Headline findings

  • 89.47% stated the whistleblowing hotline encourages employees to come forward who otherwise may not have via internal channels
  • 68.42% adopted the hotline to enhance employee confidence by protecting anonymity
  • 63.16% consider the gravity of issues reported as a test of hotline effectiveness
  • 66.67% said attitudes to whistleblowing are positive
  • 77.7% made improvements to internal controls or processes based on hotline intelligence
  • 55.56% have carried out sanctions against malpractice following a hotline report

Over the 20 years Expolink have been operating, whistleblowing hotlines have enjoyed increasing popularity as an effective tool for mitigating risk and protecting employees.

Our clients don’t exhibit a particular profile; we protect a hugely disparate variety of sizes and sectors, all with very different risk prevention and accessibility requirements.

The results detailed here are based on responses of clients that have been using the service for more than one year.

What motivates clients to opt for an independently-managed whistleblowing hotline?

reasons implement whistleblowing hotline

There is strong evidence to suggest that employees place greater trust in an external reporting facility, particularly where anonymity is assured.

Our findings echo this assertion, with 68.42% of respondents stating provision for anonymity as a key factor to adoption of the hotline. It is worth noting that we always recommend that robust internal processes are also in place, though the benefit of external, confidential channels, particularly when ongoing communication between the hotline provider and whistleblower is facilitated, are clear.

Indubitably, with the Bribery Act and other legislative developments in mind, 52.63% stated compliance as a key motivation.

And what of the all-important tone-from-the-top? A reassuring 42% nominated demonstrating best practice as an integral element in their corporate governance program.

Freeing up internal resources was less of a concern with 36.84% of the vote, and 26.32% citing reduction in the need for internal systems investment.

And from the employee point of view?

We also asked clients why they felt employees are more likely to report wrongdoing to an independent hotline.

Unsurprisingly, assurances of confidentiality (88.89%) and 24/7/365 accessibility (83.3% ) were considered key reasons for employee uptake. Choice of reporting channels followed closely at 72.2% and being able to report in your native language, 61.11%.

As before, clients demonstrated commitment to the whistleblowing process with 61% citing the importance of updating employees on the progress of their report; something that could prove challenging via internal channels.

Advantages of using a whistleblowing hotline service

advantages whistleblowing hotline

As a hotline provider with the interests of both employers and their staff in mind, these results were music to our ears.

A staggering 89.47% stated the principle advantage of the service was encouraging employees to come forward who otherwise may not have via internal channels.

Little point in this encouragement without the channels to facilitate this; 84.21% cited the ability to offer employees multiple channels of reporting channels; telephone, web, email and interactive voice messaging as a key advantage.

Further to this trend, 68.42% identified direct toll free access for all employees worldwide as a key advantage and slightly less at 63.16% citing the 190+ language translation services Expolink offer as a principle advantage to their business and employees.

In a globalised, decentralised economy, with employees familiar with a 24/7 culture, accessibility and inclusivity are critical to business leaders as they seek to mitigate risk.

Compliance with EU data protection laws, centralised, high-level reporting for senior managers and the facilitation of ongoing dialogue with employees all rated reasonably highly at 57.89%.

Such a range of reasons is gratifying to our hotline team as the variety suggests a truly holistic management approach to the hotline service and mirrors our own aims: ensuring compliance, protecting staff via channels that they feel comfortable with, that the hotline and it’s facets (i.e interpretation and translation services) are being communicated and utilised and that, ultimately, business leaders and ethics champions are engaged with the process from start to finish: vital for its ongoing success.

How clients evaluate the effectiveness of the hotline service

When it comes to evaluations of the hotline’s effectiveness, the gravity of the issues reported was considered most important (63.16%) than the amount of whistleblowing reports received (57.89%). Again, this data is what we would hope to see: clients are paying attention to colleague engagement and employees place trust in the hotline to report serious issues.

47.37% of clients cited employee responses to surveys regarding the hotline as a test of effectiveness. Somewhat disappointingly, in a later question, just 16.67% of clients said they undertook such employee surveys – though 100% of those responding in the affirmative said the results were positive and 66.67% stating employee attitudes to whistleblowing were positive.

How clients communicate the hotline

Clearly, the effectiveness of an ethics reporting line is hugely diminished if employees aren’t informed of its existence.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, 100% of respondents used the company intranet to market the service, with induction packs and posters claiming second and third place with 73.68% and 68.42%, respectively.

We always advise an assortment of communication methods for advertising the service and for companies to conduct regular re-launches.

Induction packs are great, though there’s a risk of information overload during the initial period of employment and important collateral could get buried under training materials and other paperwork.

Intranet information is ideal as long as it is easy to find and banners on internal newsletters are very helpful. Posters in communal areas prove very effective, as long as the branding and message stands out from other staff communications.

Our communications team often help clients with the latter, and we’ve seen great results with uptake.

Action taken by clients following whistleblowing reports

actions resulting from whistleblowing reports

An encouraging 77.78% of Expolink clients stated the data from hotline reports had helped them improve internal controls or processes; 55.56% have carried out sanctions against malpractice and 44.44% have changed company policies based on insights received from the hotline.

We often read media reports of inertia by business leaders when reacting to internal intelligence. These statistics are a welcome silver lining.

As part of our consultative process, we are always keen to hear about positive or negative developments that occur as a result of the whistleblowing hotline.

Feedback gives us valuable insights on service enhancements we can facilitate and a window into the changing risks client’s operations and staff are exposed to. We will continue to carry out these surveys and address any issues that arise.

We welcome your point of view about how you feel your hotline processes, both internal and external, support and protect your business. We’ve learnt a lot in the last 20 years and much of it is due to effective communication with our client base and the wider community.

Get in touch – we’d love to hear your thoughts.