Handling receipts of whistleblower complaints: Are you providing staff training?

The way a whistleblowing disclosure is initially handled can have an impact on the outcome of the disclosure and is a critical component of the whistleblower complaint management process. Effective handling of disclosed information can lead to better outcomes, while mishandling of the information can halt progress and influence the success or otherwise on how a matter proceeds.

So, how can organisations ensure that their employees are well-equipped to handle such delicate situations? The solution lies in providing comprehensive training to those who may be recipients of whistleblower reports. This is supported by the checklist published in WHISTLING WHILE THEY WORK A good-practice guide for managing internal reporting of wrongdoing in public sector organisations that includes “[s]pecialised training for key personnel, including whistleblowing management issues as part of general induction and management training” as a required element of a whistleblowing program. Implementing employee training is the key to ensuring that disclosures are handled well by your team.

However, not all training methods are created equal. In our experience, interactive methods are highly effective in reinforcing feedback and staff engagement. To make training sessions interactive, you can use discussion-based approaches, mentorship, and ongoing support, as well as using real-world case studies during the training session.

When conducting training we have found that providing case studies is particularly useful because case studies allow employees to apply learned skills to real-life situations, especially in complex and uncertain scenarios, which is often the case when dealing with whistleblower disclosures.

Another crucial aspect of effective whistleblowing disclosure handling is the ability to obtain key information from the whistleblower. Quality training should include guidance on how to ask effective interview questions and techniques to enhance information retrieval. Further, understanding how to be empathetic and reassuring towards the whistleblower will improve the quality and volume of information obtained.

Understanding compliance with current laws is another key aspect of whistleblower handling. Training employees on confidentiality requirements, relevant law and regulations is essential. Since laws and regulations are constantly evolving, periodic training may be necessary to ensure that employees are up to date with the latest whistleblower handling regulations and best practice techniques.

If there are employees other than the experts within the organisations, such as the Whistleblower Protection Officer, who may receive initial complaints, training those employees, that consulting early with the experts within an organisation is another crucial aspect of managing whistleblower disclosures.

Additionally, providing a user-friendly whistleblower complaints management system not only benefits and makes it easier for the whistleblower to make a disclosure, but also for those handling the disclosures. A high-quality whistleblower management system should include the following benefits:

  • Confidentiality, impartiality, and anonymity are ensured
  • 24-hour online reporting, email, and telephone call service
  • Investigators and call takers with expertise in obtaining quality information from callers (no call-centre)
  • Access controls
  • Secure data management with all data retained in Australia
  • De-identified reporting capability.

At PKF Integrity, we specialise in managing whistleblower and other types of conduct complaints with the added benefit of an independent whistleblower and conduct complaints management system. If you would like to know more about what we do and how we do it, please see our services here.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to learn how PKF’s Whistleblower & Complaints Management Services could benefit your business.

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