Many companies have anonymous whistleblower hotlines in place; but, if they make many mistakes, employees might not trust them enough to use them. The worst part is those mistakes are avoidable.
Whistleblower hotlines are beneficial for both employees and the business. This is why they need to work well. If employees aren’t using your hotline, these mistakes may be to blame.
1. No Clear Policies In Place
Every business should have two ethics-related documents in place. The first details ethical standards and lists things employees should report immediately. The second details how the anonymous whistleblower hotline works. Without any clear policies in place, employees may not know what or how to report things. They also won’t know how the investigation process works and what to expect. Make these policies detailed, clear and readily available.
2. No Follow-Up
An employee files a serious report, but nothing ever happens. This causes distrust. The more employees try to report issues and no one follows up on those reports, the less likely others will be to use the hotline themselves. First, provide a way for employees to anonymously check the status of their report. Also, investigate reports immediately. Even if you feel it might be a false claim, investigating will show if there are other forms of unethical behavior going on.
3. Lack Of Training
One of the biggest mistakes that ruin anonymous whistleblower hotlines is a lack of training. First, employees need to be trained on how to use whistleblower tools. Second, those handling the reports need to be fully trained on how to respond to reports, conduct investigations and keep employees protected. Sometimes, it’s obvious who filed a complaint, but proper training will ensure the name isn’t revealed during the investigation.
4. Using The Wrong Team
It might seem obvious at first to use management or HR administrators to work your hotline. This is a major mistake. Often, management is the problem, such as a manager sexually harassing a new employee. HR may have already known about the issue and refused to do anything. It’s important to pick a team of people from various departments and even potentially people from outside your business, such as an audit committee or legal team.
5. Whistleblower Retaliation
Of course, the main reason many employees never use anonymous whistleblower hotlines is they fear retaliation. It’s a scary world for whistleblowers. They might get harassed, be demoted, lose their job, suffer mental illness and more. It’s obvious to other employees when retaliation is going on. This immediately shows them that the hotline isn’t safe to use and you will be punished for using it.
It’s vital to protect all employees. They deserve a safe work environment. If they don’t have that, your business could lose irreplaceable employees. Even those who don’t face retaliation may leave due to a toxic environment. Make your hotline successful by protecting employees throughout the investigation and after.