Things to keep in mind when taking questions from employees

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Getting employees to share their feelings when they are going through difficult times or report misconduct in their workplace can be challenging because some people are naturally afraid or shy to talk about certain issues. Getting your employees to speak out on workplace harassment or misconduct requires a subtle approach that understand their need for privacy, safety and anonymity.

A good working environment doesn’t require psychologists or counsellors for employees to share their personal or work-related concerns. It requires a process where employees’ concerns are listened to with empathy and trust – a place where employees feel like they have a confidant they can rely on.

Reporting with confidence

An employer should develop a reporting mechanism that enables employees to share their concerns, provide feedback or report misconduct at their own will with no distress. In the era of technological advancement, people are becoming more comfortable conducting various activities on handheld devices like texting their colleagues over a personal issue, buying or selling things online, making anonymous comments on discussion forums, rating and reviewing products or simply searching for things they may not openly do. This is because they have developed trust and confidence in their devices, and they feel sure that whatever they do has little chance of being exposed to an unauthorised party. It’s this sort of trust and confidence that employers need to utilise in their reporting platforms.

When taking questions from employees here are some things to keep in mind.

Technology is the future

Technology is constantly changing the way we conduct business or do things. Thus, everything we do revolves around technology. Organisations should assess the gaps in their processes and determine where such processes can be improved using applicable technology. We live in an era of smartphones, instant messaging (IM) mobile video call and text messaging. Ensure that any platform that involves interactions between employers and employees include “smart” technology and IM capabilities. Instant messaging applications and virtual assistants are no longer for ‘millennials” only. Almost any individual or entity with access to a smart device use instant messaging and chat applications.

Give your employees a morale boost

Most employees shy away from discussing certain issues, thus, employers must help them to get started by embracing their concerns as their own. If an employee comes to have a talk to you, make them comfortable and hold the chat in a secluded place outside the usual place of work like in a café or rooftop garden. Generally, employees talk more freely when they are not confined to their usual work environment. They open-up when they are in a place where they don’t feel like they are being watched or listened to. Avoid boardrooms or office desks. A secluded place makes the employee speak comfortably and provide considerable details about the issue. 

Guarantee anonymity and protection

Once the employee has decided to talk, help them build faith in you by assuring them that they can trust you as a confidant. Fear of exposure and retaliation are common deterrents that hinder employees from speaking up. Give them assurance that whatever happens, they will not be a target of retaliation, harassment or reprisal. Equally, assure them that you will not disclose that they are the source of any information they provide to you. Create a rapport with the employee so that you can easily reach out to them should you require additional details on information you get from them.

Keep it friendly, simple and conversational

The best way to obtain useful information from employees is engaging in an informal conversation but interactive discussion. Avoid asking too many formal or “serious” questions but allow the employee to speak more and while you listen. It’s advisable to engage in an “open chat” just as friends or family would do. This loosens any tensions around and helps you to obtain important information that you can follow up on.

Explain the importance of reporting misconduct

Provide examples why it’s important for employees to report misconduct or share their concerns. You may explain why the employee needs to seek help at the earliest possible time or report misconduct as soon as they have noticed it. You can use a combination of legal, regulatory and moral arguments why it is good to share personal concerns or report workplace misconduct. Don’t only focus on the business aspect of the issue but also look at it humanly. This shows that you are a caring employer who is willing to handle issues from different angles. It may be a regulatory requirement to have a reporting platform in your organisation, but it is also a moral obligation for the employer to listen to listen, investigate and action on issues raised by employees.

Provide routine updates about any investigation

When you have obtained considerable information to build a case, the reporter should be informed - especially if follow-up information is required. Once again assure the employee that any future requests for information related to their report will be done privately. You may also provide routine updates to the whistleblower should they wish or request to know how the investigation is proceeding. This shows that you take every issue seriously.

Need help?

Even though approaches and techniques may differ, the bottom line is that any information gathering session must be secure, private and most importantly guarantee the anonymity of the individual giving it out. Anything given in confidence must be kept confidential.

The Red Flag Group’s whistleblowing platform, IntegraCall® uses artificially intelligent chatbots accessible via a mobile app where employees can share concerns or workplace misconduct in a secure and comfortable environment without fear of being watched.

IntegraCall® is economical and effective because employees can easily share their concerns with a chatbot like they would chat on other mobile apps with friends and family.