Is your hotline still effective at engaging today's digital workforce?

So, you have an ethics or fraud hotline. <Insert Golf Clap>

But are you setting yourself and your business up for failure by not evaluating how effective it is in the face of changing workforce demographics?

We often get asked to compare ourselves to vendors with traditional telephone hotlines, some of whom offer basic web-based reporting. We are happy to do so.

Why? Because we prioritize something absolutely vital to the success our your ethics program - and it's something that many hotline providers and ethics managers have forgotten about. This issue this is so important that ignoring it will result in even the most robust "awareness program, policy-offering, let-us-train your workforce eight ways to Sunday vendor" failing at the task of effectively supporting your efforts to keep the SOX, OSHA, HIPAA and fraud gremlins at bay.

Unlike others, we focus on customer partners who are looking for more than a check-the-box solution when outsourcing their whistleblower hotline and case management system. Our ideal customers are actively seeking to update and future-proof efforts to ensure proactive, effective communication with their workforce. They choose not to bury their head and take their chances with the costly consequences of fraud, sexual harassment or workplace violence. Instead, they seek out opportunities to mitigate issues before they become incidents, to take decisive action and communicate to the workforce the steps taken to both address the issue and to prevent the incident form happening again.

So, where is it that so many have lost focus? It regards the importance of how users in today's workforce prefers to communicate. Some might point to slightly increasing web-based reporting numbers and persistent telephone-based reporting as evidence that all is well in hotline world. This, however, undervalues the importance of appreciating significant generational changes in user experience preferences. It's as if they stopped asking that one favorite question of investigators and auditors: What else? In this case, what else could we be doing to foster more timely, effective workplace reporting?

When is the last time you walked down a hallway at work and didn't almost run into someone who was brain-stem deep in a mobile app? It's not just Millennials and Gen X'ers who are communicating in a new way. A 2015 Pew Research study found that people 55 and under were texting and emailing at least as much as making telephone calls. More recently, a quick read of this Inc. magazine article, reveals a study indicating that 75 percent of American Gen Z and Millennials told researchers that they prefer to talk with other people via text message--as opposed to actually talking with them.

The trend is obvious - update your hotline reporting mechanism...or your efforts to raise awareness and prevent incidents are going to hit a wall made of the cash you had to spend on regulatory fines, insurance fees, lawsuits and recovering your brand reputation. So, then. Why are outsourced ethics hotline programs and vendors still focused on scripted telephone calls? I dunno.

I can't help but reflect here on what one salesperson with a large, well-known vendor told me at a major ethics conference last year. He said, without even considering web-based reporting, let alone an intelligent app, "hotlines are a commodity, no one really cares as long as you have one." Say again?

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Are traditional hotline reporting tools going extinct while the industry turns a blind eye (or ear) to users?