When ‘no news’ isn’t ‘good news’

International research suggests that, as a guideline, the ideal number of submissions that any company should receive per annum is whatever 2.3% of whatever your workplace team number is.

How many employee complaints should I be receiving from an external ethics hotline or case management software? 

As a business, Report It Now™️ Limited regularly goes through an annual review and renewal process with our clients. Whilst a vast majority of these clients simply “roll the service over” (and ask how they can improve things in that review), we always have a number of clients that ask about the number of submissions that they have received during the past twelve months from their external ethics hotline or case management software.

Sometimes, when they hear that they have had zero or very few submissions, they ask “is that a good thing or not?” 

Some even make statements along the lines of “no submissions means things are going well, right? Do we even need your service?”. 

Reading between the lines, we can see the assumption here: no reports is a sign that, culturally, things are very good in the business.

Unfortunately, it simply isn’t so. 

International research suggests that, as a guideline, the ideal number of submissions that any company should receive per annum is 2.3% of your workplace team number. 

For example, if you have 2,500 team members, you might expect to receive in the vicinity of 57 submissions per annum. If you have 50 team members, that number is likely closer to one submission every 365 days. 

Another international source suggests that you might expect four submissions per 100 employees – a little more than the 2.3% metric – but either way, there’s no research suggesting that zero submissions is a desirable metric.

external ethics hotline
More often than not, claims of ‘zero submissions’ are not actually zero!

No workplace is perfect

Firstly (and bluntly): no workplace is perfect. Accepting this fact is a good starting point! According to the Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University, somewhere in the vicinity of 20% of your team are more than likely to be “outliers/suspected or actual ethics violators”. 

Secondly, it all depends on what information you capture and why – so, data is crucial. 

In a perfect world, that will mean using a single externally managed repository/case management system that can capture all conversations that relate to any allegations of wrongdoing via an external ethics hotline – including bullying, fraud, health and safety issues or whatever. That system will ensure that all ‘dots’ can be joined easily and seamlessly at any one time, making investigating and reporting both easy and transparent. 

When it comes to data collection, the missing link is more often than not, those casual conversations between team member and manager – or just team members – that are typically not captured by reporting systems.  Commonly, these conversations are deemed “not important enough”, “too minor” or “too laborious” to log into a single repository. 

This suggests that, more often than not, claims of ‘zero submissions’ are not actually zero!

Better options

In business today, there is a plethora of different service providers and pieces of software for managing the whole culture/ethics ‘umbrella’. That includes employee assistance programs, health and safety software, external lawyer lines, auditors acting as Speak Up lines, internal and external ethics hotlines and services, spreadsheets run by HR/H&S experts etc. 

To get the best gauge on how you, as a business, measure up to best-practice ethical standards, organisations using a holistic service that integrates all of those parts get the best results. 

The secret sauce

Lastly, the ‘secret sauce’ that brings it all together is a combination of ingredients: a cultural commitment to encouraging an open, trustworthy, transparent environment, free of retaliation; senior executives ‘walking the talk’ of openness/honesty; using an external ethics hotline using intuitive easy access/simple straight forward case management software, and training, training, training. 

As a business we use Jane Arnott for all of our Report It Now™️ training. Jane provides amazing bespoke ethics training solutions, customised for your business, really challenging attendees on ethical scenarios. 

At Report It Now™️, we think that an ongoing commitment to ethics training that the real missing link in New Zealand businesses. Kiwi business leaders, HR people and managers are still yet to understand just how much this type of training can improve their business’s culture and ultimately their bottom line. 

There are two key points to remember here:

  • Internally and externally removing the stigma attached to ethical reporting will create a healthier, more ethical place of business (not the other way around).   
  • Simplifying the way team members make ethical reports will increase the number of submissions made, thus improving workplace transparency.

Simply put, support and encourage active reporting and remove the barriers to doing so!

Ready to join the ethical business movement? Contact the team at Report It Now™️.

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