Beyond Reporting: Leveraging Whistleblower Data for Ethical Improvement

October 16, 2023

Your organization’s whistleblowing culture helps create a safe space for informants to report misconduct, fraud, corruption, and other wrongdoings. 

Aside from creating a comprehensive whistleblowing program, it’s critical to learn from the data you collect from your program. But which metrics should you focus on to ensure your whistleblowing program enjoys optimal health? What can you learn from these metrics? What strategies can your organization implement to ensure similar instances of wrongdoings don’t re-emerge in the future? 

Which Whistleblower Metrics Should You Measure?

Some of the most important whistleblower metrics to track include: 

Employee Awareness 

Employee training and awareness are the starting points of any good whistleblower program. Regardless of how effective your training may seem, it’s critical to understand how well your employees understand the workings of your program. To test the awareness of your employees, ask questions such as:

  • What did they hear?
  • What did they understand? 
  • What did they retain?

Next, chat with your employees to determine if they’ve heard about your program. If they are truly aware of it, determine how well they understand your whistleblowing policy and if they know which types of misconduct they can report. Once you understand where the knowledge gaps lie, the next step would be to determine how you can close them and facilitate better ongoing communication with your employees. 

Employee Knowledge 

Aside from having a good understanding of your whistleblowers program, your employees must also know what misconduct looks like. 

Many employees feel reluctant to report wrongdoing. In some cases, those who do use the hotline often report simple complaints instead of actual misconduct. A great way to encourage employees to blow the whistle would be to first make them understand what they can report using your whistleblowing program. 

Give them concrete examples of misconduct. List out different types of wrongdoings. Paint a comprehensive picture of specific reportable situations. Once your employees understand how the process works, they will get the right push to raise the red flags so you can detect and resolve risks earlier. 

Percentage of Reports that are Legitimate 

Regardless of how solid your whistleblowing program is, it’s inevitable to receive reports that are not misconduct-related. 

This is why it’s important to consider the percentage of reports that are truly related to misconduct. If your search results in a significant percentage of reports that are just “petty complaints,” your program might need more work. Ask yourself, “Are my employees still confused about what to report?” “Are they familiar with where to report general employee feedback?” A few ways to fix this issue include:

  • Changing the current whistleblowing content to make it more digestible for new hires and current employees
  • Communicating the policy with maximum clarity
  • Ensuring your employees stay familiar with the program by using ongoing dialogue or training 
  • Offering multiple examples of misconduct of different types

Speed of Response

How quickly does your organization respond to a whistleblower report?

Reporting wrongdoing isn’t the easiest thing to do in the world. So, if your employee does gather the courage to raise their concern, your organization must take prompt action. The speed of response metric shows how seriously your organization is taking whistleblower reports. 

Ignoring this metric could cause your employees to take their reports outside the organization. In a world dominated by social media, this could leave a lasting negative impact on your company’s reputation. Moreover, not responding and resolving issues can also come with heavy legal and financial losses. 

By deploying this metric quarterly, you can determine how quickly and efficiently your teams respond to misconduct and mend an issue at its early stages. 

Whistleblower Updates

An employee who blows the whistle deserves to know how the investigation related to it unfolds. How often you send out these updates can determine the overall health of your program. 

Make sure you sketch a timeline for how frequently you would keep the whistleblower updated. A great way to do this would be to incorporate a cloud-based whistleblower reporting software that would maintain engagement with the whistleblower as well as automate your updates. 

How Often Do You Look into These Metrics?

Aside from tracking the metrics related to your whistleblowing program, it’s important to track how often you look into these metrics. The right whistleblowing reporting system can help you both – collect and analyze data and keep track of your program’s performance over a period of time. 

This metric includes information related to:

  • The number of reports you receive 
  • The types of misconduct that take place 
  • The data collected during investigations

Once you collect all the data related to your program, make sure you look at it every quarter. Analyze this information to find any gaps and implement solutions to ensure similar events don’t occur down the line. 

Using Whistleblower Data to Your Advantage

From gathering reports to implementing the right solution – learning from your whistleblower data involves the following three steps:

Identify Patterns 

From reporting to investigation to resolution and every step in between – the data from your whistleblower program will uncover specific patterns that a single case might fail to bring to light. Monitor the bulk of these metrics over time to understand how patterns emerge and evolve. This can help spot early risk indicators and ensure similar patterns don’t re-emerge later. 

Analyzing the Root Causes

Once you’ve identified specific trends of misconduct, it’s time to get to the root cause of the report. A great whistleblower system comes armed with analytics and case management workflows that gauge the lifecycle of every case. 

Implement Proactive Measures in Response to the Data 

Your metrics will only be helpful if you take action after analyzing each one of them. Perhaps you’re noticing a sudden increase in a specific type of wrongdoing? Alternatively, you might be receiving a significant number of reports from a specific department or office. Regardless of the types of issues you uncover, make sure you create a game plan to resolve current issues before they begin to multiply further. 

A Final Word

Creating a speak-up culture goes beyond just crafting a comprehensive whistleblower program. Organizations that bring real ethical change consistently study whistleblowing data to take effective action based on their learnings. Aside from deploying a well-rounded reporting platform, it’s important to leave plenty of room for regular communication, training, and organization-wide accountability to make the best use of whistleblowing data!
For a detailed overview of many of these metrics in action, be sure to check out Ethico’s latest benchmark report.