As new EU laws aimed at protecting whistleblowers require tens of thousands of organisations to implement reporting channels for the first time, you may be wondering why whistleblowing? What value can it add to your company? In response to these and many more questions, we have written a new whistleblowing handbook to help companies get implementation right first time.
This article is the third in a series of summer blog articles publishing excerpts from the new handbook, The ABC guide for establishing a whistleblowing solution that increases customer and employee satisfaction. The handbook covers data security, resources, how to get the cases in, legal aspects, culture and more.
Why whistleblowing? Forewarned is forearmed
Why is it important that an organisation’s leaders establish a robust, trustworthy whistleblowing channel? Why should board members be demanding such channels in the organisation? Well let’s reverse that scenario. What happens when whistleblowing is not welcomed, when an open culture is not encouraged, when employees are fearful of informing leaders of misconduct they see or strongly suspect is taking place around them?
In this scenario, only when the proverbial matter hits the fan does management or the board find out what has been going on. But then it can be too late; customers leave, shares prices drop, or a product fails leading to health-threatening consequences. A whistleblowing solution can be the difference between finding out in time or finding out too late.
Why whistleblowing? Prevent wrongdoing
Forward-thinking leaders who are serious about business ethics know this. They will already have a robust code of conduct in place, and it will be well communicated and trusted. Above and beyond that though, they will be able to point to tools, digital solutions and other mechanisms that underpin their code of conduct, give their employees a voice and strengthen their brand as a responsible employer, such as a secure, online whistleblowing system.
No company leader wants to find out negative news about their organisation through the media or other external sources. So, management and boards should do everything they can to make sure they hear about problems earlier, this includes encouraging employees to speak up through internal channels. And this is the central premise of whistleblowing. To prevent wrongdoing occurring in the first place.
Each year WhistleB carries out a survey of its customers to find out how they use their whistleblowing system, and the benefits they perceive from having it in place. From this survey, we know that business leaders perceive that the mere existence of a whistleblowing solution prevents some amount of wrongdoing occurring in the first place. Offering a secure reporting channel to your employees and other stakeholders shows your commitment to doing the right thing, to conducting good business ethically. It also shows that you are ready to act as soon as any irregularities or deviation from your business codes are uncovered. This preventive value of the whistleblowing solution always comes near the top of the list of benefits according to our customer survey. Here’s how some of WhistleB’s customers have expressed this:
What are the main benefits of your system?
“I managed to prevent bullying against two employees.”
“Work preventively, building trust, supports the corporate culture by living the values.”
“Finding out things we would otherwise never know about.”
“Identifying grey zones which need clarification. Working with preventing misconduct in the future.”
“Through the investigation we improved the internal control and stopped further losses.”
The mere fact that you communicate your whistleblowing system, and encourage employees to use it when needed, can help you attract and retain responsible and engaged individuals. Responsible employees are of course the most effective preventive action of them all.
Why whistleblowing? Mitigate business risks
Time is of the essence when mitigating risks. Despite the preventive effect of whistleblowing solutions, those people that really want to go against the rules will always find a way of doing so. And when that happens, the sooner that you as a business leader get to hear about the misconduct, the faster you can act to limit the damage.
In this scenario, a whistleblowing solution becomes your channel for detecting irregularities at an early stage. Employees are usually nearer to the source of the activity in question, they hear about it, see it or suspect it before it gains momentum. And they have a far greater chance of being able to provide evidential material during the act rather than after the fact. As soon as anybody suspects something, the whistleblowing solution needs to be close at hand to ensure that they have a secure and easily accessible reporting channel for telling you about their concern. It must be quick and safe for an employee to report, also anonymously if they so wish.
While it is the whistleblower’s responsibility to report, it is your responsibility to make it easy and safe for them to do so. This is crucial for giving yourself the best chance of quickly limiting damage to the organisation’s people, brand or finances. The kind of information that can be unearthed by a whistleblower may otherwise be almost impossible for leaders to access. Encouraging reports from whistleblowers increases the likelihood that such information will be forthcoming. In turn, leaders can put a stop to the related misconduct sooner and thereby reduce potential losses.
Why whistleblowing? Enhance your organisation’s brand
Important though they are, there is even more to whistleblowing than preventing wrong-doing and mitigating risks. We would argue that a whistleblowing system is a brand enhancer, a way to strengthen the organisation’s sustainability profile and increase customer satisfaction. Having a whistleblower solution shows that you want to do business in a good way, and that you want to act on wrongdoing.
There is tough competition for attracting the best talent, and today, the younger generation is more likely to select an employer whose values match their own. We are also seeing that existing employees are more loyal if they feel they are in companies where they know they will be safe, and where ethics are taken seriously. A more aware labour force has spoken out – and what it wants is ethical business.
Here’s how some of WhistleB’s customers have expressed how a whistleblowing system enhances their company brand in our customer surveys:
What are the main benefits of your system?
“Building trust in what we do and who we are.”
“Building trust in and outside the organisation.”
“This is a good tool to promote good corporate culture where people can see that their voice is heard, and actions are taken accordingly.”
Implementing a whistleblowing solution should be a simple step for a responsible company to take, which nonetheless contributes to the greater good. Dire outcomes are so unnecessary when the means exist to help managers and board members be forewarned. That’s why whistleblowing solutions are so valuable.
Gunilla Hadders, co-author and Senior Advisor at WhistleB, Whistleblowing Centre
+46 70 214 88 73, firstname.lastname@example.org