Employee influencers

Involving the individual in the fight to prevent corporate fraud

Organizations are not the only ones to feel the impact of fraud. Employees too tend to face social stigma and uncertain prospects in the job market due to their association with tainted companies. To manage this situation better, there is need for employee influence, wherein employees play an active role in combatting unethical behavior in order to safeguard their jobs and build organizational (and, through that, their own professional) reputation.

A global survey report has indicated that one out of every five employees is an ‘employee influencer’ who is deeply engaged with his/her employer(s). These employees defended their employers from criticism and acted as active advocates both online and offline. Such influential employees can also help cultivate a positive and ethical work environment within organizations.

To identify and cultivate employee influencers, organizations can consider the following measures:

Creating a culture of 360 degree feedback where employees are encouraged to give feedback on their respective managers’ actions, specifically any suspected unethical behavior or concerns around transparency.

Conducting employee surveys to understand the sentiments around ethical behavior, which can reveal several findings that can provide the grounds for developing action plans. They can also reveal candidates with a strong ethical quotient who may be considered for being employee activists.

Rewarding ethical behavior: While this may sound counter-productive, in today’s business environment it is imperative that organizations ‘see’ and ‘read’ about positive role models. This also gives the organization a chance to demonstrate its commitment to ethical values and employee activism.

Being approachable and explaining your actions to employees is easier said than done. However, most organizations/leaders gain trust and credibility only when they respond to employee feedback and demonstrate action taken. Even if no action was taken on a suggestion, it is important to explain why to employees, so that they continue to provide new ideas. Some measures taken by leader(s) to be perceived as approachable include relying on informal meetings, elevator conversation, and interactions over coffee or lunch.

In addition to regular trainings, employee influencers can be groomed to become ethics advisors who increase awareness of company policies and help hold their peers and supervisors accountable; they can also be made part of dedicated committees to ensure that programs promoting ethical behavior resonate within the organization. Considering many of these employees already have a strong moral compass, the organization would need relatively less effort to train and engage them to support its values in public.

In the fight against fraud, organizations have a very powerful ally in their employees. Employee influence needs to be encouraged. You can read more about leveraging employee influence to build an ethical enterprise here.

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Authored by: Sumit Makhija, Partner, Deloitte India

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