It’s important for modern businesses to nurture and support a common set of ethical guidelines for everyone in the organization. In this context, an ethical hotline should function as a reporting mechanism for employees so that they can report unethical behavior, ethical breaches, misconduct, and potentially criminal behavior going on in the workplace.
Where the regular reporting mechanisms have failed or are simply not appropriate, an ethics hotline can provide a channel of communication that supports ethical conduct in the workplace. Unfortunately, there is also a culture in some workplaces where people are afraid to use ethics hotlines.
If you want to provide a secure and well-regarded ethics hotline for your organization, how can you best achieve this? Here are 5 pieces of advice that could save you a lot of heartache:
- A no retaliation policy is key
The biggest reason why employees are not comfortable using an ethics hotline is because they fear retaliation within the workplace. The thinking goes that if they report a superior for improper conduct using the hotline, the information, including their name, will be leaked and their superior will conduct a program of retaliation.
To create the most secure ethics hotline, it is absolutely essential that a culture of reassurance is nurtured. Business leaders must make it very clear that the hotline is secure and anonymous and that there will be no leaking of information. Every member of the organization must feel absolutely comfortable and reassured about using the hotline so that they do not fear some form of retaliation.
- Support from business leaders
An ethics hotline is one of the cornerstones of a workplace that values its employees and its perception as an ethical organization. If you’re implementing an ethics hotline in your organization, it’s essential that it has the full support of the leaders within your organization.
The members within any organization take their cues from the leaders of that organization. When an ethics hotline has the full and unqualified endorsement of managers, supervisors, team leaders, CEOs, and so on, a successful implementation is far more likely to succeed.
- Let a third party run the hotline
In many cases, it’s more appropriate to allow a qualified and experienced third party company to run and manage the hotline. One of the key reasons that many employees don’t want to use an internal hotline is because they fear that they will be found out and their name leaked. By outsourcing the hotline service to someone else outside of the organization, it’s possible to negate this source of fear.
- Around the clock access
The truth is that even if an employee wants to report something via the hotline, they are unlikely to want to do it during regular work hours. This is because they are likely going to feel nervous and worried that someone will monitor their computer or phone use. The best way to deal with this is to make sure you offer 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year access to the hotline. This means that employees are more likely to use the service because they can make the report from the comfort of their own homes.
- Training and promotion
If ethics training is not already a part of your organization, it really should be. Every member of an organization should be made aware of the code of conduct and why an ethics hotline is important. Whether this takes place during employee inductions or becomes a regular annual training program, it’s critical that everyone is made aware of the fact that an ethics hotline exists, what it means to the company, and how to use it.
Moving forward with implementation
Building a secure ethics hotline is one of the foundations of modern business operation. In order to implement the service successfully, it must have the full support of business leaders, provide anonymity, be accessible at all times, and operate within a culture of support.