What's the best case closure time for your hotline reports? On average 30 days is best - from the report coming in, to it being fully closed.
Many whistleblowers will raise their concerns internally first. This is because they believe that by doing so, the company will investigate their concern seriously and the whistleblower will emerge on the other end with some form of closure to their concern.
Whistleblowers tend to report outside their organization if they feel their concerns are being brushed aside. That doesn't mean to say that the company is actually brushing a concern aside. But if the process starts taking longer than 30 days, the whistleblower will start to wonder if any closure will happen at all.
If the time to close a case starts taking longer than 30 or 40 days, this could be seen as damaging to morale.
It could send a message to employees that their issue is not being taken seriously.
How can companies keep the morale up while cases are being investigated?
Investigate and Communicate!
A single reporting and case management system keeps all reports and investigation of reports, in one central location. This way every single report filed, note taken, message sent, communication happening, question asked, and response, is logged correctly and is easily accessible.
What if the whistleblower filed their case anonymously? It's still important to investigate the report to the fullest extent. If the investigation team has posed questions for the whistleblower, allow three to four weeks for the anonymous whistleblower to follow-up. If the whistleblower does not follow up, log all attempts in the case management platform, and close the case.
If a whistleblower follows up later, re-open the case and continue the investigation.
Management needs to educate employees, who choose to report their concerns anonymously, to follow up on their reports and respond to requests for information from the company investigation team.
What about employees who bring their concern in person to an HR department? The benefit of a system that allows for proxy reporting, is that the HR representative can file the report on the employee's behalf, inside the case management system, and begin the investigation. Any communication with the whistleblower can happen inside this system. The investigation is documented inside the system, and the company can include this in-person report as part of any trend-spotting with other reports filed in the system.
Communication during an investigation with a whistleblower assures them that their concern is being investigated and won't be brushed aside. Investigators should share basic information with the whistleblower, and at a minimum, let them know that their report is seeing appropriate action.
Most importantly, the whistleblower should be thanked for bringing their concern forward.
Once appropriate action has been taken and a case has been closed, the investigation team can let the whistleblower know that action has been taken and the case is now closed.
If possible reported concerns should be acted upon swiftly and thoroughly to resolve any issues and ensure that employees understand that the company fosters compliance with the ethics program.