Back in the mid-nineteen sixties, I was a member of a newly formed association of national security directors. During a1966 meeting that took place in Cleveland, Ohio, our group discussed the rapidly increasing problem of employee dishonesty and worked towards finding a more effective way to help us to combat these crimes. Out of this meeting came one important strategy that would later prove to be extremely worthy of implementation throughout the entire business world.
Shortly after returning from that security meeting in Cleveland, my boss and I went to work carefully planning every step on what was to become our newest strategy to combat internal dishonesty. In the past, companies such as ours dared not to openly discuss internal dishonesty in employee meeting or to reference it in our in-house publications.
Times were truly changing. Our plans were to discuss this problem up front, publicize our need for honest employees to get involved in helping us to identify internal acts of dishonesty by reporting their suspicions or concerns via a confidential letter or our newly installed telephone hotline. We also included a cash awards incentive for information leading to the arrest and recovery of stolen cash or merchandise. As the program readied for rollout, we named it the “Secret Witness Awards Program”.
As you can imagine, this new strategy was a major step into untested waters for both our company and industry. Naturally, we were concerned about how our employees would react. Would we turn this new concept into a disaster by creating an atmosphere of total distrust in the minds of our honest employees? Could it be that we are letting the few unworthy define the integrity of many? If we did, what impact would it have on employee morale?
Up to this point, our management team had always tried to maintain a most positive and ethical relationship with our coworkers and the communities in which we operated. We believed in our people and this was not the first time that we had asked for their help. So, we went forth and this new program worked like a charm!
Within a three-month period, we had received four “tips” relating to internal theft. Out of that confidential information we were able to investigate and arrest three employees and one deliveryman. The thefts by that deliveryman had been going on for eight years and not only involved thousands of dollars in goods, but the investigation also revealed a serious flaw in our warehouse’s customer delivery tracking system.
Those other security directors who also attended the Cleveland meeting reported very similar successes, and the era of the employee confidential “tip” program was well underway.
Today, the popularity and success of confidential hotline programs are best measured by the numerous organizations now using these “tip-lines” and by the valuable information received. Hotline programs serve two purposes: 1.) They give co-workers or others, the ability to confidentially report their suspicions, and 2.) Such programs also serve as a strong deterrent to theft and abuse as they put potential wrongdoers on notice that someone may observe or become suspicious of their acts of dishonesty or abuse and report them.
There is much more to making a hotline program successful than the mere installation of such and placing a few posters here and there. To be effective, the hotline program should be discussed during a new hire’s orientation and at monthly meetings. Ensure that awareness posters are placed in strategic locations such as near time-clocks and in break rooms.
Keep the message clear – any individual observing or suspicious of an act of abuse or dishonesty can make a report in confidence via the hotline program. $