Building A Resilient Speak-Up Culture: 7 Ways to Encourage Employees to Report Misconduct

November 21, 2023

Here’s a fact: in the end, your people want to do the right thing. But when the time truly comes to report wrongdoing, the only question you must ask is, can they? 

What stops your employees from uncovering misconduct they’ve either faced or witnessed? The most common answer is the fear of retaliation. Data reveals that about 60% of people who reported misconduct lost their jobs, 82% of them faced harassment, 17% lost their homes, and about 10% even contemplated suicide. 

The consequences of not having the right environment and tools for reporting can be steep. You lose out on the opportunity to prevent workplace threats before they snowball into disasters. When you’re unaware of harassment, inequality, and fraud plaguing your workplace, you make your business vulnerable to financial, legal, and reputational damages. 

Here, we reveal seven solid ways you can encourage your employees to report misconduct so issues get resolved early and your organization can create a speak-up culture that allows everyone to thrive. 

Clearly Explain How Your Whistleblowing Process Works 

To be able to report issues, your team members must first know how reporting works. A great way to showcase how making a report works involves operating with:

  • Clarity. Use examples to show a step-by-step process of reporting misconduct. 
  • Empathy. Show your employees you understand their concerns and communicate what steps you’re taking to resolve them. This step is vital to build trust and show that every report is taken seriously.
  • Consistency. Constantly reinforce your support toward those who report and your commitment to creating a culture of openness.

Publicize Your Commitment to Ethics 

Creating an atmosphere of honesty and openness is critical to encourage your employees to blow the whistle. This can be done by ensuring they hear about your policies regularly. From company newsletters to memos to even social media handles – the top management must frequently talk about the value of ethics. Publicizing your business’s commitment to ethics and compliance is a great way to spot and mend issues before they become endemic. 

Set the Tone from the Top 

Is toxic behavior in your team condemned or tolerated? Does an employee feel safe when they report an issue? The tone your business sets at the top matters the most when it comes to how often misconduct gets reported.

The right bosses are aware of how their employees feel. They focus on building real relationships instead of simply relying on surveys, rumors, or audits. Management must hold regular sessions where team members get to voice their concerns openly. They shouldn’t hesitate to reward good behavior when they come across it. When leaders advocate for honesty and fairness, employees automatically feel the need to do the right thing. 

Training Starts and Onboarding (and Lasts Throughout Employee Lifecycle)

Training is the best way to introduce and reinforce how your reporting system works in the minds of your team. Incorporate the topic of how reporting works in your employees’ onboarding journey. Let them know the importance you place on erasing misconduct. Talk about safe reporting channels and the steps you take to ensure the anonymity of a whistleblower. Finally, communicate the next steps following a report and mention your commitment to resolving issues with care, efficiency, and speed. 

Deploy role-playing and real-world case studies to demonstrate what types of behavior are considered misconduct. Display videos that walk your employees through the process of reporting. Remember, while training starts at onboarding, it never really comes to an end. To keep your culture of openness intact, it is critical to ensure training remains ongoing throughout an employee’s lifecycle. Hold quarterly training sessions, include real-world examples of whistleblowing in your corporate newsletters, and ensure your anonymous reporting channels remain highly accessible for those who are willing to uncover issues.

Unlock Multiple Reporting Channels 

Reporting misconduct is not the easiest thing to do. A great way to incorporate a whistleblowing culture is to make reporting as easy as possible for your teams. While online reporting may be convenient for some, others may prefer less technologically advanced channels like an anonymous hotline. Offering multiple reporting channels allows your employees to feel comfortable reporting what they’ve faced or witnessed without abandoning their efforts due to the complexity of a specific reporting method.  

Make Reporting Tools Accessible 24/7

Deciding to uncover wrongdoing comes with mountains of anxiety and fear. So, when an employee does gather the courage to bring misconduct to light, the time of the day shouldn’t become an obstacle. Maximize flexibility by ensuring your reporting channels are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. The moment a team member is ready to reveal an issue, there should be a trained operator ready to answer the call. 

Take Retaliation Prevention Seriously

According to Gartner, over 60% of misconduct that plagued 167 companies between 2009-2017 went unreported. Why? The answer in three words: fear of retaliation. Another study by Hiscox Workplace Harassment revealed hostile workplace culture to be the reason why about 53% of employees chose not to report wrongdoings. 

Let’s face it: retaliation and toxic work environments exist. If an organization does nothing about it, these issues only continue to become stronger by the day. The greatest motivator to encourage misconduct reporting is the absence of retaliation. Make anti-retaliation policies an important part of your code of conduct. Have your top management advocate for whistleblower safety. Most importantly, ensure all your reporting channels are 100% anonymous. When employees know their identities will not be revealed and their complaints will be taken seriously, they will eventually feel safe doing the right thing.

Over to You! 100

Do your people feel safe voicing their concerns? What happens once an anonymous report knocks at your door? Do you keep your whistleblowers updated with the progress of your investigation? How often do you talk about misconduct, anonymous reporting, and retaliation? Do you reward your people for speaking up? Reporting misconduct requires oceans of courage. During this difficult time, your whistleblowers need support, safety, and the assurance that the matter will be taken seriously. 
Ethico can give your team the platform and training to speak up safely and anonymously. Our compliance reporting systems are accessible 24/7 and make reporting a breeze. If you’re looking for a starting point to create a lasting culture of honesty, integrity, and openness, reach out to us today!