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How to Introduce an Ethics Hotline System Into Your Company

Statistics show that a whistleblower program for reporting wrongdoing is the most important tool for reducing fraud.

Posted by Shannon Walker on May 30th, 2012

According to the 2012 ACFE Global Fraud Study, the most effective method for reducing workplace fraud is the application of an ethics hotline to allow and encourage employees, customers and others to report corruption and wrongdoing. Tips have been shown time and again to be the most common way fraud is uncovered and anonymity makes it far more likely that people will come forward with information. So it makes sense, if you don’t have one, to put in place a way to capture tips.

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When introducing a whistleblower program for your organization, here are some things you should  take into consideration as you are undergoing the diligence for creating such a tool.

Snitch or Ethics Champion

One of the most important considerations when introducing the concept of a whistleblower or ethics hotline to your employees is how to position this tool.
Whistleblowing has become a common term in the last decade. Perhaps  somewhat still burdened by the stigma of  the “snitch” factor, the term and the concept are undergoing a transformation whereby whistleblowing is beginning to be viewed as something noble, something expected and something required by federal and regulatory statutes.

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One of the most important considerations when introducing the concept of a whistleblower or ethics hotline to your employees is how to position this tool.  Never should it be positioned as a tool for snitching or deriding your fellow colleagues or for vacuous complaints.

This system needs to be elevated and touted for what it is – a tool to empower employees to identify wrongdoing and to protect the integrity of the organization. One of the benefits of the introduction of this system stems from management messaging that they are ready and committed to provide the communication tools necessary.

No Retaliation

WhistleBlower hotlines can be used within any size of organization, from small, family-run organizations to large multi-national companies. The key to the success of the hotline is that employees are reassured and have confirmation that they can come forward with reports without fear of retaliation, and most importantly that they have the right to remain anonymous.  Both of these commitments are integral to the success of implementing this type of program.

To begin the process, the first thing you need to create is a Code of Conduct that clearly defines the expectation of behavior within the organization. Next, you need to draft ethics and compliance policies that support the Code but that also emulate the culture of your own organization. These polices must include strident anti-retaliation commitments on the part of the organization.

Guarantee Confidentiality

When considering the implementation of the hotline itself, look to a third party to administer the hotline and incident management system to both provide transparency and objectivity, but also to allow a professional group to manage this system for you.

Often times, in-house built systems do not provide the level of confidentiality nor do they have the sophistication that third party system can provide.

Promote the Tool

Once you have decided on a system, ensure that your employees are trained on the Code of Conduct and are familiar with the reporting system and that you keep this top of mind throughout the year. Regular messaging in the company newsletter, posters in the lunchroom and an annual review are key to ensuring that your employees are aware of the service and are encouraged to utilize the system.

Consistency and promotion are keys to having this tool work for the organization. If you get no calls on your hotline, it’s that is as much of an issue as receiving too many calls. A good balance represents a well-functioning organization.

Support from the Top

Finally, when setting up your system, ensure to include your senior management team in the process of defining your Code of Conduct and deciding what type of system you are going to implement.  It is necessary to have all of your key management team endorse and support this program for it to permeate your organization.

Shannon Walker
Shannon Walker

Founder and President, WhistleBlower Security Inc.

Shannon Walker is the Founder and President of WhistleBlower Security Inc., an ethics and risk management company with clients worldwide, that protects and shelters organizations through allowing employees to anonymously report cases of fraud, embezzlement, and harassment, etc.
Shannon served on West Vancouver District Council from 2008-2011. She currently sits on the Dr. Peter Aids Foundation, Dr. Peter Housing Society Boards and the West Vancouver District’s Community Centre Society Services Board.

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