In part one of this three-part series, we discussed what kinds of whistleblowing hotlines exist. In part two, we’ll discuss the five key components of a whistleblowing hotline system.
While the concept of a whistleblowing hotline is easy to grasp, an effective one requires effort and thoughtful design to ensure it works as intended (and meets all the regulatory requirements your organization is accountable to). So, let’s discuss what are the key components of a whistleblowing hotline system.
5 key components of a whistleblowing hotline system
Communication about the whistleblowing hotline system
A whistleblower hotline is all but useless if your employees are not aware of it. Communication with all groups of people to whom the organization is making the whistleblowing hotline service available is essential. It can include ‘how to’ guidelines, a whistleblowing policy, re-emphasis of the organization’s code of conduct and more.
The aim of such communication is to set the whistleblowing hotline service in the context of the organization’s broader ethics and anti-corruption work, to create trust, and thereby encourage people to use the hotline if they suspect improper behavior. Whistleblowing hotline service communication will:
- Answer what, where, when why and how of the whistleblowing hotline service? What is a whistleblowing matter, what is not? Where can people find the channel to report? When is the whistleblowing service available? Why should people bother, why can they trust the whistleblowing hotline service? How can they make a report?
- Describe the case management process. What happens to complaints, how will they be followed up, escalated and investigated?
- Detail who will manage the report. Who are the members of the whistleblowing team, and why?
- Explain that the whistleblower can report anonymously and remain anonymous throughout any follow-up dialogue and process if they so choose. Also explain if they are comfortable with open whistleblowing (revealing their identity), they will be protected from any retaliation. Potential whistleblowers should also be informed about their rights, the rights of the accused, how data is handled and how the whistleblowing hotline software keeps the data secure.
The aim of such communication is to set the whistleblowing hotline service in the context of the organization’s broader ethics and anti-corruption work, to create trust, and thereby encourage people to use the whistleblowing hotline if they suspect improper behavior.
The whistleblowing hotline itself
This is the channel for reporting complaints, and it must be an easy-to-use whistleblowing hotline to remove all barriers to a potential report being made. A serious whistleblower probably makes a report only once, and they often have great concerns about doing so. Help them and encourage reports by making the process as simple, and the channel as accessible as possible, and allow them to start a dialogue as an anonymous whistleblower. Allow multi-lingual reporting so employees and other stakeholders can use their native language when reporting. Ensure the whistleblowing hotline has the functionality for adding evidential material to the case.
A whistleblowing hotline investigative team
When a report comes through the whistleblowing hotline, this is the group of people appointed to receive and manage whistleblowing cases. They will decide whether cases should be escalated, to whom, and whether external experts need to be added into the investigation process. They should have relevant competencies from multiple functions across the organization, and training to handle ethically sensitive issues. With our customers, we often see roles from HR, compliance, finance and sustainability, as well as non-executive members of the board. This whistleblowing hotline team should be as small as possible but contain more than one person for reliability and impartiality reasons.
A whistleblowing case management tool
This is the place within the whistleblowing hotline system where cases are processed. It should seamlessly integrate with the system for efficient follow-up and on-going dialogue with a whistleblower. To help the whistleblowing team manage and investigate cases correctly, it should be intuitive, and provide a structure for the most appropriate steps to be taken throughout the process. To be fully compliant with applicable legal requirements, such as the GDPR, the whistleblowing hotline case management tool should include case archiving and deleting functionality.
Whistleblowing hotline software
Underpinning and enabling the entire whistleblowing hotline system is a robust whistleblowing hotline software solution. Market-leading whistleblowing hotline providers today ensure their solutions contain the strictest security settings to ensure data privacy and security, in compliance with all. At the same time, the solution should enable you to control your own data and allow you to monitor that your whistleblowing hotline system is not accessible to any unauthorized persons.
Stay tuned for part three of this series where we’ll cover the characteristics of a successful whistleblowing hotline system.
Ready to learn how NAVEX can support your organization’s internal reporting needs?