One of the most complex parts of setting up a compliance program is the reporting and investigations processes. These processes must be designed in a way that can both effectively intake reports and output insights for the compliance department and the company as a whole. So how do you make sure that your reporting and investigations solution is equipped to fulfill both needs?
A valuable step towards building the right reporting and investigations solution for your company is revisiting why you need it in the first place. There are many good and noteworthy answers to that question for compliance officers and business leaders alike as evidence suggests that a strong and effective internal reporting and investigations program is tied to healthier business.
Rightly so, companies that manage to make its employees feel safe and confident enough to raise concerns and to take those concerns seriously, have a higher chance of identifying and fixing gaps and failures in its internal system of governance rapidly. While companies with a weak speak-up culture and a poor investigations program are more likely to be the ones that end up on a front-page due to an incident that went undetected and snowballed into a giant headline.
So now that we’ve laid out the why, let’s investigate the how. To do that, let’s consider the following areas and their implications on your reporting and investigations program.
1. Implement a Strong Policy Deployment Process
Making sure that you have the right policies in place is a foundational step to building your reporting and investigations solution. Formalizing what constitutes misconduct, the established procedures to deal with it, as well as the company’s position on whistleblower retaliation, sends a clear signal to employees on the importance of the matter. Having company management endorse those policies will further set the tone and enforce the values. Make sure to operationalize your policy deployment program and embed whistleblowing policies in all of your intake channels.
2. Train Everyone in the Organization
It won’t matter how much effort you put into designing the right case management system, getting the right software, and the most competent third party hotline provider, if no one in the company knows and understands how to submit reports of misconduct. Training the reporter, the recipient, and the handler of the report are all equally important tasks. Once you’ve enabled employees to report, you also need to make sure that those on the receiving end also grasp and appreciate the importance of the report. Carefully consider reporting and investigations training; tailor it to fit functions and geographies to make sure that you meet regulatory requirements and engage employees with relevant content.
Nurture the right tone in the middle by ensuring that all managers understand that reports are not to be handled lightly. Every concern, big or small, substantiated or not, should be assessed and properly recorded. Train them on how to act, what to do and who to reach out to when employees raise concerns directly with them. Opt for a more sustainable and automated approach where managers can log reports in a centralized platform that will automatically route reports to the right case handler. This will also catch duplicate reports about the same concern that might have been submitted via different channels or to several managers.
3. Decentralize Reporting and Centralize Case Management
When you open up the lines of reporting and enable employees, managers, and other stakeholders to report via any channel, whether it be a hotline, a meeting with a manager, or an anonymous web intake portal, you make it easier and more likely for reporters to speak up. Centralizing those cases in a single portal will prove to be vital as you’ll need to maintain an overview of all reports to effectively prioritize. High-risk cases will receive the necessary urgency while an employee reporting a stolen bag of coffee beans from the kitchen drawer can be pushed further down the queue.
4. Establish the Right Governance Structure
Bring the right people into the mix: whether it’s legal, compliance, or audit, make sure that you partner with the right people on cases so that all parts of the investigation are adequately handled.
Investigations can get very complex and spin out of control very quickly, it’s therefore crucial to take all risks into account. A strong investigatory team will not only allow you to comprehensively study the case, but adequately conclude it by setting up the right remediation plans.–an exercise regulatory authorities weigh heavily when appraising your compliance program.
5. Make Sure to Effectively Manage Conflicts of Interest
The last thing you want, is to route a report to a manager connected to the contents of the report. Being able to handle any conflicts is therefore crucial in protecting whistleblowers from potential retaliation and protecting your organization. Make sure that you route cases to the right investigator and protect the reporter’s identity at all times.
6. Remediate Like You Mean It
You might have recently read the news of the Danish social worker who made global headlines as she received a six and a half year prison sentence for pocketing millions in social funding over a period of 25 years. The story spurred larger debates most of which revolved around the loopholes in the system that allowed for such misconduct to take place over so many years. What was considered a harsh conviction, is in fact, an attempt to restore that trust in the system and to signal that such misconduct will not be tolerated.
And it is, to a large part, a matter of establishing trust in the company’s procedures. To firmly demonstrate that detected misconduct will be taken seriously and adequate action will be taken to remediate the damage that has been done. Any other (less serious) approach will signal that blowing the whistle will result in very little or even no change at all.
The Importance of a Robust Reporting & Investigations Solution
Considering all the elements that to go into your reporting and investigation solution is a complex task, and there is obviously more to consider than the points listed above. It’s important to remember that successful programs are a reflection of a healthy corporate compliance culture and an overall workplace culture. Empowering employees to be ambassadors of the company’s values goes a long way in the sustainability of the business, especially in a world where reputational damage is a cost organizations cannot afford.