Ethics and compliance are essential to running a successful business. Your employees must understand both industry-wide and company-specific standards of behavior – and if they witness any type of misconduct, they must be able to report it to someone right away.
Many companies use third-party hotlines for their compliance reporting. This can be highly effective, as employees can anonymously report the incident to a hotline operator without worrying about retaliation from coworkers or management.
Of course, if you’re going to trust a hotline vendor with your company’s compliance you need to choose a vendor that suits your company’s specific needs. How do you find the perfect hotline service for your organization? Here are some factors you should consider.
Anytime you contract with an outside vendor, you spend time shopping around and comparing vendor costs. Hotline services are no different! Take time to find a vendor that suits your company’s budget, so that you can retain their services for the long run.
Ideally, hotline vendors should offer services at a fixed rate of around $1.00 per employee per year. If a company is asking for significantly more – or if they claim that their fees vary depending on the number of reports they receive – it’s best to keep searching.
Vendor Background and References
Ethics and compliance hotlines are a common service across many industries. If you’re in the market for a hotline vendor, it’s likely that your industry peers are doing the same search (or have already completed it). Ask around and get references from fellow professionals you trust – word of mouth is always a useful tool!
Additionally, take time to ask the vendor about their background. How long have they been running compliance hotlines? Do they have experience in your specific industry? Check the credentials of the business owners and managers. And make sure you’re working with true experts in their field.
These days, we have more ways to communicate with one another than ever before – and when it comes to compliance reporting, this is great! Employees can report misconduct through any channel that makes them most comfortable, which means you’re more likely to discover noncompliance and address the issue quickly.
Any hotline vendor you use today should offer three reporting formats: web-based, telephone, and messaging app. These three options will give your employees more options for reporting misconduct, and your business will be all the better for it!
In the same way that you should check a hotline vendor’s references, you should also read the fine print on any contract they have to offer. Make sure you can terminate your contract easily (a 30-day notice is industry standard), and make sure they don’t make cancelling your contract overly complicated.
While there is a chance that you won’t ever want to end your contract with your hotline vendor (especially since hotlines can help promote an ethical corporate culture), it’s wise to make sure that you have a clean exit strategy in case something goes wrong.
Compliance hotlines aren’t just about giving employees a place to report grievances – they are an invaluable tool for addressing compliance issues within a company. Therefore, hotline vendors need to provide managers and business owners with clear, concise, and actionable reports on the calls they receive.
Additionally, managers and owners should receive these reports in a timely manner. The ideal hotline vendor will use secure, web-based reporting by providing a high-quality to the appropriate party via email as soon as possible.
Your hotline vendor primarily provides your employees with a service (someone to hear and document their reports). However, this vendor also provides you with a service – and that means they need to provide you with excellent customer support as well.
How responsive is this vendor when you need help accessing an old report? Can you call their offices and speak to a live person during business hours? Make sure you work with a vendor who understands the value they can offer to both employees and owners.
When your employees call a noncompliance hotline to make an anonymous tip, they trust that the hotline operator (and by extension, your organization) are being incredibly careful with their personal information. Your vendor needs to take extra care to protect their clients’ data, from the number they use to call the hotline to the information they give in their reports.
Hotline vendors can do a lot more for your organization than just take employee calls. In fact, many vendors offer additional services that help your company stay industry compliant.
Ask if your potential vendor provides employee training, sanctions checks, or other essential services. These services can be invaluable to your workforce and getting them through a single better can make things easier for you!
Finding the right hotline vendor can be a lengthy process – but once you find the right provider, your company will enjoy a more ethical (and more pleasant) corporate culture.
This article was written by Giovanni Gallo, the Co-CEO of ComplianceLine.