Get The Most From Your Ethics Hotline

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on October 5, 2016

Get The Most From Your Ethics HotlineCommunication is key!

The process of implementing an ethics intake, or reporting, program into your company doesn’t stop when the program has been set up, and employees can successfully log in and navigate around it.

One comment we hear from some clients is that there has been no use of the system they implemented last year.

“We’ve had zero uptake…”

The first thing we do as a company is backtrack through communication efforts, and training that we had with this new client, to ensure we didn’t drop the ball anywhere.

After all, we’re all human, and life happens.

Our training and onboarding of clients includes video tutorials, e-training, webinars, hand-outs, and sometimes on-site visits (sunny locations…). But at some point, we need to let you go.

Like a parent has to let their children go at some point to face the world alone.

“Is he going to be okay?… maybe we should call him…”

Okay, maybe that’s a bit much.

But just like that.

At some point, the company has to take over the training and communication efforts with its employees.

Employees may be a little fearful of this program. Historical behavior and past events, can cloud the initial success of the program.

However, consistent messaging from the CEO through management, will drive improved legitimacy for an ethics reporting system.

Most companies have a code of ethics. They need to be written in simplified language that all employees can understand. Anti-retaliation language in the Code is a must, and must be clear, especially if historical behavior would lead employees to believe that retaliation could happen again.

Proof. Employees need proof. The more senior management engages employees on the program, and to not be afraid to use it, then employees may start showing a little more trust in the program. If the message received is that by using this tool as a method of engaging the employees in a common goal of supporting the organization’s vision and values, this is an excellent start.

Also, those in a position of authority must also adhere to the Code of Ethics and follow the principles in practice in order to have an impact on employees.

Nobody should be let off the hook!

People like stuff. Things you can feel. So use promotional materials that employees can take away with them. Having the ethics reporting contact information in a handy spot, like wallet cards and communal posters and materials, is a key factor influencing the outcome of the program.

Most employees will report an ethical wrongdoing from the safety of their home. So having a handy wallet card, that’s well, in their wallet, with contact information on it is a given.

If employees don’t know how to access the program, how are they going to use it?

How well do your employees know the company Code of Ethics?

It’s not like it’s the most exciting thing on the planet to read. Sorry, but it’s not. This is why it needs to be clear and concise. But it’s an important part of the company.

Employees should be tested on it. Using surveys to measure the employee’s comprehension of the Code and whether they understand the implications of unethical behaviour in the business is important. And using a survey prior to the launch of the ethics reporting program is an excellent way to benchmark the perception and the success of the program six months or a year down the road.

What we find is that when management implements a program, they do not follow through with any education, training, or promotion, and employees either don’t know about it because it is not part of an engagement process, or they simply, don’t believe in it.

A powerful ethics reporting hotline should inform staff at every level:

  • how to identify and categorize a real ethics breach
  • how to use the ethics reporting system correctly
  • what to expect and how to track their claim

Need a little more info to take away with you (because we like stuff, right)? Download an eBook.

eBook 5 Steps to Communicate Your Ethics Reporting Program