For a speak up or whistleblowing service to be truly effective, employees must be offered relevant, accessible channels through which they can raise their concerns.

The most common channels typically fall into three categories (telephone, web, and offline) – each with their own range of options and appeal. But choosing the right channel is often more difficult than it at first appears.

Before you choose your reporting channels

Before you begin looking at the specific channels you might implement or add to your current options, you will need to think carefully about the needs of your users and your organisation. Paying consideration to each of the following areas may reveal some important insights that influence your decision, and result in a more effective solution.

1. Accessibility

Above all, consider the environmental circumstances of your employees, and how this might affect their ability to use one channel over another.

For example, a desk-based employee is likely to find it easier use a web or telephone reporting channel than someone working on a construction site.

If your employees speak a variety of languages, or are based in countries with unreliable communications infrastructure, you will also need to consider how this might influence your choice.

2. Availability

Consider when your service will be available, and if any additional resource will be required to support it.

Many employees prefer to report their concern outside of working hours, rather than doing so in the presence of their colleagues and managers. If you have employees working across more than one time zone, this consideration should be extended to them as well.

3. Cost

This consideration has two sides – cost to the organisation, and the cost to the user.

A service that carries a real cost (eg. connection charge) or perceived cost (eg. time and effort) to the user is likely to discourage uptake.

At an organisational level, you will need to look at what options your budget can support. For instance, if you require a telephone service or online reporting platform, it may be significantly more cost-effective to outsource your service to an independent provider than to resource it in house.

4. Goals

Your decision to set up or review your speak up channels is likely to be driven by a departmental or organisational objectives.

Perhaps your organisation is looking to create a more open culture, reduce the number of health and safety breaches, or be able to identify critical risks quickly. Your employer’s specific objectives should play a role in deciding which channels are most likely to reveal the information you seek.

Objectives such as ‘we want to generate more reports’ will require deeper questioning to uncover the true underlying aims.

5. Organisational culture

Progressive organisations are more likely to encourage a speak up culture, creating an environment where people feel more able to raise their concerns openly.

But even in such circumstances, the provision of additional channels can give reassurance to those who feel uncomfortable speaking up and those who wish to remain anonymous.

If your organisational culture remains more of a ‘work in progress’, your choice of reporting options may reflect this. It is therefore recommended that anonymous channels, where legally permissible, form part of your solution.

6. Trust and security

Above all, the channels offered must be trusted by potential service users. An internally administered voice messaging service, for example, may not offer the security and anonymity many people seek.

An independently administered channel, on the other hand, may offer reassurance and make it easier for employees to come forward.

7. Personal preferences

While this is much trickier to assess, there are ways to gauge which channels are likely to be the most popular among your employees.

You can begin by looking at the demographic profile of your potential service users. Factors like age, educational level, income, location and even cultural influences will affect their perceptions of (and access to) certain reporting channels.

Analysing the popularity of existing feedback channels or running a staff survey might also tell you which speak up channels are likely to be most popular.

What’s the alternative?

You may find that outsourcing some (or all) of your channels to an independent speak up specialist, like us, offers the best of all worlds. With Expolink, you will benefit from:

  • An affordable, independent solution
  • A comprehensive range of reporting channels including international freephone, web reporting and mobile app
  • 24/7 availability
  • 200+ languages covered
  • A robust service that is independently audited by some of the world’s most security-conscious organisations

To find out how our services could help you build trust with employees and increase report volumes, please talk to one of our experts.

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