Risk and HR departments have to put politics aside, break down the silos, and focus on delivering the best advice to their employees
In most businesses, HR and risk management sit, operate and are governed as individual departments. But as global mobility increases and many more businesses deploy staff overseas for international assignments, there has never been a greater need for the two departments – each with varying involvement in people-related risks – to align on business travel risks. Without doing so, companies could, unknowingly, create costly gaps in insurance coverage, adding to confusion over what is and isn’t covered.
“There is, of course, the fear that the risk and HR teams are not aligned,” warns Patrick Smith, global resilience leader for Deliveroo and director of risk consultancy firm Acumen Advisory. “Without a concerted approach to risk, the matter of ‘ownership’ is likely to get in the way of the most effective processes.”
Exposing gaps and double-ups
He adds that silos between the two departments could “lead to confusion or misunderstanding as to what’s covered, what’s not, and potential gaps”. It could also have an impact on how effectively risks are retained.
Danny Wong, former director of corporate risk at InterContinental Hotel Groups and founder of GOAT Risk Solutions, agrees. “Organisational silos and office politics do sometimes get in the way of good common-sense risk management.”
“The result is that employees may not be given the best risk advice reflecting specific circumstances. The latest developments and other control/safety activities may not be taken to the appropriate extent.”
Other challenges range from confusion over when claims need to be triggered to concerns about possible duplication of cover.
There is a risk that overlaps in risk management could lead to duplication of policies and doubling up of cover. This can be mitigated by open communication between functions, and corporate-focused insurance management rather than function-orientated goals
“There is a risk that overlaps in risk management could lead to duplication of policies and doubling up of cover,” warns Emmanuel Fabin, insurance manager for TSB. “This can be mitigated by open communication between functions, and corporate-focused insurance management rather than function-orientated goals.”
Companies will only benefit by breaking down silos and fostering greater teamwork – the alternative could put travellers at risk. Christopher Box, EMEA HR consulting lead at PwC, says: “Organisations are beginning to address people-related risk issues in a more holistic way – but there is a long way to go. HR, risk, compliance and other related functions need to work together to develop complementary policies and broader ways to engage and communicate with employees to truly address risk.”
If we all worked together…
So, what can the two departments do to strengthen their collaborative approach? Fabin’s advice is for HR and risk managers to: “create stakeholder relationships”. This will ensure greater understanding of each other’s role in managing people risk – “from both an insurance and people resource perspective”.
Another tip is to host a people risk workshop, bringing HR and risk managers together to discuss roles and responsibilities, along with the challenges each respective department faces in terms of managing the threats. Smith says: “The workshop will create the ‘one team’ culture, flesh out what each function is doing and can do, and, importantly, create a single approach and voice on the management of people risk and the actions required should an incident or event occur.”
For example, travel costs may be cheaper if the team travels together – and this may be the preference of staff – but it could also create a risk. A workshop could trigger a conversation on the risk of all senior executives travelling together.
The start and end point, though, is devising a coherent framework. “It is essential that there is a people risk crisis management plan,” says Smith.
“This will reinforce responsibilities, break silo mentality and ensure that matters are dealt with in a clear and concise way,” he concludes.