Keys to a Successful Whistleblower Hotline

From implementation to employee engagement to a dedicated account manager, here are the keys to hotline success

As more and more organizations are choosing to engage a third party vendor to provide their whistleblower hotline, companies new to hotlines often sign the contract and then ask the question, “Now what?”

As a Customer Experience Manager, part of my job is to work through implementation, configuration and rollout with new customers. Organizations must remember that signing the dotted line and checking the “I have a hotline provider” box doesn’t provide your organization with an effective whistleblower program.

When I ask customers, “What about your job keeps you up at night?” the most common answer is “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Sound familiar? Of course, the overall goal is to create an open door culture so that employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns directly with their supervisor or HR. That being said, I’ve found that a lot customers further enhance their culture when implementing a whistleblower hotline supported by a third party vendor. Employees are confident that the company they work for is committed to providing open and honest communication between employees and the organization.

The implementation process is key to setting yourself up for a successful launch of your hotline. When partnering with a third party vendor, it’s important to work through an implementation process that includes the following:

  1. Kickoff Meeting
    This is the first step in the implementation process and is primarily focused on reviewing your goals and expectations for rollout of the hotline.
  2. Detailed Project Plan
    Creating a project plan will ensure that all of the necessary steps are completed in order to achieve your goals and timelines for rollout.
  3. Configuration Training and Assistance
    Your Account Manager at your chosen vendor should have a solid understanding of how you want your hotline and case management system to function so they can assist you in configuring the system to meet those needs.

Beyond preparing for physical implementation of your new hotline, there are a few other key aspects organization’s shouldn’t forget. These are less obvious but just as critical to successful whistleblower hotline implementation and company-wide adoption.

Employee Engagement

As you work through the implementation process, you should also think about what you can do to encourage employee engagement with your new hotline. Employees must feel confident about the integrity of the hotline and the management of issues that are being submitted.

Communicating the new partnership with a third-party vendor assures employees that information is kept confidential and anonymous when the employee doesn’t want to share their name and contact information. Examples of common methods for communicating the new hotline to employees include handing out branded swag printed with the hotline number and website, and company-wide announcements via email, newsletters or videos. Use consistent messaging throughout the year to reminder employees of the hotline.

Case Management

Let’s jump ahead now. You receive your first issue report, now what? Organizations need to align policies and procedures around the whistleblower hotline and the use of the case management tool and investigation process. No matter how a report is filed (be it by phone, web intake or in-person proxy), all reports should be channeled into your case manager in a consistent manner and capture the same information.

Creating consistency will not only give you a defensible, repeatable process, but will also show employees that the organization approaches each report seriously—no matter who the report is from or regarding. This is key to employee trust, which in turn helps hotline adoption rates.

Additionally, make it a best practice to acknowledge receipt of each report with consistent messaging back to the reporting party. Employees want to be heard and have their concerns taken seriously. Most hotline vendors offer message board functionality to allow the reporting party to communicate back to the organization, while maintaining their anonymity.

Reporting

As you manage issue reports through investigation, you should utilize the reporting and analytics your vendor offers to surface trends within the organization and understand behavior. Simple hotline metrics and investigation trends aren’t enough anymore. You need to dig into deep analytics to truly understand your program and a good hotline with dashboards and deep dive analytic capabilities will help you get there. If you need help understanding the reports or slicing and dicing your data, some vendors have additional professionals services you can utilize or include this support complimentary from your account manager.

Some vendors provide at-a-glance dashboards so that you can quickly identify areas of risk (i.e. multiple issue reports of harassment at the Denver office or safety concerns at the Houston plant). Let this serve as a trigger to show where training and additional communication might be needed.

Some advanced companies are also starting to track the root cause, intent and contributing factors to the behavior that caused the issue. This allows organizations to really identify what lead to noncompliance and consider preventive measures that address these underlying causes and mitigate future misconduct.

My last piece of advice, ask questions. Your Account Manager is your partner and are just as invested in the success of your rollout as you are. Your Account Manager will assist you in providing best practice guidance and if needed, getting you additional resources to help along the way. The partnership should not end once rollout is complete, they should be available for questions and help whenever needed, even months or years after implementation.