Encouraging employees to report incidents is important as they learn to trust the organisation and understand that they are valuable. If an employee reports an incident and they are dismissed or ignored, this can influence their future actions and they may be less likely to report issues in the future. Incident reports are crucial not only for the business but also for the employees. Complaints of any kind can help the business look at an area they might not be aware of such as a health and safety issue or a toxic work environment in the making. 

Employees work from the office, work closely with their colleagues and they get to visit many more areas that managers may not go to very often or speak to people they haven’t spoken to in a long time. It is necessary that the business listens to all reports of an incident and takes them seriously. 

What might prevent incident reporting?

Before trying to figure out what will encourage employees to report a problem, it is important to take a step back and consider what might make staff hesitant to come forward. As with many other scenarios, finding the root cause of the problem can help develop better-fitted solutions. 

There are many types of incidents that could occur in a workplace. These include (but are not limited to): 

  • Near miss incident
  • Accident
  • Harassment
  • Potential security breach
  • A risk or weakness

Depending on the industry, a company may have more health and safety complaints or cybersecurity complaints. Lack of reporting is not necessarily a bad thing. It might mean that your business is on the right track and is taking the correct steps to ensure that employees and the company are protected. However, in some situations, lack of reporting may mean that employees do not feel comfortable to speak up and submit a complaint about an issue. For example, a large business would statistically expect to have some reports, so a lack of complaints is more likely to indicate a bad reporting culture than a good safety or security track record.

Why is that? Well there are a few reasons:

  • Fear of consequences 
  • Dismissal of concerns
  • Non-anonymous methods
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Long and complicated process
  • Low motivation

Fear of consequences

Employees may hesitate to record an incident or an issue if they are afraid that retaliation will follow. Employees learn from past experiences as well as evaluate how the current company acts. If they assess that managers will get annoyed with an incident or take out their anger on them, they might not speak up. Fear of what will follow after they report a problem can heavily discourage employees as they don’t want to jeopardise their position. 

Dismissal of concerns

If employees report an incident and a manager dismisses it or ignores it, the next time something happens, staff may not try to notify the business. If the managers are not concerned, why should they be concerned? Usually if employees see that the environment is unsafe, they will just choose to change companies and move to one that cares about employee safety.

Non-anonymous methods

Staff may not want to report an incident if there aren’t any anonymous methods of reporting. This could be for a number of reasons, including fear of consequences and fear of judgement by their colleagues. If they are reporting harassment, and the person is a supervisor with good relationships in the company, the employee may be afraid of how their colleagues will react. 

Lack of knowledge

Another reason employees may not report an issue is because they don’t know it is an issue. Compliance violations, fraud, phishing emails, are all problems that may show up in the workplace but without the right knowledge, individuals may not know how to recognise them. Moreover, staff may not know how to report such issues as they haven’t received adequate training on communication lines in the business. Do they talk about it to their manager? To the HR team? Or the IT team? The more questions they have, the less likely they are to document an issue. 

Employees may also not understand how severe the problem could be as they didn’t receive the right training. If they keep seeing an employee mishandle financial information, they might keep thinking that it was just a “mistake” or that they are not good at their job. 

Long and complicated process

If reporting rates are low in the company, it might be a good idea to review the current reporting process. Staff don’t want to deal with a long and complicated process. They want the process to be easy and simple

Low motivation

Why should employees notify the company of any incidents? If the incident is not directly related to them, they have no reason to report a problem. Also, if they submit a complaint, will something actually improve?

A large percentage of employees think that reporting workplace misconduct is not the right thing to do. The percentage is way higher than what managers think, showing a gap between what managers consider the right course of action and what employees consider to be the right thing to do. This means that the company may need to motivate staff to report incidents as they don’t see any benefits to their role or career.


How to encourage employees to report incidents and other issues

Now that we know what’s stopping employees from reporting, we need to think about what can encourage employees to speak up. Speaking up about workplace issues can save a lot of money for the organisation as they don’t have to deal with lawsuits, reputation hits and recovery costs. 

The business will need to develop strategies that fit the problem they are facing. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Build a strong work culture from the beginning
  • Emphasise the importance of reporting
  • Create anonymous, simple, reporting lines
  • Train and educate employees 
  • Provide incentives
  • Take action

Build a strong work culture from the beginning

The most important thing to do is build a strong, friendly and welcoming culture from the beginning. A culture that shows higher-up staff listen and take concerns seriously. A culture where employees are not afraid of peer pressure, consequences or retaliation. If employees feel valued and are always encouraged to voice their concerns, then they are more likely to report an incident. A good work environment is a great motivator for them to keep the workplace hazard-free. They will care more about the organisation and their colleagues. 

Emphasise the importance of reporting

Do employees know how documenting an incident can help the business? Even if you think the answer is yes, it might be a good idea to communicate with employees and explain to them how it’s necessary for them to report:

  • Any issues they are facing 
  • Hazards they have noticed 
  • Potential security weaknesses

Communication is better than making assumptions.

Create anonymous, simple, reporting lines

Letting employees report incidents and other issues anonymously can be very effective in encouraging them to come forward. As discussed, employees may be overwhelmed by long and complicated processes, and if they are scared of retaliation or have other negative feelings related to reporting, they might not speak up and the problem will persist. If what they want to report is a near miss, or a hazardous area, or even harassment, then not speaking up could not only result in lower employee productivity, but also a fatal accident. 

Simplifying the process is beneficial for everyone. 

Train and educate employees

So now you have reporting lines. Now what? For reporting lines to be effective, employees need to be trained so they know how to use them. Employees will also need to know if there are any other people they could speak to, like their supervisor. The training sessions should explain to them the benefits of each option. 

They should also be trained to recognise potential hazards, compliance violations, misconduct and more workplace issues. Then they will know the severity of those issues, how to identify the problem and how to reach out and notify someone. 

Provide incentives 

Incentives for reporting may not be the right choice for your organisation but in some situations, it could be effective. Incentives could be monetary or non-monetary, from giving employees compensation to recognising their contributions publicly, incentives can show other employees that the company values them speaking up and protecting the workplace. However, be very careful with incentives as poorly designed incentives can encourage the wrong behaviour.

Take action

The best thing you can do to encourage incident reporting is to take action. If employees see that the business takes complaints seriously, then they are more likely to come forward with an issue in the future. They understand that the company values them speaking up and coming forward with a problem. Depending on the issue that was reported, taking action can look different for each situation, but make sure that employees know what your next steps are. 

Investigating incidents

As part of taking action when employees report an incident, the company may need to conduct an investigation. Polonious is trusted by many organisations worldwide when it comes to making the investigation process confidential, efficient and faster. Our customers rely on us to help their investigators improve their workflows, automate tasks and reminders but also provide them with automatic case updates. Our system assists investigators with evidence storing as they can easily upload videos, images, documents and more in a secure storage space. 

Polonious supports integration with other software and we can also help with conducting online interviews. Are you looking to conduct a fast and efficient investigation? Reach out and we will give you a demo!