Although most hotline callers give their name,
many are afraid to talk directly
to management, or call because they are not taken seriously when they
use the employer's open-door policy.
of calls received by the Please
tell us…Employee HOTLINE are made by callers AFTER they
first tried their company's open-door procedures only to find that their complaints
49.4% of calls received by the Please
tell us…Employee HOTLINE are received before or after normal
business hours (before 8:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday).
74.3% of callers to the
tell us…Employee HOTLINE give
their name—a clear indication that the hotline allows callers to overcome
the fear of retaliation.
communicated through the Please
tell us…Employee HOTLINE have been resolved without litigation.
The Need For An
Employee Hotline Is Undeniable!
must establish and publicize a system that is free of real or perceived barriers
through which employees can report improper workplace behavior/conduct within
the organization without fear of retribution:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issues “Enforcement
Guidance” as instruction to its offices on how to process claims filed by
employees against their employers. In its publication No. 915.002, the
Commission takes the position that employers
may establish a defense against such claims if they have an “effective”
employer's harassment complaint procedure should be designed to encourage
victims to come forward. To that end, it should ensure that there are no
unreasonable obstacles to complaints. A complaint procedure should not be
rigid, since that could defeat the goal of preventing harassment. The
complaint procedure should provide accessible points of contact.”
The Department of
Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other federal and state regulators
and agencies require private and public companies to “establish
a systematic approach for employees to report fraud, waste, and abuse violations
to the highest level of authority without being obligated to follow the normal
chain of command.” The Office of Inspector General of the Department of
Health and Human Services encourages the use of hotlines as a means of
satisfying that requirement.
Employee Hotlines are Essential
most employers want to have “open door” and similar internal problem
solving practices, employee hotlines are an essential element in assuring that
employees have an opportunity to register complaints—particularly when all
reasonable avenues have been exhausted.
of calls received by COR•TECH’s Please
tell us…Employee HOTLINE are made by callers who first reported
their concerns to accessible levels of management but do not believe that they
received a reasonable response, nor that their concerns have been resolved.
regarding employee hotline operations:
To be effective, a hotline system must be available 24 hours per day,
seven days per week.
It is very important that callers are able to reach the
hotline at whatever time of day or night they are most compelled to call—it is
precisely at that moment when the hotline is most likely to elicit important
information related to issues raised by callers.
Caller utilization of COR•TECH’s 24/7 Please tell us…Employee HOTLINE is as follows:
of calls received by the Hotline are before and after normal
business hours (before 8:00 a.m. or
after 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and on weekends).
Staffing a 24/7 hotline requires a sufficient number of trained personnel
to answer calls during all hours of operation. In general, this means that at least one qualified operator/interviewer
is available (fully interruptible and able to respond to a hotline call) at all
times. Based on a normal 40-hour workweek and accounting for typical
days and time off, doing so requires approximately a minimum of 5.5 staffers
(some of whom will need to cover nighttime hours).
Please note that this minimal staffing does not include
back-up personnel at times when the primary operator may be taking another call.
In general, staffing should be a minimum of 1.5 times the anticipated
“any one time” call volume.
Also, note that staffing must allow sufficient time for
report generation and transmission in addition to telephone time.
Voice mail systems (even systems that direct calls to an individual
within the company but are answered by voice mail when that person is not
available) are problematic because it is important that callers reach a
“live” operator/interviewer trained to ask appropriate questions. Speaking to a “live” operator is much more likely to elicit important
information related to issues raised by hotline callers. Furthermore, voice mail systems can compromise the anonymity aspect of
the hotline because a caller’s voice could be recognized (on a recording) by a
person not authorized to know the identity of the caller.
The hotline must be staffed by operators/interviewers trained to handle
sensitive issues. Because calls
frequently raise serious issues that may represent liabilities to the employer,
those who answer calls should take pertinent information in an unbiased manner,
and must carefully avoid expressing feelings, reaction, or opinions; making
promises to callers; and binding the company to any course of action.
Furthermore, it is highly important that nothing is offered
by an operator/interviewer that would intentionally or unintentionally
compromise the company’s obligation to protect the rights of the accused, as
well as the accuser. Calls must be
handled promptly by properly-trained and managed hotline staffs in order to
reduce an employer’s exposure to costly litigation.
Anticipated call volume may vary depending on how well employees are informed of
the system, employee confidence, and current issues affecting the company.
Staffing costs of implementing an in-house hotline with “normal business hours
only” coverage and reliance on voice mail range up to $50,000 per year (not including the cost of informational material for employees
and “technical side” costs discussed below). The more effective 24/7
hotlines carry an annual operating cost (depending on the local labor market) of
$110,000 to $180,000 (this range would be for a “single call at any one time”
system and does not include the cost of informational material for employees and
“technical side” costs discussed below).
Call volume received by small to mid-sized companies ordinarily does not justify
the expense of in-house systems. When compared to outsourcing, in-house
hotlines (including all operating expenses and the costs of collateral
materials) are generally practical only for companies with 100,000 to 150,000
employees. Furthermore, attempting to utilize existing resources to
operate an in-house hotline may result in an ineffective, problem-plagued
operation. Therefore, outsourcing this function may only be an appropriate
option for many companies with far more than 100,000 employees. As a
comparison to the costs of operating an in-house system...
total cost (including call center services, reports, and pre-printed informational
materials) for the
tell us…Employee HOTLINE is only about
penny per employee per day;
the minimum annual fee is just $550.
In addition to staffing costs discussed above, hotlines have “technical
side” costs, including such matters as establishing a toll-free telephone
number with multiple lines, designing an effective protocol for answering calls,
training operators/interviewers to follow the protocol, and creating a report
generation system that assures that reports are properly and promptly
distributed. It is critical that
comprehensive procedures be developed for proper operation of the hotline
function. A specific answering
protocol must be followed to assure consistency, accuracy, and confidentiality.
While a request for anonymity must be respected at all times, operators
must be trained to obtain the willingness of callers to provide their name.
of callers to the Please tell
us…Employee HOTLINE give their
name—one of the best identification rates in the industry. Many call centers purport to identify as few as 20% of callers.
A number of lessons have been learned over the years about the value of hotlines.
It is well documented that hotlines can provide invaluable insight into
management practices and operations, as well as overall employee behavior.
While callers use hotlines to report both actual or perceived
problems—all calls are “reality” in the minds of the caller—remember the
longstanding truth that perception is 100% of reality. Therefore, hotlines provide an excellent channel of intelligence to
assist senior management in identifying issues warranting attention.
nearly all cases, the overall cost of outsourcing an employee hotline is less
than operating an in-house hotline. Outsourcing
is normally based on the number of employees and ordinarily costs from 2% to 15%
of the cost of operating in-house. Full-service
hotline providers operate on a 24/7 basis whereas most in-house operations are
“business hours only” and are hampered by employee absence, supervision, and
protocol problems. Most
importantly, nationally-recognized hotline providers—like the COR•TECH Please
tell us…Employee HOTLINE—have the expertise to ensure that calls
are handled effectively and professionally.