After years of companies working to build a strong speak-up culture, a new Gartner report shows that many employees still need motivation that may surprise their employers when it comes to saying something when they see something: They need to know if reporting misconduct will benefit them.
Just over half of the 900-plus workers Gartner surveyed said they believed reporting misconduct would be good for them personally. Gartner’s findings show that principles alone are simply not enough incentive to report violations and poor conduct, senior researcher Chris Audet says.
“It may surprise many compliance leaders to know that just 54% of employees felt that reporting misconduct is the right thing to do,” Audet said. “Employees understand it is what they are supposed to do but, in many cases, they aren’t sure that doing so will work out well for them or their teams, so they choose to keep quiet.”
In other words, if companies want their compliance and ethics programs to be successful in rooting out misconduct, they need to take a pragmatic approach in addition to an idealistic one. That means ensuring that strong non-retaliation and reporting practices and policies are in place but that employees understand there is a direct benefit to them in blowing the whistle on wrongdoing.
Gartner’s report reveals that only one-third of employees believe reporting misconduct would create a better work environment or boost their team’s morale, and even fewer — one in five — believe it would be good for their careers.
These new findings would seem to square with other recent analyses regarding the state of compliance and ethics. In June, a Gartner analysis found that compliance reporting had dropped 30% compared to before the pandemic.
Our extensive study on compliance officers, released this past January, found that 59% of compliance officers say they’re burned out and 53% say they lack the resources to do their jobs to their full potential. Perhaps most tellingly, 64% of compliance officers told us that people outside the compliance team see the function as a burden.
If it’s such a tough ask to get their co-workers and employees to take reporting of wrongdoing seriously, what’s a compliance officer to do? Gartner’s advice is to build a strong, three-pronged value proposition for reporting misconduct: trust, safety and benefit.
“Addressing the benefit of reporting is a big untapped opportunity for compliance leaders,” Audet said. “It is the biggest single factor driving a sense of personal responsibility to report, yet employee perceptions in this area are typically negative. It is rarely a prominent component of speak up messaging from compliance teams.”