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Talking Diversity of Thinking and Employee Voice with Rabobank


8 feb. 2024

Interview with Marjo van den Broek, Business Manager Financial Crime Compliance & Founder of the global Rabobank Speak Up initiative and Manon de Zwart, Strategic Communications Advisor.

Marjo van den Broek and Manon de Zwart from (long-time ICC member) Rabobank recently held a workshop at the ICC offices about the twin subjects of ‘Diversity of Thinking’ and ‘Employee Voice’. The aim was to give attendees the skills to deal with moral dilemmas more confidently as well as methods to stimulate and engage employees’ voices. Keen to learn more about these two interesting subjects, we caught up with Marjo and Manon to find out more.


Can we start by asking for a definition of ‘Diversity of Thinking’?

Marjo: We see ‘Diversity of Thinking’ in how different people look at the same thing in different ways. For example, if I draw a number eight on the ground, some people would see a number 8, some people may say it is an infinity sign. Some people might say it was a pretzel and some say it is just a figure. This is what ‘Diversity of Thought’ is about.


How does this translate to company processes?

Manon: It is applicable for everything. You need to have the right information in order to make the right decision. You can only do that if the people on the work floor share the crucial information to the top. It’s about creating space where employees can speak their minds at all levels in an organisation. However, this unfortunately doesn’t happen in every organisation. Look at recent examples like the issues at NPO and “TheVoice”.


Ah yes, so this is the ‘Employee Voice’.

Marjo: Indeed – only if you know all the different perspectives, can you see all the opportunities and the risks. You have to look at the pros and cons of a decision, and whether there are guidelines or laws that can help. But laws do not solve everything – that’s why ‘Diversity of Thinking’ and ‘Employee Voice’ are so important.


Can we look at how these two subjects are linked to the broader issue of Integrity? What does Integrity mean to Rabobank?

Marjo: We collaborate to add value to our clients to contribute to societal challenges. To this end, empowered colleagues build trust; they address each other on unethical behaviour and signal possibilities to improve things. This is fundamental to our bank.


Manon: For us as a company, trust is of the essence. You cannot be trusted if there’s no integrity in your organisation. Without trust, a bank would not exist; people trust us to keep their money safe and to do the right thing. And therefore integrity for us is key – it is paramount to the success of banks and we should do what is necessary to safeguard this trust.


Rabobank operates in 37 countries. How does it implement this way of thinking throughout its operations?

Manon: It’s important to note that topics evolve over time; the sentiment in the market also evolves over time. Therefore it is vital to keep the dialogue going. And because things differ in different countries, we have to stay in dialogue with our own people, our own organisation and our stakeholders about what is ethical. However, what we think is the right decision today is maybe not the right decision when looked at 10 years later. This makes it a very difficult subject, but getting back to the idea of Diversity of Thought – where you have to have all the views in order to make the right decision – for us as a cooperative company, what matters to society, matters to us. So we listen to our stakeholders to make the right decisions.


Do companies still encounter dilemmas even if they have all the right decision making tools – such as ethics committees, employee voice initiatives, stakeholder meetings – in place?

Marjo: Even with all these initiatives, there can still be real dilemmas. Marijuana in the United States, for example; in some States, it is legal and in others it is illegal. Solar panels are sustainable, but what if they are produced in countries where there are human rights issues? Air guns are used in the Olympic Games, but criminals can also use them in robberies. Because subjects change every day, you cannot really know the future of integrity – it is always going to be led by society.


Manon: Besides maintaining the dialogue with society stakeholders, it is therefore crucial to ‘walk the talk’; to do what you say and be authentic. We all want to do the right thing, but we don’t know how something will be perceived in 10 to 20 years. So all we can do is the right thing with the information that we have right now.

Download the presentation.

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