Effective hotline incident management is one of the most important activities an organization can do to show their workforce that input is valued and issues of misconduct will be addressed. Strong incident management programs are able to track reports from multiple intake channels, offering a holistic view of issues and an insight into the cultural health of the organization.
Believe it or not, for some this is a controversial viewpoint. Many organizations still view whistleblower hotlines as a mere necessity for regulatory compliance – with a goal to receive as few reports as possible. This mentality is best described as “check the box” compliance and overlooks one of the most valuable resources your company has: employee-driven feedback and observations. Whistleblower hotlines, when implemented and administrated properly are the strongest indicator of culture in your organization.
Whistleblower hotlines, when implemented and administrated properly are the strongest indicator of culture in your organization.
The Benefits of a Comprehensive Incident Management Program
Effective incident management programs enable stronger, more ethical cultures. By setting an expectation with every employee and handling cases with care and expedience, organizations are better attuned to the needs of the workforce and can act quickly when issues arise. Robust incident management programs also enable more ethical cultures by demonstrating organization-wide commitment to ethics and compliance.
Moreover, a higher level of reporting contributes to better business outcomes. While this may seem counterintuitive at first glance, higher levels of reports indicate trust in the system, and provide valuable insights into the culture of the business. The information included in incident reports signals areas of risk that business leaders should address as opportunities to achieve a consistently ethical, engaged and high-performing culture.
Where to Begin
A critical component of a healthy incident management program is offering multiple intake methods to suit the needs and comfort level of the workforce. The most common intake methods are telephone hotlines, web-based forms and open-door reports. Further, gathering this information into a single source of truth is imperative so those involved with case management have full visibility and up-to-date information.
Tracking and case management processes make sure reported incidents are collected in a centralized location, resolved in a timely manner and accurately reported – no matter where they originate.
There is a clear case for working with a third party (such as NAVEX) to help manage case intake and record keeping: not only does using a trusted partner ensure you’re receiving best-in-class software to help manage cases in a central location, thoroughly trained intake specialists are able to address the reporter’s concerns in a comprehensive manner. Further, utilizing a trusted third party alleviates the resource constraints that come with employing an internal team 24/7/365 across multiple time zones and ensures your hotline adheres to regulatory compliance standards.
Whistleblower hotlines are tools for employees and third parties to report misconduct and make inquiries, but without top-down buy-in, E&C programs will struggle. Adoption of a culture of ethics and compliance needs to be prioritized from the C-suite, board of directors and all levels of people management, in order to gain traction with individual contributors (and even third-party partners).
So, what does this look like? From the top down, leadership must advocate for and promote use of the hotline, and ensure timely, consistent resolution of cases. While this may seem simple, many organizations still struggle to internalize the value of hotline reports, dedicate appropriate resources to the programs, and/or view reports as a negative.
Communication campaigns should be designed to educate target audiences and motivate them to report concerns. Adult learning theory is clear that people learn differently, so use a variety of delivery methods to ensure the message is received.
Delivery methods could include posters in break rooms, emails, screen savers, virtual meetings, articles in employee newsletters, wallet cards, brochures and corporate intranet sites, and burst or micro-learning messages. Reinforce key messages at team-building meetings and other face-to-face events. It is also important to consider the range of ages that make up your workforce and include mechanisms that are relevant across multiple generations.
Once an allegation is reported, it must be addressed, and when necessary, fully investigated. The organization should critically assess whether it has the available resources to support an investigative process or whether it should seek the services of an independent, third-party investigator. Delays in completion of investigations damage the reputation of the organization and the program.
The 2022 NAVEX Hotline Benchmark Report shows a continuing rise in the median number of days to close a report, with 22 percent of cases taking 100 or more days to close.
A Definitive Guide to Incident Management
The above thoughts on incident management programs are meant to set the stage for why these programs are vital components of your organization’s culture and how leadership’s buy-in impacts the efficacy of a program. Getting started, measuring effectiveness, iterating and building these programs takes dedicated resources and time. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you likely already understand why this is important – beyond maintaining regulatory compliance.
The newly updated Definitive Guide to Incident Management is a resource to help compliance leaders demonstrate the value of a robust program and delivers practical tools, questions to ask, and tips to set your program up for success.
For a deeper dive into incident management programs from getting started to continual improvement: