There’s a shift underway. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, business leaders around the world have started to shift towards a more collaborative and consultative style of leadership based on transparency, according to The HR Director.
External voices and views, from employees and those of directors, must now hold business leaders to higher account. For directors, it’s not enough to trust that you’re always getting the full picture from the CEO or board chair—you need to actively ensure that you’re informed and ready to ask the tough questions. Employees, on the other hand, need to be able to report the concerns they see in the field so that problems can be addressed before they become major roadblocks to organizational success.
The first step in ensuring board and organizational transparency is to make sure that boards have the right tools in place in order to hold company leaders accountable and to provide a way for employees to discreetly report their concerns. However, with rapidly evolving regulations, disclosure requirements, and ethical standards, it can be difficult to do so without purpose-made technology.
In this post, we’ll provide an overview of two different kinds of technology that can help your board improve transparency, enabling better accountability and making transparency both practical and economical.
When problems such as ethical misconduct, fraud, safety concerns, or theft occur in an organization, they may not be known to the management team or to the board. If not addressed promptly, these kinds of issues could lead to lost revenue, toxic workplace cultures, damaged reputations, or legal troubles.
However, when boards champion the use of anonymous ethics reporting tools, such as whistleblower hotlines, employees are more likely to speak up about their concerns. In addition, the organization’s board and leadership teams will be able to use whistleblower data to diagnose issues sooner, making them less likely to become larger, long-term problems.
The benefits of anonymous ethics reporting are plenty, and they include:
Dishonesty in the workplace has been scientifically proven to have negative effects, causing disruptions to employee performance, increases in employee turnover, and damages to the company’s bottom line. Anonymous ethics hotlines allow employees to be honest, even about difficult issues. When honesty becomes a habit, it becomes a part of all workplace interactions, thereby positively influencing employee performance and organizational success.
An ethics hotline provides a “safe” alternative for employees to report problems in the workplace when they aren’t comfortable reporting an issue like embezzlement, sexual harassment, or discrimination internally. Rather than having to speak to their manager or an HR rep, employees can simply report the issue anonymously to a third party without fear of retaliation. With this option, employees are more likely to report issues early, when it may still be possible to find a relatively quick and easy solution.
In times of increasing employee disconnectedness, such as when employees are working from home during COVID-19, when a company undergoes leadership changes, or even during an economic downturn, employees may feel less loyal to their organization. However, ethics hotlines provide employees with a way to have their voices heard. Employees who see the positive changes resulting from a report they file feel a sense of agency and empowerment in driving the success of their organization. And even just the fact that a company has a whistleblower hotline highlights their commitment to the safety and security of their employees.
When an employee is aware of wrongdoings within their organization, they can become very stressed and anxious about what to do about it. If there isn’t a clear course of action for them to take to report the issue, that burden can easily overwhelm them. An anonymous whistleblower hotline provides employees with that course of action, thereby reducing their stress. It allows them to confidentially report their concerns without having to worry about deciding who to report their issue to, and how.
It can sometimes feel like being on a board is like being in a fishbowl. Directors are constantly under pressure to act as governance accountability gatekeepers, and that means ensuring that you’re seeing all relevant documents in board meetings and that all other board members have access to that same information, at the same time. The consequences of not doing so could range from facing a product flop to customer loss, or even compliance failures.
However, board portal software can help. A board portal is a web application that executives and directors log into to perform their role for an organization’s board of directors. This software offers board members secure, real-time access to board materials, both past and present, and provides tools to prepare for board meetings and collaborate between them, even while travelling. All board communication is kept secure in one centralized place.
Board portal software can also help boards improve transparency. Here’s how:
Without an audit trail, there’s always a question mark over the security of board materials. However, with automatic archive and audit trail features, you can be sure that your board information was only accessed, uploaded, modified, or removed by the people who had the authorization to do so. You can also ensure that no critical information can be hidden unnecessarily from other board members, including new recruits. Meeting minutes, motions, board evaluations, expenses, and other board materials are all logged in the board portal library for future access, and you can easily run reports to determine who has accessed them.
Nowadays, all directors will insist on anywhere, anytime access to board information. Not only is it convenient, it’s also critical during crisis situations, and the last thing you want is to give communication bias, favoritism, or nepotism a role to play in how directors receive information. A board portal provides centralized access to board materials, as well as equitable notice of changes to meeting dates, requests for votes, and newly available information. It also eliminates the need to search for lost emails or take up precious meeting time with catch-up discussions.
Pandemic or not, sometimes boards need to make decisions between meetings. Board portal software provides a secure way for boards to vote while keeping decision-making transparent. The whole board is easily included and there’s no hassle dealing with scheduling conflicts.
To ensure that boards are functioning effectively, it’s critical to evaluate their performance, but it can be easy to let evaluations get casual or infrequent. It’s best practice to evaluate board performance at least once a year to ensure that boards are staffed and led appropriately, that board members are effective in fulfilling their obligations, and that reliable processes are in place to satisfy important oversight requirements. Use board portal software to build, send, and report on anonymous board performance evaluations securely and efficiently. Since you’ll be storing your surveys in your board portal software, it’s also easy to view trends over time.
To build your workplace culture of integrity, you needn’t look any further than IntegrityCounts. IntegrityCounts is a flexible and modern ethics reporting and case management program developed by WhistleBlower Security to provide you with a 24/7 ethics reporting experience. Learn more about how the IntegrityCounts solution can enhance organizational integrity, empower employee and stakeholder contributions, and enhance workplace cultures of transparency and accountability.
Discover for yourself why board members and administrators across the globe love Aprio board portal software. Aprio tops the charts for positive customer reviews by providing ease of use, unmatched support, advanced security, complete features, and standout time savings tools like our automatic audit trail, online voting capabilities, and performance surveys. Learn more about how Aprio can make good governance simple and affordable for you today.
The whistleblowing experience is key for boards to ensure good governance, and boards are often required to oversee and ensure that their organization’s whistleblower program policies, procedures, and outcomes are effective. Many organizations that use Aprio board portal software also use WhistleBlower Security’s IntegrityCounts for ethics reporting, which is why the two organizations have recently formed a strategic partnership.