certain process to go through before you can actually get something signed off and that’s that quality assurance. To know that at each point of the process some groups are being identified whether they’ve been listened to or not that’s another part of it. And then also having someone which isn’t people within your organisation peer reviewing what you’ve actually produced as the final output. In TFL they use the Independent Disability Advisory Group. In other organisations there might be a independent body of individuals. For myself in that way, if I was to do anything around women and micro mobility.
66.5
For me the commission approach is actually a really interesting one. Get some independent individuals to create a group and then to vet our ideas which we put to that group. And I think that’s one way in which some organisations could potentially have a way to ensure that anything which they do is the right thing, have some sort of independence. Don’t be afraid of that independence. And then making sure that there’s a structure in place that at each point certain things are being followed or even being considered. And I think that consideration across, you know, from the beginning to the end of something, And then that sort of third party or peer review at certain points in time is really important.
112.9
I think staff surveys are one way. Many organisations use staff surveys. Many people are sometimes afraid of actually writing what they truly think in the staff survey. And sometimes that can be as a result of not having the confidence in the leaders to see that information and then take that forward effectively. So, I think finding a group and there’s an element of allyship. Be that with women in transport or any. So, in TFL it’s Women In Transport or you might have a staff network group like the BAME Staff Member Group and all of those groups collectively make people feel like their voice can be amplified because they’re not alone.
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<v ->I think it’s difficult</v> but I think it’s also, you know, listening, looking at the teams, looking at the feedback that you normally get through HR. When someone’s leaving a company, you know, regardless, like, look at, you know, what are their reasons and how can you integrate that into the process because I normally find,
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even outside of the context of diversity, a lot of, you know, HR feedback people don’t really look into that. So, I think, you know, taking in feedback is one big area, as well as, I think employees also have a part of this. If you’re at a company and you see that, you know, things can be done better or people are making comments or you know, there’s a sense of, you know, not welcoming people who don’t fit into what’s seen as a status quo, employees taking a stand is really important.
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An example of that is, you know, the recent thing that happened at Google with Timnit Gebru and all of the Google employees who, you know, then stood up, they wrote a letter to Google. Like. at least a thousand employees that did that. And you know, that’s a very big show of, you know, change happening within a company and people speaking up about it and not just lip service.

In this video, Nathan and Adiba discuss some ideas about how companies can hold themselves accountable for their products, services and practices. Nathan emphasises the importance of accountability partners – having external advisors or bodies in the public sector. Other suggestions include conducting staff surveys and supporting staff network groups.

For Adiba, organisations can hold themselves accountable by looking at why people are leaving, taking in feedback and ensuring it is used to improve HR processes. She notes that employees can hold companies to account as well. She gives the firing of Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell from Google as an example. Over ‘1,200 Google employees and more than 1,500 supporters from academia and civil society signed a letter of protest in response to the incident’ (1), which was a powerful way to try and hold the company to account. Previously, workers at Google had staged a series of global walkouts in response to the company’s handling of sexual harassment and discrimination (2).

What do you think should be the balance of responsibility when it comes to holding companies, institutions and organisations accountable? Should the onus be on managers, staff groups, external parties, employees? What would you prioritise? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, and keep the conversation going by responding to a fellow learner.

References:

  1. Julia Carrie Wong, 2020. More than 1,200 Google workers condemn firing of AI scientist Timnit Gebru, Guardian.

  2. Matthew Weaver and Alex Hern in London, Victoria Bekiempis in New York, Lauren Hepler in Mountain View and Jose Fermoso in San Francisco, 2018. Google walkout: global protests after sexual misconduct allegations, Guardian.

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