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Director of Investigations

Walking the talk on compliance

In her role as Director of Investigations Desiree Sayde is focused on finding answers to difficult questions. In her 25 years-long career she accumulated a wealth of experience in the oil and gas sector and the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. She highlights that she is ‘wearing two hats’, one of an Investigations Director and one of a compliance leader, yet her words strike true, embody candour, and leave no room for ambiguity.

Desiree is closely involved with Speak Up, our confidential reporting helpline available to employees, contractors, suppliers and customers and any other third parties who wish to report any breach or suspected breach of the Code of Conduct, policies, standards, procedures or local laws. We discussed her role and what a ‘speaking up’ culture means for our organisation and our people.

Desiree, Director of Investigations sounds like a role that carries great responsibility. Can you tell us more about what you and your team do?

Our role is to ensure that our employees, across every level of the organisation, understand that when one of our colleagues speaks up, something is done about it. That we will investigate their concerns thoroughly, and act expeditiously, objectively, and fairly.

Sure, there is a part of my role that is technical – ensuring I work with skilled investigators, with excellent capabilities, supported with the right tools. But the most important part is to ensure that the culture of speaking up is fully instilled and cascaded across the organisation. This takes a lot of engagement across functions – with managers, leaders, and employees on every level. We are working to ensure the speak up culture is embedded in our DNA.

Is the speak up culture something that is easily embraced, or does it bring its own challenges?

Speaking up can be perceived as taboo, a myth, or is even seen as ‘snitching’ if you will. These are false perceptions that we are trying to break. Speaking up is an act of courage, a gesture of responsibility. It means you care about the company you work for, your colleagues, and that you are willing to do the right thing to protect them.

Do you think people at Petrofac are embracing this culture?

I am certain we are heading in the right direction. In this company, everyone wants to help and everyone looks at the business as if it was their own. . And who wouldn’t want to protect their business? But changing or strengthening a culture doesn’t happen over night. It happens through constantly and consistently ‘walking the talk’. When right behaviours are recognised and when tough decisions are made vis a vis those who do not exert or live by the values and behaviours of Petrofac. This means giving praise when the right behaviours and values are used, but not being afraid to make tough decisions when it comes to colleagues that do not live up to our standards and behaviours. It happens when employees feel truly empowered to speak up, not just to report potential violations, but also to speak truth to power and challenge things when needed.

"I am a passionate person and I like roles that allow me to build something. I put my heart into it. Petrofac allows that. Allows you to create, to try and to explore, to make things better."
Desiree Sayde Director of Investigations

What do you think is the value of a healthy compliance culture and, by extension, your role?

If you are a third party – a vendor, partner, customer, or a regulator – you will want to see first-hand that the company you are working with has the right tools and capable people and is able to deal with any deviations from the procedures seriously, judiciously, and expeditiously. That results in trust. And successful working relationships are built on trust.

From an employee perspective, everyone wants to work for a company that can protect them. This offers continuity, stability, job security, and means that you can go to work happy, and perform better, knowing that there are systems that can deal with anything that can go wrong. This allows us to attract and retain talented people. They are in turn aware that they are able to speak up in confidence without the fear of being judged or penalised.

Desiree enjoys developing new initiatives, something she says Petrofac allows her to do

Do you enjoy support from Petrofac’s leadership?

Integrity and ethics are the main traits of how we do business, and we, as a function, we enjoy great support from all members of the leadership team. Our leaders understand that this is the way to go. Leadership is taking active steps to embed compliance in their business rhythm and champion this approach. The tone is set at the top and always starts with leaders. Compliance, as a function, helps by providing talking points about specific risk areas or training and awareness needs, with relevant information that would allow them to own the compliance risk or agenda, but driving a culture change must come from leaders. Our leaders welcome that, they are collaborative, and support this approach.

Let’s talk about your career at Petrofac. Is Petrofac a good place to work at?

I am a passionate person and I like roles that allow me to build something. I put my heart into it. Petrofac allows that. Allows you to create, to try and to explore, to make things better. Will I be working in Investigations or Compliance forever? Maybe not. Once you accomplished your goal, you need a different challenge and I want to find that challenge with Petrofac.

Looking back at your career so far, is there anything that you would do differently?

Maybe soften my edge. I have always been recognised for two things: speaking truth to power; and seeing outside the box/always wanting to challenge the status quo. When I worked with people who resisted change, this has, on occasion, caused friction. If I were to go back and change anything maybe this would be it…but I don’t think I would be the same person, so no, I wouldn’t change anything [laughs]!!!