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NAVEX Global's 2014 Hotline Benchmarking Report Shows Increasing Quality of Internal "Whistleblower" Reporting Programs

But world's largest reports database reveals vulnerabilities may be on the horizon as organizations slow in their ability to manage cases

PORTLAND, Ore., Feb. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Ethics and compliance solution provider NAVEX Global™ today released findings from its 2014 Ethics and Compliance Hotline Benchmark Report, showing that internal whistleblower reporting programs are used by employees more, and concerns shared are being substantiated at a significantly higher rate. But experts point to additional days it is taking organizations to close cases as a warning. If employees lose confidence in reporting programs, they will look for other channels including reporting to outside entities, or they may stop reporting and allow a problem to escalate.

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NAVEX Global found there has been an increase in report volume after years of less than one percent of employees reporting through a hotline service, arriving at 1.2 percent in 2013. While the proportion remains relatively small, it represents a significant upward trend in total numbers.  Another dramatic increase, repeat users use of hotlines has doubled in five years and they continue to provide high quality reports to their organizations.  Contrary to the common assumption that repeat reporters bring false or frivolous concerns, their reports are being substantiated at a rate of 40 percent – four percent higher than the 36 percent substantiation rate for first time reporters. In line with the macro trend of good faith reporting, substantiation rates overall jumped by 12 percent from 33 percent in 2009 to 45 percent in 2013.

"This year's findings are very encouraging because they show the increased investment many organizations have made over the past five years is paying off," said Shanti Atkins, president and chief strategy officer, NAVEX Global.  "Employees are showing greater confidence in their organization's ability to do the right thing, and the concerns companies are receiving are of increasingly higher quality – meaning they are more likely to be substantiated and actionable. Internal reporting is a vital way for organizations to catch problems early before they become a material threat."

Employees raised questions on a number of internal issues including accounting, auditing, financial matters, business integrity, diversity, environmental problems, health questions, safety and misuse of assets. The substantiation rate was highest for reports of misuse of assets at 56 percent, and lowest for diversity and human resources issues at 35 percent.

But, findings also showed that the number of days it is taking organizations to close a case has gone from 30 days in 2008 to 36 days in 2013. Questions on accounting, auditing and financial reporting took an average of 46 days to close, while human resources, diversity and workplace respect questions took 24 days.

"Every additional day an employee is left wondering whether their concern has been taken seriously represents a risk to the organization," said Carrie Penman, chief compliance officer and senior vice president of advisory services at NAVEX Global. "An ongoing increase in case closure time is a red flag; organizations need to ensure they have sufficient and properly trained resources available to manage the increasing volume of reports in the coming year. The trend is especially notable given that under some regulatory provisions for external reporting and whistleblower awards, an organization may have limited time to complete an internal investigation."

The survey also shows employees are increasingly opting for online methods to report concerns, rather than traditional phone hotlines. In 2012, 52 percent of employees sent reports via a phone hotline. That was down to 36 percent in 2013. At the same time the 15 percent of employees using online methods in 2012 rose to 20 percent in 2013. NAVEX Global expects that trend to continue in addition to the introduction of increasingly diverse ways for employees to register questions.

"The survey shows internal reporting arriving at such a level of quality, organizations need to revisit use of the label 'whistleblower,'" said Ms. Penman. "It has accumulated negative associations within company cultures and, as we've seen, the value these employees can bring is immense. An organization that does not provide a trusted outlet for employees to report concerns or ask questions risks being blindsided by a major crisis that employees saw coming, but that no one shared with leaders who could have helped. These 'whistleblowers' are just everyday employees that want to do the right thing for their organization."

The Hotline Benchmarking Report reviews more than 8,000 organizations in 21 industries. The report reflects all significant methods of reporting including online, phone hotlines, in-person, mobile and email. The 2014 Ethics and Compliance Hotline Benchmark Report is a resource organizations use to benchmark their compliance program against industry standards and discover actionable insights for risk mitigation, policy management, training and awareness.

NAVEX Global has been proud to provide the industry's best and most statistically accurate hotline benchmarking data. Through delivery of intake services and case management systems, the organization has access to the world's largest and most complete database of both reports and outcomes.

To register to download the complete report upon completion, please visit us online.

About NAVEX Global
NAVEX Global helps protect your people, reputation and bottom line through a comprehensive suite of ethics and compliance software, content and services. The trusted global expert for more than 8,000 clients in 200+ countries, our solutions are informed by the largest ethics and compliance community in the world. More information can be found at www.navexglobal.com.

Learn more about NAVEX Global by following us online: @NAVEXGlobal, LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare and Google+.


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