Ethics Hotline Blunders: Don't Do These

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on February 5, 2016

ethics hotlineDon’t Make These Mistakes When Setting up an Ethics Hotline!

Many companies set up an ethics hotline to comply with a regulatory body or to put a check mark beside a list of regulatory requirements they need to adhere to. While a hotline is an important tool in your overall ethics and compliance program, you need to make sure you are choosing the right solution for your organization. So here’s a few blunders you want to avoid.

Blunder #1

The biggest must be the best!  Actually no. Every company has different needs. The provider that serves Coca-Cola or Disney, is not necessarily the best provider for you. Do your due diligence and ensure you are going to get the right level of service and attention for your investment in the hotline and reporting system. It is key to have an Account Manager that can help you create the right kinds of support – through a communications plan, marketing support materials and training. An off-the-shelf solution designed for the mass market may not be your best option.

Blunder #2

Don’t choose the cheapest solution or worse, use an internal system without proper support protocols in place. Ensure that your provider offers a 24/7/365 live answer hotline so no matter when your employees call, someone is there to take it. There are many providers who answer the phone from 9am to 5pm, but since most calls received by ethics hotlines are outside normal business hours, you are short-changing employees on the level of access and transparency they would expect with this type of service. If you are using an internal system, you need to address the 24/7 aspect of the service. It is integral to the success and support of a hotline. You also want to ensure you have a proper case management system along with the hotline so you can identify trends, create an audit trail and have access to a comprehensive reporting system to assess your success.

Blunder #3

Don’t implement the system without proper support or promotion. If you do not promote the whistleblower system, no one will use it. You need to support the system on multiple levels: through the employee handbook and Code of Conduct; through lunch and learns and town hall meetings; with collateral materials such as posters and wallet cards; and through training both online and in person. The single most important aspect of implementing a hotline (besides being 24/7/365) is ensuring your staff know about it and feel comfortable using it.

Bonus Blunder

We see many companies getting sucked into the ‘one low fee’ bit to partner with a provider. The problem is, that was just to get you in the door. When your renewal comes up, not only will you be hit with a substantial increase, your original ‘one low fee’ didn’t include training, and promotional materials. If you want those, they are extra. If you are shopping around, be sure to ask all the right questions about what exactly does the annual fee cover. You might be surprised.


Don’t make a blunder. Implementing a solution is a great tool to enable your employees in all areas to come forward to report concerns they may have. Incorporating vast internal controls is best, however, instituting small measures to begin is a good place to start. Setting up a hotline is easy, cost-effective and an instant way to gain access to information that could save your business.

We invite you to download this eBook: 6 Steps to Implementing an Ethics Reporting Hotline. 

6 Steps to Implement an Ethics Reporting System