In my former role as a local government counter-fraud manager, one of my responsibilities was assessing the volume and sources of whistleblowing reports raised by staff. My analysis would naturally identify some areas of the business that was less likely to be prone to fraud and other forms of wrongdoing compared to others. On the surface, it was easy to see a correlation between the levels of concerns raised in certain areas where fraud and wrongdoing were more likely to be identified, in comparison to other areas of a business where the risk to the organisation was much smaller.
My findings led me to undertake awareness presentations across those Departments with fewer whistleblower reports in order to encourage staff members to speak up and raise concerns should they be aware of any wrongdoing.
I can recall during one awareness presentation, a staff member advised me that they had decided to stop raising concerns. When I asked the staff member why they no longer wished to come forward, they advised me that despite initially willing to come forward and speak up, they had never received any feedback from their employer regarding the issues that they had raised. In fact, the staff member advised that their concerns had never even been acknowledged, which certainly did not encourage them to come forward again and continue to report concerns.
This simple example demonstrated one of the most common failings of many organisations when trying to encourage their staff to speak up about wrongdoing – failure to implement an effective feedback process for whistleblowers.
Clearly there should always be clear and prompt communications between the whistleblower and their employer. Feedback is a simple and powerful tool that can provide whistleblowers with an understanding of how their disclosure has been handled and dealt with. It also provides assurances that it is perfectly acceptable to speak up.
Feedback can also be motivating and a positive factor in employee satisfaction. Many employees naturally like to feel involved and be recognised within their organisation. Providing whistleblowers with effective feedback can help achieve this.
Whistleblower feedback can also have a positive impact on an organisation’s culture. If employees hear about a work colleague’s positive experience, it is likely to encourage other employees and instill confidence in how their organisation challenges unethical behaviour.
The importance of whistleblower feedback is now being demonstrated in key whistleblowing law. In Europe, the new whistleblower protection directive will shortly introduce legislation in 2019, which will contain legal obligations on organisations to follow up on concerns and keep whistleblowers informed about their disclosure. This includes providing feedback about the follow-up to a whistleblowing report within a reasonable timeframe likely not to exceed three months.
SeeHearSpeakUp delivers whistleblowing services to companies globally and can assist organisations in fulfilling their legal compliance. For more information, please visit our website here or contact our team on +44 (0) 1224 625111.