August 10, 2022
It's impossible to change a company culture overnight, but there are a number of steps you can take to help encourage your employees to speak up and report their workplace issues. Therefore, below we share tips on how you can make whistleblowing something that everyone has the courage to use.
1. Use good whistleblowing capabilities
To begin with, if you have not already done so, you should implement a whistleblowing policy and a whistleblowing function as soon as possible.
People will be encouraged to come forward and express their concerns as a result of your whistleblowing policy. It should set out how individuals can raise their concerns, explain what will happen next, and offer information about the safeguards in place to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.
By adding anonymous reporting channels and clear, thorough investigation processes to the whistleblower policy, you will show your employees that when they are ready to speak up, your organization is ready to listen. If you are in need of an external whistleblower function or whistleblower policy, Visslan's services for both smaller companies and larger organizations can be helpful.
Communication around whistle-blowing is another crucial factor. All employees in leading positions must 100% support the whistleblower function. Setting the right tone from the start will make it easier to cultivate a positive work culture and encourage more and more people to blow the whistle.
2. Train employees about whistle-blowing
The next step is to train all your employees (from entry-level to the CEO). Your training can look many different ways, but it should at least include the following:
- An overview of expected ethical standards for staff
- How (and why) should you report violations of these standards?
- How will reports be handled and processed?
- How will whistleblowers be protected?
Training employees on the reporting options available to them will be a requirement for organizations located in the EU Member States under the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive. You should also make an effort to more thoroughly train those who will receive or handle whistleblower reports unless you have an outside expert handling cases for you.
Speaking up, especially in front of a colleague, can be intimidating. Educating employees on how whistleblowers will be protected from retaliation can help alleviate these concerns, which can lead to more reports, ultimately benefiting their own organization.
Case studies for training purposes can also be effective. It is easy to eliminate much of the fear and confusion surrounding whistleblowing by showing what happens when a report is raised and what happens as a direct result of it.
3. Have clear protections against retaliation
If you want to obtain high-quality risk intelligence from your employees, you must put safeguards in place to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. This is critical to the success of your whistleblowing function.
If employees find out that a co-worker has been treated unfairly after reporting a problem, it is likely that other co-workers will refrain from reporting it as well.
Retaliation against people who speak up is banned in many countries, and the new whistleblower protection directive will make it illegal across the EU. The directive also includes protections for whistleblowers (as well as those who support whistleblowers, such as co-workers, family, and others) from being demoted, suspended, bullied, or subjected to other forms of retaliation.
4. Offer guides and information about whistleblowing
Offering materials and information is a great idea to ensure that as many employees as possible dare to speak up. For example, consider offering a simple digital guide or a flowchart on the intranet or website that explains what the whistle-blowing process might look like. We have sample flowcharts that we can share with you.
Although this information should be included in the whistleblower policy, it can be good to try to make certain information more accessible, for example with a summarized version of the whistleblower policy. Another popular option is, for example, to put up notice boards around the workplace with information about whistleblowing.
Regardless of the method, the idea is to normalize and inform about whistleblowing to make it as easy as possible for more employees to dare to blow the whistle.
5. Offer several different reporting routes
One of the most critical aspects of ensuring that as many people as possible dare to whistleblow is to offer more than one reporting route. Everyone has different preferred methods when it comes to contacting other people. Consider, for example, the customer service for your broadband operator, which offers both live chat, e-mail, and telephone. It is even more important when it comes to matters of such a sensitive nature as whistle-blowing can be.
With this in mind, it is easy to understand that something as sensitive as reporting something at one's workplace may require several different reporting routes. There are really no right or wrong options. Many workplaces offer a telephone line, others offer the possibility of anonymous whistle-blowing via mailbox or web-based function. The most important thing is to offer a couple of different methods for your whistleblower function, where at least one of them should guarantee full anonymity while being able to follow up with the whistleblower, in accordance with the new legal requirements.
Although the new EU directive and the new whistleblowing laws establish minimum requirements for whistleblowing, there is much else that can be done to further support whistleblowers. Using the points above, you can do your utmost to ensure that more employees find the courage to report injustice or mistreatment in the workplace. It ultimately benefits employees as well as the organization and society as a whole.