Services of all types are increasingly moving to digital focused offerings with some organisations no longer publishing contact phone numbers at all. It is a trend that has also reached the world of whistleblowing with employees being offered the opportunity to speak-up via digital platforms such as email, a website or using apps on their mobile phones.
Having a variety of routes available to people is a good thing, everyone is different and will feel comfortable using different methods to raise concerns. However a shift to digital-only reporting would likely have a negative impact not only on the quality of reports but also on the willingness of employees to speak-up.
People need reassurance...
Speaking up takes bravery and must be handled with sensitivity. In spite of efforts to change the perception, the risks to a whistleblower feel significant, be it reputational damage, hindered career progression or retaliation from individuals or an organisation.
By having a conversation the whistleblower is made to feel comfortable and that their call is worthwhile. Call handlers who are well-trained will be able to gauge how much reassurance the caller requires in order to draw the information out. The call handler will be able to provide guidance on next steps and timing and this in turn increases the chances that an anonymous caller will call back at an arranged time to engage with the process, for example to answer questions posed by the employer.
There may be more than meets the eye...
A caller may begin with a seemingly small concern but, if asked the right questions in the right way, they will be much more forthcoming and provide details that will better paint the picture to the employer receiving the report. It is not unusual that the gentle probing by the call handler can result in more being uncovered than simply the purpose of the original call. This increase in detail enables the company to act on the report more effectively and more efficiently.
Anonymity must be an option...
Around 40% of whistleblowers who contact Safecall make their reports anonymously. Whilst one can do this using a digital platform, for many they feel more comfortable to do this via telephone as, unlike some digital methods, it doesn't require a log in or seem to be as easy to track.
The number of callers who remain anonymous is lower when the report is raised via the telephone as callers become more comfortable and therefore relinquish their anonymity so as to maximise the benefit of the call. This in turn helps employers to resolve the issue as they have a more complete picture.
What is the outcome?
By putting in place and heavily promoting a whistleblowing service employers are sending a clear message about the open culture of their organisation. This can be undermined by a long delay in receiving a response or not seeing any action come from the report. By having people at the end of the phone more insight on the process is shared with callers, they are given realistic time frames for a response and encouraged to call back to get updates and be involved in the process.
When people across the organisation see positive change thanks to a whistleblower they are more likely to see the benefit of raising concerns themselves.
And let's not forget, not everyone has access to or is comfortable using digital platforms
Whilst many job roles are desk based, sat at a computer all day with a mobile phone as part of the package, many more are not. For example, those working in a factory producing food are on the front line when it comes to seeing something amiss with safety standard or potential food contamination but are more likely to have access to telephone than a computer during the working day.
For many people they are simply not confident enough with the use of technology to use it for such a serious purpose. The key to a successful whistleblowing service is to make it as easy as possible for someone to speak up. For that reason multi-platform services are essential.
Safecall is a leading provider of an ethics telephone hotline as well as an online reporting system and a Case Management System through which people can speak up. We work with over 400 organisations around the world delivering expert reporting.
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