Implementing a whistleblowing hotline in an organisation is a positive step towards creating a more ethical culture. However, merely having a whistleblowing hotline by itself is not sufficient to guarantee its success. In order to ensure that a whistleblowing hotline is an effective method to detect wrongdoing in an organisation, the following factors need to be kept in in mind:
- Creating an ethical culture
It is absolutely crucial that the leadership sets a positive ‘tone from the top’, placing emphasis on good governance and ethical business dealings. By creating a culture in which reporting of unethical behaviour is valued, stakeholders will be encouraged to report any wrongdoing that they are aware of within an organisation. The executive and management should recognise and acknowledge the positive impact of whistleblowers, thereby removing the stigma around reporting unethical behaviour and emboldening more people to speak up.
2. Awareness and Training
The success of a whistleblowing hotline depends largely on the awareness and training surrounding it. In terms of awareness, it is essential that all stakeholders are made aware of the existence of the whistleblowing hotline. It is not sufficient that stakeholders are informed about the whistleblowing hotline once. Awareness is an ongoing task that requires organisations to constantly publicise the hotline and its channels, making use various platforms, such as staff-meetings, written communications, posters, and supervisory interactions.
Furthermore, it is as important to provide proper training and education to stakeholders. Training efforts need to clarify the scope of the whistleblowing hotline and clearly define the types of wrongdoing that need to be reported. However, it is also necessary to inform employees about the channels that need to be used to raise inter-personal and HR complaints, to avoid the whistleblowing hotline being misused
3. Acting on disclosures
In order for stakeholders to continue making use of a whistleblowing hotline, there needs to be a perception that action is being taken. Accordingly, it is critical that disclosures are properly investigated and resolved. Furthermore, there needs to be ongoing and meaningful communication with the whistleblower to provide updates on the progress of the matter – even more so in cases where disclosures lead to long investigations.
Organisations also need to provide regular updates to all their stakeholders regarding action taken against unethical behaviour. In the interest of fostering a speak-up culture and demonstrating that an organisation is serious about doing ethical business, it is critical that stakeholders know that the executive is taking action when action is required. Communicating such action to stakeholders may also ward off future wrongdoing within an organisation.
A whistleblowing hotline is an integral and necessary part of an organisation’s compliance program, but simply having one is insufficient. The onus is on the leadership to create an ethical work environment and foster a speak-up culture. There is also the responsibility to create awareness, provide training, and act decisively when confronting potential wrongdoing. If done correctly, a whistleblowing hotline can be an excellent tool in combating unwanted behaviour within an organisation.
Click here for more information on the Advance Call Ethics & Fraud Hotline and how we can assist your organisation with a whistleblowing hotline.