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Organizations continue to feel the lingering impacts of COVID-19 on internal reporting while workplace civility issues rise

Portland, Ore. - March 29, 2022

NAVEX, the leader in integrated risk and compliance management software, announces the findings of its 2022 Incident Management Benchmark Study. The annual report tracked and analyzed organizational compliance trends based on more than 1.37 million global incident management reports made to nearly 3500 organizations in 2021. Chief among the findings is that risk and compliance professionals face dual challenges in navigating a post-pandemic world with whistleblowers more emboldened than ever.

Risk and compliance professionals faced another year of uncertainty in 2021, which began with the hope that COVID-19 vaccines may mark a return to normalcy but was disrupted by variants that meant COVID-19 remained a significant part of the discourse and discontent, as did evolving vaccine policies and mask mandates. While internal reporting did not yet return to pre-pandemic levels, the ‘Great Resignation’ may be reducing fear of reprisal and reinforcing employee willingness to speak up, including speaking up to external sources. These combined dynamics are likely contributors to a notable rise found in reports about lack of workplace civility.

Emboldened Whistleblowers

The findings paint a clear picture of employees more ready to report misconduct than ever before. However, this reporting is not just to internal resources, but to external sources as well, as demonstrated by the near doubling of tips, year over year, to the Securities and Exchange Commission Office of the Whistleblower.¹ In addition, last year fewer people submitted anonymous reports internally – choosing instead to provide their name – than in any prior year. This decline is not just continuing but accelerating as the median anonymous reporting rate fell to an all-time low of 50% in 2021 from 56% in 2020 and 62% a decade ago indicating less fear of retaliation. Noting ‘The Great Resignation’ and the intense hiring competition, employees who are confident that they could more easily secure other employment may be more emboldened to speak up.

Also underscoring the sense of employee empowerment was an increase in fraud reporting and allegations of misconduct which reached an all-time high since NAVEX’s benchmark report 10 years ago.  90% of all reports in 2021 were allegations of misconduct, up from 86% last year and 79% in 2012.

Additional major themes include:

  • Companies continue to see the lingering effects of COVID-19. Report volume remains lower than pre-pandemic levels, with reporting levels tracking to COVID cases. While case closure times and substantiation rates remained steady, organizations continued to see elevated levels of safety-related cases.
  • Workplace civility related issues including retaliation, harassment and discrimination, jumped significantly. Complaints about whistleblower retaliation have always been a small portion of all complaints, but they increased from 0.9% in 2020 to 1.7% in 2021. Reports of harassment rose above levels seen in the height of the #MeToo movement and reports of discrimination rose above the levels reported in the year George Floyd was killed. Together, these findings suggest employees are paying closer attention to workplace civility issues, which reflects growth in conversations about systemic racism, political divisions, and increasing protection for whistleblowers in society at large. 
  • Digital intake continues to be the primary reporting method. 46% of organizations had the majority of their reports coming in via web and mobile intake channels**.** Reports coming through telephone hotlines is the second most prevalent method with 30% of respondents stating it is the primary method for reports which is up from 2020 and close to pre-pandemic levels.

“Risk and compliance professionals face a critical juncture as they pivot to a post-pandemic world, with emboldened whistleblowers and increased willingness to challenge workplace behaviors,” said Carrie Penman, Chief Risk & Compliance Officer, NAVEX. “Risk and compliance officers are fully aware that employees have a very different view of their rights in the workplace post-COVID. Pair this with the tight labor market where employees know they have other readily available employment options and it’s easy to see why employees feel emboldened to openly report workplace issues. This is an opportunity to further encourage a speak up culture, grow trust and use knowledge from reports to continuously improve internal reporting processes and awareness.”

About NAVEX
NAVEX is the recognized leader in risk and compliance management software and services, empowering thousands of customers around the world to manage and mitigate risks with confidence. NAVEX’s mission is to help customers promote ethical, inclusive workplace cultures, protect their brands, and preserve the environment through sustainable business practices. For more information, visit NAVEX.com and our blog. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Media Contact:
Jillian Young
NAVEX-V2@v2comms.com