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The Risk of “Risk Managing” PEOPLE

Posted By IRMSAInsight, 04 August 2015
IRMSA Breakfast
11 August 2015 


The Risk of “Risk Managing” PEOPLE


What things do you consider within your “People” risk category when you are doing a Risk Assessment?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Skills - Entrepreneurial, Leadership, Technical & Managerial
  • Skills planning
  • Leadership development & Training
  • People development and Training
  • Succession planning
  • Conditions of Service
  • Employee Benefits and incentives
  • Performance Management
  • Industry Specific diseases, HIV/AIDS
  • Organised Labour
  • Health & Wellness
  • Employment Equity
  • Knowledge Management and Skills Transfer

This is all good stuff and will help you to ask the right questions around people but does it deal enough with the more “feeling” related issues that we continually encounter in the workplace?



Why does it seem that one person finds you easy to talk to and listens to your points and agrees with you, yet another seems to want to fight back all the time? Did you consider that a different approach to different people might be part of your skills base?

We need to consider another aspect of “People Risk” around how we manage the risk of working with others what do we need to understand to be able to maximise our effectiveness in the workplace?


One of the first things you might consider is “It’s not all about you”… We all know people who have massive egos, they appear as if they have everything under control, they promote themselves (and all their qualifications) extremely well, they are probably rather pushy and don’t really listen to anyone else’s point of view.

Secondly – we should avoid making assumptions about people. Unless you know someone well, there is the possibility that you may not appreciate things that are going on in their lives that may impact how they see the world, and their place of work. So if someone is a bit quiet, perhaps they just have a different way of dealing with their challenges and perhaps if they are drawn out in the right way you may see how their particular values can support your business.

Feelings – why is it that some people can share their feelings and what is going on in their lives (sometimes in far too much detail…) whilst others keep things to themselves? Understanding body language will really help to let you know when others are uncomfortable with what you are saying - even in meetings or presentations - when people start to fidget, they are either ready for a break or they have lost interest in what you are saying!

And how about the “one size fits all” concept? Well, realistically it doesn’t! If you want to motivate people - be they part of your workforce, or one of your customers - understand where they are coming from and use the funds available to motivate them in different ways.

Diversity and cultural differences – what you think is really funny may not be amusing to others and may even offend. Embracing true diversity means letting go of some pre-conceived notions of how different people may act or react and managing conversations from an equal and open context. You would be amazed at how many new ideas will come to the table!

Listening and really hearing – this is a particularly under-valued skill, do you work with “interrupters”? They are the people who don’t let you finish before telling you how it is, or what the answer is – they are also the people who continually interrupt in meetings to get their point across or attempt to make themselves look good.

Asking open questions is something we can all do better, it leads to a far better conversation, so rather ask “how do you think we can improve our product” than “I think we should change our product to do XYZ – do you agree” in a number of instances the second one will get you a supportive answer and you will lose the potential input from others. People need to feel that they have been involved in a decision and they are then far more likely to support implementation.

Social networking and putting things in writing… It can never be “unsaid” and probably never explained away if misinterpreted, it might also “be used against you in a court of law” – as they say on TV programmes. The art of effective communication is understanding what it is that you are trying to get across and then determining the best way to do so, remember though that you might be recorded on the phone or even face to face nowadays – check out the cell phone on the table or the wristwatch!

Relationships are tricky, we have all had instances where we have perhaps said something we later regret – you need to deal with the issue quickly and apologise unreservedly. There is no point in saying “I said it because you...” that’s making an excuse for your behaviour – in some instances you will never recover the relationship, so rather take the time to think through the problem and try to address it with the other person before “blowing your top”.

Take the time to understand your people and customers, if possible check out their background and previous jobs, what went well for them and what didn’t go so well, what makes them tick – this gives you a real advantage when considering how to approach a particular issue. There’s no point in buying a client a bottle of whiskey for their birthday, if they don’t drink?

So how about a new Risk Category related to “People” around the so called “softer” skills – perhaps called People and Relationships? Is this category perhaps more for the individual rather than the company? How might this impact the success of your team or company, could it lead to better, well informed decisions?

These might be some of the categories, which may have further sub-categories within them:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Coaching and Mentoring
  • Relationship understanding and management
  • Listening and Communicating
  • Appreciation and Authenticity


What do you think about People Risk Management – do we need to consider “Relationship Risk”?



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Horst Simon says...
Posted 11 August 2015
Some great thoughts here on the foundations of People Risk, People risk is part of Operational Risk, but sadly many organisations have dome a lot of work on process and system risks, paying little attention to people risk; often so little that we have seen large organisations fail as result of a people risk event.

Risk practitioners generally fail to address the underlying human aspects. Since the publication of the Basle accord, ISO 31000 and other standards and regulations, it has often been argued that compliance with these standards and regulations will mitigate and control risk, but this is only true if the standards and regulations are embraced in an effective Enterprise Risk Management Culture. Just like the policies, procedures and systems, these are worthless if human attitude, acceptance and desired response lack.

Addressing the aspect of people risk is the only way an organisation can improve the results of how their people respond to a situation of risk and the effectiveness of their risk management function. No organisation can ever have a perfect risk management culture, but organisations can achieve a level of maturity where they have an effective risk culture process and every employee is risk-minded and does something on a daily basis to mitigate, control and optimize risk

The development of Risk Culture Building is focused on awareness and training in business ethics and human behaviour, as mentioned, both the behaviours we want to encourage and the behaviours we want to avoid. Organisations should frequently evaluate the progress (or regress) they are making on the path to maturity and implement action plans.

Every business decision is a RISK decision; what is your level of risk intelligence and how is your Risk Culture?

Read more on Linked In:

And even more about Risk Management through people on my business blog:

Looking forward to a great session on Risk Culture Building at the IRMSA Conference next month.
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