The Role of an External Speak Up Hotline in Enhancing Workplace Culture

As I have worked across the world for some great corporate brands and inside regulators responsible for investigating concerns/misconduct and taking appropriate action, I learned first-hand how a healthy workplace culture is a key element of any successful organisation. It fosters employee engagement, drives productivity, and contributes to the overall well-being of the workforce. One significant element that can substantially improve workplace culture is the establishment of an external speak up hotline. I share in this post why having an external speak up hotline can be crucial for enhancing workplace culture and promoting transparency, trust, and accountability.

Internal vs. External Channels

It is important to first acknowledge and understand that an external speak up hotline does not replace internal channels, it complements them. 

An external speak up hotline acts as a last opportunity for the organisation to learn about issues and take action to address them, before they adversely impact their workplace culture or end up in the hands of external parties.

I often get asked by potential clients – how many reports can I expect to receive via an external speak up hotline vs internal channels, like I have some magic insight into their workplace culture and the trust and safety people feel inside their workplace culture. My answer is – if you receive 1 report a year about serious misconduct that would have otherwise never seen the light of day, or may have ended up in litigation, or on the front page of the newspaper and damaged your reputation (and perhaps cost you a lot of business – like we have seen recently in the media in Australia), the small cost associated with your external reporting channel will have proved worthwhile.

Of course, how many reports an organisation might receive also depends on how much you communicate the external speak up channel, and remind people that it is a safe way to raise concerns. I often ask organisations – how and how often do you communicate your speak up hotline to internal and external people. The reality, in my experience, many organisations don’t do enough and are not creative enough in how they communicate their speak up programs.

Creating a Safe and Confidential Channel

Having spoken to thousands of employees across the globe in the past 25+ years, it is clear to me that employees often hesitate to report concerns internally due to fears of retaliation, a lack of trust in the organisation, or a lack of confidence in the reporting process. An external speak up hotline offering multiple channels to raise concerns (Online/QR code; email; telephone; post etc.) and using a secure platform that permits anonymous 2-way communication provides a safe and independent channel for employees to voice their concerns. This confidentiality reassures employees that they can raise issues without fear of consequences, ultimately contributing to a culture where open communication thrives.

Encouraging Accountability

An external speak up hotline promotes a culture of accountability by ensuring that potential misconduct, unethical behaviour, or breaches of company policies are addressed promptly. I have seen personally when employees know that there is a safe dedicated channel to report such matters, they are more likely to hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for their actions. This reinforces the idea that everyone is responsible for upholding the organisation’s values and standards.

Diverse and Inclusive Workforce

I have seen first-hand that workplaces thrive when diverse voices are heard and respected, and the opposite happens when voices are suppressed. An external hotline encourages individuals from all backgrounds to express their concerns, providing an equal platform for employees who may feel marginalised or silenced. By actively addressing a wide range of issues, organisations demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity and diversity, leading to improved employee morale and a stronger sense of belonging.

Early Detection and Prevention

I can safely say that I have seen thousands of examples where an external speak up hotline serves as an early warning system for potential problems within an organisation. When employees are empowered to report issues, such as harassment, discrimination, or safety concerns, these issues can be addressed before they escalate. This proactive approach to addressing issues helps prevent toxic environments from taking root and allows organisations to take appropriate action.

Building Trust and Transparency

A workplace culture built on trust and transparency is attractive to both current and potential employees. When employees see that their concerns are taken seriously and addressed appropriately, they develop confidence in the organisation’s commitment to their well-being. An external speak up hotline is just one part of a framework that demonstrates that the organisation values its employees’ input and is dedicated to fostering an environment where everyone’s voice matters.

Enhancing Organisational Reputation

We have seen many examples of how organisations that prioritise an ethical and transparent workplace culture are more likely to earn the trust and respect of stakeholders, including customers, investors, and partners. An external speak up hotline contributes to this positive reputation by showcasing the organisation’s commitment to responsible business practices and employee welfare. Such organisations are seen as socially responsible and are more likely to attract talent.

In conclusion, an external speak up hotline is an invaluable tool for improving workplace culture. By providing a safe, confidential, and independent platform for employees to voice concerns, organisations foster accountability, inclusivity, and trust. They also demonstrate a commitment to preventing issues and upholding ethical standards. Incorporating an external speak up hotline is a strategic step toward building a workplace culture that values its employees, promotes transparency, and contributes to long-term success.

If I have persuaded you of the benefits of supplementing your existing internal speak up channels with an external speak up hotline or you would like to discuss the potential benefits of introducing a safe channel to speak up, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Your reputation is everything. Do you have an integrity partner to help you make the right decisions? We can help.

About Darren Murphy

Darren Murphy’s expertise spans his 25-year career in law enforcement as a detective in the Fraud Squad with the NSW Police Force and within the corporate sector. Across his career, Darren has managed hundreds of complex and sensitive whistleblower investigations, including transforming a traditional whistleblower hotline into a full-service Speak Up Hotline at one of Australia’s largest financial institutions. From internal and external fraud, bribery, corruption and employee misconduct, Darren is an industry leader in integrity and conduct risks. Darren is passionate about protecting an organisation’s reputation, people and bottom line, and looks to help senior executives implement a proactive approach to how they manager their fraud, corruption and integrity risks.

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