Irregularities take place in all kinds of organisations: many of us know people who experienced, witnessed, discovered, or took part in any form of wrongdoing within an organisation. Often, knowledge about misconduct is however not exposed internally, but ends up in the public domain eventually, with little opportunity to your organisation’s reputation. The reason is that most people are reluctant to speak up within their organisation. Fear of retaliation and inaccessibility of the right people who should know about the misconduct are the main causes of silence within companies and governmental authorities. Another reason is reluctance on the part of the organisation’s management, who might fear reporting in bad faith or simply don’t want a greater level of transparency. Nevertheless, even fear will generally not prevent leakage of information about wrongdoings.
A growing number of organisations encourages employees, customers and other stakeholders to speak up when they know about misconduct related to the organisation. Practice shows that although encouragement of whistleblowers is often done with the best intentions, it is a serious challenge to create an environment in which people feel comfortable to speak up. It takes a well thought through whistleblowing procedure to receive reports and deal with them appropriately.
What can organisations do to improve their whistleblowing infrastructure?
- Check the facts
There is plenty of research done about the benefits of a transparent business climate, in which whistleblowing plays an important role. There is a lot to learn from the experiences of other organisations that already have a professional whistleblowing system in place. It is interesting to read what studies tell about prevention of fraud and how transparency is related to success of organisations. Some organisations fear that implementation of a professional whistleblowing system involves a great investment of money and time. That is not the case; with ready to go whistleblowing plans available, any organisation can have a professional whistleblowing system in place in no time for a competitive price. This allows people to speak up.
- Discuss the topic of whistleblowing internally
Establishing a whistleblowing channel is only part of the implementation of a whistleblowing system. It is important to make whistleblowing a subject that is being discussed at the work floor and at board level. People with board and management positions should speak with other employees about whistleblowing as part of enhanced transparency and the benefits it brings to organisations. Whistleblowing should be encouraged. All stakeholders should realise that it is in the organisation’s interest to speak up and to learn about wrongdoings internally, before they become known in the public domain. Also, people should understand that building a compliant, trustworthy and transparent organisational environment is an ongoing process.
There are various whistleblowing systems available, so it is important to know what the characteristics of each system are. We encourage organisations to request a demonstration so that they can compare the various whistleblowing systems available. Together, we can assess your organisation’s existing or envisaged whistleblowing infrastructure from a legal, technical and practical point of view. With such research done, it will be easy to choose a whistleblowing system that fits your specific needs. It is then time to consider taking the other steps towards establishment of your whistleblowing system. We are gladly available to share our experiences and provide you with any information on whistleblowing systems you might need. We hope that soon, you will too be able to confidently say: “speak up whistleblower!”