By Joanna Lewis, MD of Safecall
Whistleblowing hotlines and multi-channel approaches are crucial to the successful implementation of an organisations’ whistleblowing policy.
As a specialist in whistleblowing, I have seen the positive impact that embracing a speak-up environment can have on an organisation’s culture and reputation, and one of the key aspects of a successful whistleblowing process is offering true channel choice.
The EU Whistleblowing Directive states that reporters must have access to a range of reporting channels, both verbal and written. The Directive mandates these reporting channels be handled by an ‘impartial and competent’ party.
In this article, I will be highlighting why provision of a whistleblowing hotline is important for regulatory compliance and accessibility, but also necessary to receive higher quality and substantiated reports.
The importance of choice
There are numerous whistleblowing providers globally, and they broadly fall into two categories – those who provide a hotline, and those that don’t.
Some providers who don’t offer a whistleblower hotline claim this reporting method is no longer required as we move towards an increasingly online world.
But this only tells half of the story.
At Safecall, we passionately believe that a hotline is still an essential aspect of a successful whistleblowing process.
Offering true choice of channel, particularly through a specialist external provider to ensure competence and impartiality, is the most effective way to allow your employees to make a report in the way which is best suited to them.
It is not particularly costly to include a phone hotline as part of your whistleblowing service. But the reputational and financial cost of a disclosure not being made, either because the reporter is not able to or is uncomfortable doing so via the available avenues, could be significant.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is a key business topic at the moment, and it is important to remember that many organisations will have people within their employee base or wider supply chain who may struggle with literacy. For these individuals, their only way of speaking to an organisation may be by voice.
Furthermore, 37% of the world’s population have never used the internet
If the focus of your whistleblowing avenues is both written and online based, you may be excluding a whole demographic from making valuable reports.
The value of conversation
Some providers argue that voicemail is a suitable substitution for a hotline service. At Safecall, we disagree.
‘Verbal’ reports should not be catered for at a minimum level for regulatory reasons. They should be valued and encouraged due to the quality of the reports they produce when made through a hotline.
Statistics support the importance of a hotline to a successful whistleblowing process. Our recent Benchmarking Report shows that people feel more comfortable being named when they have spoken to a call handler.
In fact, hotline reports are 55% more likely to be named than their online counterparts. Named reports enable a more thorough investigation and a greater likelihood of a positive experience/outcome for both reporter and organisation. Not only that, but hotline reports are 11% more likely to be substantiated than web reports.
Notably, you are 50% more likely to get a report of bullying, harassment, victimisation or racism via a hotline call than via our web portal. That’s because whistleblowers are more likely to discuss emotional issues via a hotline service. This is because there is value in a conversation.
Crucially, Safecall’s hotline is gold standard. We do not operate out of a scripted call centre. Our call handlers each have at least 25 years’ experience at handling difficult conversations and sensitive subject matters. We facilitate empathetic and investigative conversations. This is invaluable when talking to a reporter who may be sharing an emotional disclosure. A disclosure which may be critically important for a business to know of for the wellbeing of their employees and business.
A de-personalised voicemail system simply cannot compare to this service.
Competence and impartiality
Our hotline also guarantees anonymity where necessary. Although there is value in named reports, it is imperative that reporters can make a disclosure with complete anonymity.
Knowing they can make a report via the telephone to a party that is experienced, entirely impartial and who will maintain their anonymity will encourage reports to be made.
This cannot be guaranteed if your verbal means of report are exclusively internal.
Having these concerns received and processed by experts is the best way to remain compliant and offer true anonymity.
We’re not alone in thinking so…
At Safecall, we witness the efficacy and importance of whistleblowing hotlines first-hand.
Prospective clients also understand the value of the hotline we offer, and it is often a key factor in their decision to choose us as their provider.
Beyond this, we are now beginning the process of partnering with competitors.
Why would competitors want to do this? Because they are realising that their lack of hotline provision is hurting their ability to close certain prospects. Despite the increased utilisation of online reporting systems, there is still a huge cultural appetite for a strong hotline offering.
When considering a whistleblowing system you need to consider the reason and purpose. Are you trying to comply on a base level with legislation and regulatory bodies? Or would you like to take steps towards establishing a culture of transparency and accountability, where employees have a wholly accessible and effective reporting system?
Speaking up is a difficult thing to do, and the medium that individuals use to report their concerns is crucial.
While some people may prefer to fill out an online form and take the time to gather their thoughts, others may want to speak to someone directly. After all, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved,’ and some people may not feel that they have truly expressed their concerns through an online form.
At Safecall, we are passionate about enabling organisations to protect their reputation and improve their culture by supporting whistleblowers who want to make a career-changing call.
Ensuring they feel enabled and good about doing so is one of the most important decisions an organisation can make. Choosing the right partner to support you in that is paramount, and we believe that our hotline is an essential aspect of a successful whistleblowing process.
We know why certain providers are trying to downplay the importance of hotlines. It’s not easy to run a market-leading hotline. It takes resources to source experienced, well trained report handlers. It is a high effort operation. But one which we wholeheartedly believe in and view as central to our whistleblowing offerings.