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.

 
 

28.8% 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 were ignored

 

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 Please tell us…Employee HOTLINE give their name—a clear indication that the hotline allows callers to overcome the fear of retaliation.

 

99.4% of complaints communicated through the Please tell us…Employee HOTLINE have been resolved without litigation

The Need For An Employee Hotline Is Undeniable!

Employers 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:

1.

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” complaint procedure:

“An 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.”

2.

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

Although 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. 

28.8%

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.

 Considerations regarding employee hotline operations:

1.

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:

 

49.4% 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).

2.

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.

3. 

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.

4.

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. 

5.

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... 

...the total cost (including call center services, reports, and pre-printed informational materials) for the 

Please tell us…Employee HOTLINE is only about 

one penny per employee per day

and the minimum annual fee is just $550.

6. 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.
 
74.3%

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.

Conclusion

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.

In 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.

 


Employee hotlines have emerged as one of the most beneficial tools

available to employers in today's troublesome employment-law environment.

For more information on how to use COR·TECH's

to help you avoid costly problems, call COR·TECH today at 1-800-648-8558.
It's highly effective and very affordable!

COR·TECH...services for EMPLOYERS nationwide since 1978.

Post Office Box 1157  •  422 North Douty  •  Hanford, CA  93232

Voice:  559-582-2858  (Nationwide:  1-800-648-8558)  •  FAX:  559-582-6291

       

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