Establishing a whistleblower hotline program is an essential part of a company's structure, but it requires careful balancing. It's vital for employees to be educated on the kinds of issues that should be reported through the company's hotline.
By defining the expectations for what should be reported via the hotline from the outset, the company can minimize the risk of employees clogging the line with minor complaints, such as parking disputes. This approach ensures that the team responsible for managing the hotline can concentrate on addressing matters that may have a substantial effect on the organization.
The key to attaining this balance is to create more effective programs that will give employees the kind of confidence they get from knowing that if they do the right thing in reporting their concerns that the company will do likewise. For this to happen, your hotline needs to be given the right amount of resources to succeed. A company should invest in continuous education and training for employees on the importance of ethical behavior, how to recognize misconduct, and the proper ways to report it. It is important that it keeps offenses in-house rather than spouted out in a more public forum. As noble as this goal is, it is a huge task that will require a great deal of preparation and hard work to make it happen.
1. GETTING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CALLS
Both quality and quantity are important for your hotline to be effective. While the quality of the calls can be very valuable to you, if you’re not getting the number of calls you need or you’re getting too many, you’ll have an even larger number of challenges.
When the calls are too few, it could mean your employees are not aware of the hotline – it is likely not being promoted as effectively as it could be. Make sure that your employees are well aware of its existence and provide them with the proper materials, so they know they can access the line any time of the day or night without fear.
2. ‘A’ FOR ANONYMOUS
Over the years, there has been a significant increase in employee reports to hotlines. Part of the reason for this bump in reporting activity has to do with several factors. First, there is better training in compliance and ethics programs, which has helped employees to have more confidence in the protection of their identity during the reporting process.
When you have an anonymous whistleblower hotline, employees can be assured that their identity will be protected when they make a report. For that reason, many companies have found that having reporting done through whistleblower hotline service providers has been the most reliable. These third-party services give employees more confidence that their reports are going to be taken seriously and will have more credibility.
Additionally, it is important that a whistleblower feels safe and won’t be a victim of retaliation. Implementing a zero-tolerance policy towards retaliation will go a long way to ensuring that whistleblowers feel supported when raising concerns.
Over the past five years the percentage of reports made by repeat reporters who were willing to identify themselves more than doubled. This statistic is a powerful indication that there is more trust built in whistleblower hotlines than ever before.
3. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
Many companies seem to be failing in their response time to these reports. While whistleblowers have increased over the years, companies’ response time has been steadily increasing as well. It is taking even longer to address a reported incident than it used to.
Where the average time to close a case was once only thirty days, it has now grown to an average of 36 days. This poses a real danger to the success of your hotline. Once employees begin to believe that the companies are not addressing their concerns, frustration can set in, and either the employee will decide to address the matter in another way or leave altogether.
4. SKILLED OPERATORS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Another area of concern is how the calls are fielded. The contact person responsible for accepting the calls and getting the details of the complaint also needs to be just right. You want those people who are skilled in asking the right questions. They should also have some background in psychology as well. Since the majority of callers are nervous or even afraid when they make a report, the intake person needs to know how to assure them that they will be safe and get them comfortable enough to reveal what they know.
5. PROOF IS IN THE OUTCOMES
It benefits the business and the employees to have a system that effectively analyzes the success of their whistleblower program. This evaluation is essential in helping you to know exactly where your system needs improvement. Without analysis, it would be difficult to determine exactly where to make the needed adjustments. There are many things to consider when evaluating just how good your company’s whistleblower hotline is.