The landscape of security risks facing corporations today is constantly changing, with issues ranging from fraud and misconduct to confidentiality and ethics. Organizations that do not have comprehensive compliance plans are left more vulnerable to theft, fraud and corruption both internally and externally.

One of the most important ways to create an effective corporate compliance and ethics program is by creating a speak-up culture within the organization. To foster this kind of culture, businesses need to have the proper tools in place in order for employees to notify the correct branch supervisor of their concerns.

A key component in encouraging speak-up culture is foregrounding compliance reporting. A number of organizations achieve this by implementing an anonymous ethics hotline. Employees can use ethics hotlines to blow the whistle on security breaches and ethical concerns. By maintaining employees' privacy and keeping them engaged with compliance guidelines, corporations significantly reduce the risk of employees fearing retaliation and/or resenting their job for not allowing them to speak up.

Employee privacy

Even if a company has an “open door policy,” managers still internalize fear of being blamed for misconduct and may not take it to the appropriate administrative level. Meanwhile, subordinate employees fear there is a chance that their report could be traced back to them — especially when they have to work under the employee they reported on.

Most whistleblowers will opt to report outside of company hours to double ensure they are not outed at work. Maintaining employee privacy when reporting potential security incidents is critical to driving a speak-up culture and facilitating trust within the organization.


To hold each employee accountable, the organization must first be accountable for their actions. Policy, expectations and commitments should be clearly outlined and defined in order for everyone to comply.

Higher levels of administration will be held accountable through the tasks of evaluating, testing and auditing the usage of the hotline. Usage rates and response times are two significant metrics that can help determine workplace risk and accurate reporting. For example, a small company with many reports may suffer from frivolous reporting, while a large company with no reports may indicate a misunderstanding or mistrust of the hotline.

Each of these risk challenges can be mitigated by rewriting a more clearly outlined whistleblower policy combined with a plan for disseminating and educating employees on the refined policy.

Creating a speak-up culture

Not only does a speak-up culture help employees' mental health by fostering trust and reducing stress, but it also makes an organization appear as a secure and reliable investment for prospective stakeholders.

Employees describe a good speak-up culture as a space where they do not fear expressing feedback, asking questions, raising concerns or making suggestions. On the flip side, employees begin to resent employers that do not allow them to express these concerns.

When employees are confident there is a non-retaliation norm, organizations notice that employees are more likely to share ideas and feel safe having tough conversations when they truly believe management is receptive to them. Once curated, implementing a speak-up culture can increase employees' overall productivity and compliance, as they believe they are working within a system that truly has their back.

Internal and external risks can come in many different forms and affect businesses in every industry. The reality is that threats are becoming more manipulative, and smaller businesses cannot afford to take the hit. Foregrounding ethics reporting and creating appropriate workplace conduct policies will ensure an organization has endless eyes and ears on the company’s security posture.