REUTERS | Ognen Teofilovski

You’ve installed a whistleblowing hotline – now how can you get employees to use it (correctly)?

Every employer  would rather they didn’t need a  whistleblowing hotline, but those companies who value their employees and reputation understand that, if things do go wrong, an external hotline is a great safety net to ensure issues are highlighted early on and dealt with appropriately.

Although buying the services of an external provider is a good start, the important part is encouraging your people to contact the hotline with genuine concerns. Many of our clients tell us that even when they have established an internal hotline, and trained people to handle calls, uptake has been poor.

So here are five actions you can take to help explain to your employees what whistleblowing means, and why you want to hear from them.

Simplify your policy

If someone really wants to raise a concern they will try to do so, but if your whistleblowing policy and code of conduct are difficult to understand, even the most concerned employee may just give up. The policy must therefore be accessible to all, both physically and in the way it is written. You should also:

  • Ensure there is a summary document that explains how to make a report and what it will mean for the person making the report.
  • Ask a group of employees from across the business to read the whistleblowing policy and explain back to you what they think the policy says.

Shout about it

We often hear concerns from clients that implementing and promoting a whistleblowing hotline can give a negative impression of the organisation and indicate that there are problems within it. However, by telling your employees that you want to hear about their concerns, you are demonstrating your interest in hearing what worries them. This will allow you to act early on to prevent small issues becoming big ones that may have an impact on the organisation and its people.

Think about your audience

Understanding how your employees access information is vital to ensuring everyone in the organisation hears the same message. Speak to your marketing team about previous successful internal campaigns to find out what works and what doesn’t. Issues to consider include:

  • Whether employees prefer to make a call to a hotline or submit their report online.
  • Where employees take notice of posters. We have one client who has found that posters in toilet cubicles are the most effective as they give people a private space to note down the hotline phone number.
  • How remote workers are likely to report a concern (for example, via the intranet).

Ensure the process is transparent

Make sure the reporting process is clear. A person who is contemplating telling you what they know will always be more comfortable if they understand what happens once they have raised an issue. All they should be focused on is contacting you and telling their story, which is no small thing. Before they contact the hotline they should know:

  • Who will be at the other end of the line.
  • That they are allowed to remain anonymous.
  • They will be able to speak to someone in their native language.

Provide and receive feedback

The more good outcomes you can talk about, the more calls you are likely to get. If someone used the hotline to report a concern that was dealt with positively, then let people know. This clearly needs to be done correctly, keeping all aspects of confidentiality and anonymity intact. When people tell you what they think, take note.

A speak-up line only works if it meets the needs of an organisation. If people are telling you that they wouldn’t use the hotline because they fear retribution, then you need to make sure that you are promoting the independence of the hotline and their right to remain anonymous, should they choose. If people say they wouldn’t use the hotline because they think their concern isn’t sufficiently serious, promote examples where other callers thought that but it turned out not to be the case.

Safecall Graham Long

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