Identifying and managing radicalisation in the workplace

The importance for businesses in identifying and addressing signs of radicalisation in the workplace was the subject of a recent lunch meeting of the Brussels chapter of the IoD.

Roberta Bonazzi, who leads the European Foundation for Democracy and Dr Murat Seyrek, Senior Policy Adviser, spoke to IoD members about the major implications for businesses as a result of the changed security environment in which they all now operate. The call to so-called IS sympathisers to use any tool to take action in support of the Caliphate had changed the landscape for civil society. Since terrorism and fear disrupts business, this is a topic which could have a serious impact on businesses’ commercial interests if not managed properly.

The European Foundation for Democracy is a policy institute which specialises in prevention of radicalisation and works closely with civil society – including business – on this topic. Their work includes training for educators and HR managers, providing guidance on how to recognise and respond to possible signs of radicalisation, in addition to advising companies and other organisations on ongoing developments and trends and responses from governments with respect to radicalisation.

Ms Bonazzi noted that the challenge of coping with terrorism threats to businesses, including radicalisation of employees also affects employers – these are no longer areas limited to the responsibility of law enforcement and security agencies. She noted there had been an uptick in legal cases being brought by victims of terrorist incidents against companies and organisations for not having taken adequate safeguarding measures prior to attacks being perpetrated; although for the time being there is no specific legislation that regulates the matter, she anticipates an increase in these sorts of legal cases in the future in the wake of terrorist incidents. Dr Seyrek commented on the type of people who have been radicalised, noting that a high proportion are well educated: it was important, therefore, not to be complacent about the potential vulnerability of types of employees at risk – they could come from any background.

The group discussed which sectors had been particularly vulnerable or had had to face up to coping with radicalised employees – these included recently in the UK the food industry and in Belgium and France the transport sectors. The speakers noted that the travel and tourism sector has been working closely with government on tackling terrorism issues broadly but all sectors should have a plan in place just as they already do for CSR or crisis management. All layers of society are now affected. Ms Bonazzi recognised that this is a sensitive area for employers which, understandably, needs careful and expert handling. There was discussion about the challenge in identifying the difference between ideology and religion in an age when many businesses strive to respect employees’ rights and freedoms of expression. The balancing act between observing individual rights and ensuring security for all is a fine line to tread and lessons can be drawn from others’ experiences in managing this.

The role of social media in radicalisation was explored and the speakers noted that the social media platforms had stepped up their efforts to come to grips with the problem. However, they felt that much more could be done by the platforms to tackle the problem and supported moves by governments to maintain pressure on the technology companies.

Written by Louise Harvey, FTI Consulting

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