Our global Speak Up service processes more than 1,000 Incident Reports per month. While many reports are submitted via our web, mobile app and voicemail channels, around half of all disclosures are handled by our in-house Hotline Operators.

Clients often praise the skill of our Operators – particularly their ability to encourage callers to reveal critical details that make for a more valuable report.

But who are our Operators, how do we recruit and train them, and what measures do we put in place to ensure standards are maintained?

What do our Operators do?

Our Hotline Operators are responsible for answering the calls received through our international Incident Reporting telephone lines. We employ more than 30 skilled Operators at our UK headquarters.

During the call

Where callers wish to speak in a language not supported by our in house team, the Operator will introduce a translator to the call.

Each call is conducted in an open, empathetic manner. Our Operators aim to build trust and rapport whilst obtaining key, non-invasive information (eg. company, location, business unit, etc). This can take time, so there is no attempt to limit the call’s duration or rush the discloser (calls typically last around 10 minutes, but can take up to two hours).

Handwritten notes are taken during the call to encourage a more fluid conversation and improve the interaction between caller and Operator.

This approach increases the likelihood callers will share more sensitive information later in the call, such as incident specifics and personal details.

After the call

The Operator summarise the Incident Report content back to the caller before the call ends. They then write up the handwritten notes they have taken during the call and submit to their colleagues in the quality checking team.

Completed reports are uploaded to our secure Case Reporting System, ready for an Authorised Recipient to download.

Who are our Operators?

Because of the sensitive nature of their work, we do not disclose the identities of our Operators to our clients or the wider world. However, the following information provides an insight into the diversity of our team.

Age

The age range of our Hotline Operators is evenly split between those in their 20s, 30s, 40s and over 50.

Our recruitment strategy aims to attract a well-educated professional with relevant employment experience.

Having a diverse team, with differing experiences, increases our Operators’ ability to empathise with Disclosers who call our Hotline.

Tenure

Almost half of our Hotline Operators (49%) have been with us for five years or more, with more than one-third (34%) staying with us for eight years or more.

Such a depth of experience means our Operators are less likely to be daunted by the content of a difficult or complex Incident Report. This increases the chances they will be able to obtain the details required to complete a comprehensive report.

Gender

At the time of writing, two-thirds (66%) of our Hotline Operators are female.

While our recruitment process does not favour one gender over another, it does prioritise candidates with high levels of empathy (a trait which, according to research, is more common amongst females).

Like our clients, we believe an empathetic Operator is more likely to put a Discloser at ease and speak openly about the incident they are reporting. This often results in a more detailed report.

Employment background

Our Operators come from a range of professional backgrounds. A common feature, however, is experience in dealing with emotional or vulnerable individuals.

Our current team comprises people who have previously been employed as a:

  • Police Officer
  • Paramedic
  • Teacher
  • Counsellor
  • Care worker

Such diversity is valuable in training new team members and improving our overall service.

Telephone disclosures are less likely to be Anonymous than Web disclosures

Discover other Speak Up insights by downloading our latest Benchmarking Report

Recruitment and training

Our recruitment process places emphasis on a range of areas including:

  • empathy and rapport building
  • written and spoken communication
  • attention to detail
  • professionalism

Recruits are often attracted by the nature of our work, meaning those with relevant skill sets are often self-selecting.

Recruitment process

We aim to attract candidates from professions that prioritise the wellbeing of others.

Having established candidates’ technical competency, the selection process focuses on conversational and listening skills, and their ability to remain calm under pressure.

Initial training

Training is conducted on a ‘one-to-one’ basis by our in-house trainers, over a period of two weeks. Whilst new recruits are expected to complete several training modules relating to our processes, we dedicate significant time to ensuring they possess the ‘soft skills’ they require for the role.

This means even our newest Hotline Operators are fully prepared before encountering their first live calls. During those first calls our new Operators are ‘shadowed’ by a senior colleague who provides immediate feedback after each call.

Maintaining quality standards

Reporting a concern can be an emotional, stressful experience. All of our Hotline Operators are therefore targeted to meet a range of quality objectives that relate to improving caller experience, and the quality of the report we submit to the client.

Live listening

Due to the sensitive nature of our work, we do not use call recording software. Instead, senior colleagues or trainers use ‘live listening’ to score the performance of our Operators.

This approach allows feedback to be delivered instantly, with a focus on the following areas:

  • key information captured
  • soft skills used to obtain the information
  • discloser response/sentiment

Report analysis

Our support team checks every report compiled by our Operators before it is made available to the discloser’s organisation (our client). Each report is scored on a number of areas including punctuation and grammar, clarity and accuracy.

A high quality hotline experience

Our Hotline Operators are among the most experienced in the world in dealing with sensitive workplace disclosures.

At the same time, we recognise that for the person on the other end of the telephone, speaking up may be a new – and frightening experience.

As a result, our Hotline Operators have the ability to shape discloser’s perception of not just our service, but the whole idea of ‘speaking up’. It’s a responsibility that we take seriously, and one we will continue to invest significant energy into improving  for the benefit of all service users.