8 Key Steps to Develop and Maintain a Successful Helpline

From building awareness to tracking metrics, everything you need for a successful hotline

8 steps for a successful helpline
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When it comes to building and maintaining your company’s first hotline, or replacing the one you already have, it can be tough to know exactly where to start. We’ve worked with companies in every industry, from small businesses to global enterprises, and we’ve distilled the process into eight key steps that you’ll need to keep in mind in order for your hotline to succeed. Keep reading for an explanation of each step, and download the infographic to keep handy as a helpful reminder!

1. Raise Awareness

Your hotline won’t be very helpful if nobody knows it exists. Start by developing a communication plan to generate awareness, including posters, video shorts, reminder emails, web links in training, town hall meetings. It’s important to remember—generating awareness isn’t a one-time thing—your awareness campaigns should be “always on” to continually remind employees that they have a resource to ask questions and share their concerns. For more detail on how to improve hotline awareness, download our free ebook, 6 Key Steps to Raising Hotline Awareness and Improving Reporting Rates.

2. Create a Speak-up Culture

A “speak-up” culture goes beyond checking the hotline box and makes your hotline an integral touchstone in your company culture. When your employees trust the hotline, know how to use it, and are confident that the reporting process is fair, then everyone wins: you get better reporting rates (which means better risk visibility), and employees feel heard and valued. To integrate the idea of speaking up into your company culture, start by introducing Code of Conduct training, demonstrating real-world scenarios, and showing how speaking up helps maintain ethical culture.

3. Increase Accessibility

A hotline needs to be easy to find and easy to access. Put your hotline link on your company’s main intranet homepage to reach a high volume of employees who are searching for company information. Include a QR code for the hotline on posters and other materials to reach employees who don’t have access to a computer, and publish the hotline phone number in highly trafficked locations to reach employees without access to a computer or smartphone.

4. Provide a Variety of Intake Methods

Building on the idea of accessibility, provide multiple options for intake—go beyond a phone-call-only hotline and provide SMS, web intake, and proxy (the option to report to a supervisor, who then inputs the report in the system). This gives employees flexibility and choice in how they report, and lets them use the channel they’re most comfortable with. Many employees may not have regular access to a computer, so mobile options like SMS and mobile web intake are a must.

5. Protect Confidentiality

If your employees don’t trust your ability to protect their confidentiality, your hotline will fail to gain traction. Plus, many local regulations require an anonymous reporting option. Regardless of regulatory requirements, anonymity is a key element of protecting whistleblowers and making them feel safe submitting potentially sensitive reports. Provide the option to report anonymously across your intake channels.

6. Communicate Regularly

Ongoing communication includes real-life whistleblower stories, reminders that the hotline exists, and explanations of what happens to submitted reports. These messages build employee trust in the hotline process, increase awareness, and improve the likelihood that when a concern or issue arises, an employee will know how to handle it and feel comfortable submitting a report.

7. Manage Retaliation: Prevent, Detect, and Respond

Whistleblower retaliation is an unfortunate reality: in the Ethics and Compliance Initiative’s 2021 Global Business Ethics Survey, 61 percent of employees who reported wrongdoing experienced retaliation. The response from compliance team requires a proactive, nuanced approach. That starts with prevention: having an anti-retaliation policy, educating employees and managers, and more. It continues with detection and response. For more on how to prevent, detect, and respond to whistleblower retaliation, read our blog post on whistleblower protection.

8. Use the Data

Your hotline can be a huge source of insight on how your compliance program is doing across the company. Analyze your helpline data to spot trends, identify hot spot locations, and highlight issue areas that require more training. Learn which metrics to measure and manage with our free Compliance KPIs worksheet.

These eight steps will keep you on the right track when it comes to launching your first hotline, replacing an existing hotline, or maintaining the hotline you have. Click here to download the infographic, so you always have it handy as a reminder.