Getting the Most Out of Your Whistleblower Program Investment
A lot of people question the time and money it takes to develop an effective ethics and compliance program. It’s never made much sense to me, because the costs of noncompliance are much greater. A recent story making news in Canada discusses the wasted money that has been spent on the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal. I’ll explain the case below, as well as three ways you can make sure your investment in ethics, compliance and whistleblower protection isn’t tossed out the window.
The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal
Here’s the gist of the current situation facing the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal, as found in the Vancouver Sun article “Little-known, Little-used Whistleblower Panel Budgets $ 8.1 Million”:
Established in 2007-The goal of the Tribunal is to protect public servants from retaliation after they report misconduct in the government. Since 2007, the Tribunal hasn’t heard a single case. In the past 3 years, Ouimet has received 170 complaints, but her team found no wrongdoing in any of the cases. The Tribunal was supposed to handle cases referred to them by Ouimet’s office- explains the previous point. On October 18th, Canadian federal public sector integrity commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, announced that she was stepping down. At the same time, it was reported that her office was being investigated.
The article also states that:
“Fifty-eight whistleblowers complained to the commissioner’s office since 2007-2008, saying they were mistreated or violated after filing a report. The commissioner launched only four investigations as a consequence of those complaints, and only two have been completed.”
A Waste of Money
In this particular case, the efforts to protect whistleblowers has been considered a watse of money, as no action has been taken and no one has been protected. Here are 3 things you can do to make sure your company protects internal whistleblowers:
1. Investigate Complaints
You’ve already invested time and resources into developing multiple channels for employees to report misconduct. Take these tips seriously. Conduct preliminary investigations into incoming cases to determine whether or not the claims warrant further investigation. If employees feel that you are not listening and acting on their concerns, they will stop reporting misconduct internally, and will likely look to someone outside of the organization to listen- such as the EEOC. Investing in case management software is a wise idea, as cases can be entered in a number of ways and built in alerts help keep investigators on track.
2. Be Proactive
When an employee brings forward a complaint, take action and keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t fall victim to retaliation. I’ve written a few times about the retaliation monitoring program at KPMG. Vicki Sweeney and her team monitor changes in employee performance appraisals, pay raises and other workplace opportunities to make sure that an employee isn’t facing backlash for reporting misconduct. Vicki also advises employees to approach her immediately should they feel they are being retaliated against. When a company takes a proactive approach like this, employees feel confident that they will be supported for raising concerns about workplace misconduct- and not find themselves in trouble for doing the right thing.
3. Education and Promotion
Ongoing education and promotion of your program is necessary to get the message across to your employees. An e-mail and a policy handout once a year won’t cut it. Explain and train employees on the multiple ways they can report misconduct or retaliation and give them to option to remain anonymous. Include all of the information on the first or last page of your code of conduct. Promoting your program keeps ethics, compliance and retaliation in the minds of your employees, and also lets them know that you take their concerns seriously. One of the most important things to remember is that employees need to see you take action and need to know that others and being reprimanded for violating workplace policies. It might be wise to create monthly newsletters and dedicate a section of it to letting employees know what the program has accomplished and action taken against violators- without including names and specific examples.