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Dealing openly with errors is crucial for a healthy organisational culture

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The AFM performed a case study into the error management culture at 13 financial companies that are active within the infrastructure of the capital markets. With this report, the AFM wishes to demonstrate the importance of an error management culture for financial companies and to inspire them to actually work on achieving this in practice.

Behaviour and culture supervision reduces risks

The AFM supervises and conducts research into the behaviour and organisational culture within financial companies. This enables the detection of supervisional risks in an early stage and the prevention of problems within these companies. Dealing openly with errors supports a healthy organisational culture. Together with the Utrecht University, the AFM has developed a methodology to conduct this research in the financial sector.

Win-win situation

Scientific research shows that an error management culture contributes to the ethical behaviour of employees, a better quality of service to customers and a better performance of the company. This is a win-win situation for all parties involved.

The crucial role of management

The case study shows that learning from errors can be improved. On average, it appears that the companies have a reasonably open error management culture. This means that employees perceive that reasonably open and honest communication takes place about errors and that sufficient time is taken to analyse errors and to correct errors in an adequate manner. The reporting discipline of errors is also high.

Employees are, on average, less positive about the leadership demonstrated, the tone at the top and the degree to which people learn from errors that occur. The conduct of the management and their reactions are crucial for how errors are regarded on a company level in the organisation. A quote from the report: “You have to avoid that people think that they will not receive a promotion or bonus if they have made a mistake. You have to put the focus on learning. When a mistake has been made, you must regard it as an opportunity for improvement. (manager)”

Good examples of dealing with errors

The report includes suggestions and ‘best practices’ of dealing with errors. For example the culture in which employees are not penalised when they make or report an error, but instead are regarded as sharp or smart, because they see opportunities for improvement.

The AFM plans to publish the methodology, including the accompanying survey at the end of 2017. We will also organise workshops for financial companies to receive guidance on how they can employ the methodology in their own organization. The AFM is currently looking into in which other market segments this study can be repeated.

Journalists can contact Daniëlle de Jong, spokesperson AFM, via +3120 - 797 2129 or danielle.de.jong@afm.nl

The AFM is committed to promoting fair and transparent financial markets.

As an independent market conduct authority, we contribute to a sustainable financial system and prosperity in the Netherlands.

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