Case study - Participatory design in developing employee complaints management process

by SBS
The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is an Australian public service broadcaster, a multiplatform media organisation with a free-to-air TV portfolio spanning five channels, an extensive radio network, and an innovative digital offering. SBS employs approximately 1200 permanent staff.

SBS is committed to never standing still in pursuit of greater inclusion – through its people and the way it operates, through the programming it produces, and as a positive force for change in the media sector. In 2021, SBS engaged an external inclusive design consulting firm to work with employees in reviewing and redesigning some key internal processes including recruitment, internal complaints management and content workflows. The objective was to ensure any barriers to participation were removed and identify ways SBS could continue to make these processes more inclusive for all employees, particularly those from diverse backgrounds.

As part of this, SBS wanted to ensure that relevant processes and employee practices were effective in both preventing inappropriate incidents from occurring, and that they enable swift and supportive redress if they ever did occur.

One of these processes was SBS’s employee complaints management process, given how critical an effective process is in addressing issues relating to discrimination, such as racism. 

SBS invited 10 employees with different backgrounds and perspectives, drawn from different levels and functions from across the organisation, to participate in inclusive design workshops. This group included First Nations employees, employees with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, employees with a disability, and LGBTIQ+ employees. In addition, some former SBS employees who had previously participated as complainants were invited to be involved in the process (and were compensated for their participation).

The workshops were designed to build a common understanding amongst the participants about the principles of inclusive design, and involved a review of the existing complaints management process, before rebuilding it for ‘edge users’ – those who may have an atypical experience to the majority. In doing this, the process design ensured that it was fit for the broadest possible user group, whilst enhancing the experience for all staff as well as identifying and removing barriers that employees may face in raising and responding to allegations of discriminatory behaviour, systems or practices. This included utilising the experiences of former employees and determining what procedural amendments might have improved their experience and/or outcomes.

In the end, SBS employees redesigned the complaints handling process to include the following:

  • Specific cultural and language support available to any staff member making a complaint.
  • Implementation of the SBS Inclusion Champions program which elevated 12 SBS staff members reflecting diverse backgrounds and experiences who were trained on the complaints handling process, who can be approached by staff to seek support in advance of making a complaint.
  • The assignment of a specific wellbeing support officer, separate and distinct from the complainant’s own chosen support person. This support role is designed to check in on the complainant regularly to ensure they are adequately supported throughout the entire process.
  • Greater transparency principles in terms of information provided to complainants throughout and at the conclusion of the investigative and outcome stages.

SBS plans to monitor and evaluate the redesigned process to track users’ experiences.


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