One Surefire Way to Know Your Ethics Reporting Program Stinks

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on September 21, 2015

Are you scratching your head wondering where you went wrong with your ethics reporting program?

Most companies are well aware of the benefits of implementing an ethics hotline. There are many:

  • The #1 Fraud Detection Method is a TIP using an ethics hotline
  • 33% of All Business Failures or Bankruptcies are due to theft and fraud not reported by an ethics hotline
  • 40% of all Private Companies have reported experiencing fraud so many implement an ethics hotline
  • The median time for fraud detection is 18 months. It’s much shorter with an ethics hotline
  • Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to fraud, so many have implemented a ‘custom-fit’ ethics hotline

Over the years we’ve had many conversations with varying levels of management in numerous companies that have implemented an internal ethics reporting program. One particular topic of conversation stands out when discussing their internally implemented system and it goes something like this: ethics reporting program

Management: “We had some instances of misconduct so we implemented an ethics hotline internally.”

US: “Great. Is it working?”

Management: “No it’s not getting used.”

Us: “What did you do with it?”

Management: “We implemented it.”

Us: “But then what did you do after you implemented it.”

Management: “Nothing, it’s just there.”

Us: “So nobody really knows it exists or how to use it?”

Management: “Guess not.”

So how do you know if your ethics reporting program stinks? Because it doesn’t get used.

A well drafted whistleblowing program should be created to help an organization avoid negative backlash and legal issues when concerns are reported. This is because these issues are confidentially reported early, investigated thoroughly, and dealt with appropriately.

But how are people supposed to use the program if they don’t know it exists or have completely forgotten about it? Communicating your newly implemented program and whistleblower policy company-wide is vital to the success of your organization and to the success of the program itself. Many organizations have such a policy in place but have not communicated it fully. If your employees don’t know about the program, how can it be effective?

Why has nobody called into the hotline? Because they don’t know it exists. But you told them about it when it was a launched, right? Well they forgot.

Kind of like what has happened to me a few times with books I find lying around the house, not quite sure if I’d read them or not (we all do this). They sort of seem familiar once I picked them up. I start reading anyway, thinking in the back of my mind, have I or haven’t I already read this? The writing was engaging, the story exciting and the characters fun to follow along with. You think I’d remember it?

It turns out the few books I’ve found scattered around, I actually have read. But nevertheless, I had almost no memory of reading them the first time. Almost everything about these books seemed to have seeped away in the intervening years. I never remember the plot, most of the characters or any of the scenes. The only thing I vaguely remember might be the main character’s names, but I can never be be sure I hadn’t made up that memory along the way, after all I couldn’t recall anything else about the book in question.

Note to self: probably a good idea to get rid of the books I’ve read once read!

You see where this is going? The majority of communication about a company is funneled through managers to employees. New employees receive company related handouts, policies, packages, forms, etc. These handouts, policies, packages, forms, etc. get filed away never to be seen again. Your ethics reporting program information? Buried somewhere amongst the other policies and rules that your employees have already forgotten about.

For a program to be effective, it must have the commitment of top management and leadership and must be effectively communicated to employees on a regular basis. People will forget it exists otherwise – here’s a few ideas:

  • Onboarding: every new employee should be made aware of the company’s whistleblower policy and how it positively fits into the company’s culture
  • Training: employees need to know where and how to report wrongdoing. Have training videos on the company intranet and/or internal newsletter. Conduct lunch and learns. Role play scenarios relevant to your industry
  • Posters and Literature: there’s no missing the colourful poster, outlining the ethics hotline details, as employees enter the lunch room each day or pass by notice boards

These are just a few ideas to ensure that the program you’ve implemented doesn’t get neglected. For more ideas on how to communicate your ethics reporting program, download this complimentary ebook today. Because we don’t want your ethics reporting program to stink!

eBook 5 Steps to Communicate Your Ethics Reporting Program