As a lawyer, It’s my job to think about the worst case scenario. Lawsuits, criminal charges, regulatory fines— these are scenarios I hope to help companies avoid. However, a healthy and thriving business is not built by simply avoiding catastrophes. Companies must prioritize trust and accountability if they want to remain competitive.

In the last few months the news has been dominated by sexual assault and harassment cases. Though many have been in entertainment and media, every CEO and business owner should be concerned.

Many women have endured this kind of treatment as an unspoken risk for decades. If the end of 2017 is an indicator, the new year will bring waves of new allegations, and no industry is exempt. With these cases also comes a deluge of familiar questions— Why now? Why did they wait so long? Why didn’t someone say something?

The simple, but frustrating answer, is that those who want to speak out often have limited or ineffective options. Even though ⅓ of employees observe misconduct, fear of retribution keeps many silent. This silence costs everyone. Victims suffer, trust is eroded, and companies end up in the headlines.

The good news is that there are new solutions that facilitate safe, anonymous reporting on a wide range of issues. The first step is recognizing whistleblowers as flag bearers supporting a healthy company culture.

Give Employees a Voice

Ideally, businesses identify issues quickly and address them appropriately. Studies say that 80% of successful whistleblowers raised their concerns internally before turning to public methods. This means that employees want to report problems. We should encourage them to spotlight misconduct, safety hazards, and non-compliance. The value for organizations is huge. It’s the difference between disciplinary and corrective action, or potential billions lost in lawsuits and scandal over the long term.

When employees are empowered to report, they could very well prevent major disasters. They are on the front line when it comes to observing human error, malfunctioning equipment, and workplace misconduct. The choice to stay silent means greater risk for everyone involved.

Without safe reporting options or appropriate follow-up, going public may feel like the only recourse. Social media has played a role in surfacing many of the recent scandals. It has been a way for employees to have a voice where they otherwise had none. Public disclosure is often a last resort and it comes with more risk for both victims and companies. For the company, public allegations mean damage to reputation and credibility. For the victims, social media posts can actually make it more difficult from a legal standpoint to prosecute a criminal case.

As Colby Bruno Senior legal counsel for the Victim Rights Law Center explained in a recent NPR interview, when a victim discloses online, a defense attorney can pick apart their posts in order to find inconsistencies or to undermine their credibility. This adds an extra layer of complication for victims in cases that are already very difficult to prosecute.

Technology can be an asset or a liability. It’s essential that companies understand the need for employees to be heard. If opportunities are not available internally, they’ll either stay silent or find them elsewhere. Again, the good news is that organizations can integrate whistleblower technology and give employees a voice within the company.

Anonymous Reporting

One of the biggest obstacles to employee reporting is the fear of retaliation. This is why employees need the option to remain anonymous when reporting issues.

Anonymity tells employees that their voice is valued and their concerns are taken seriously. It is a simple and practical step that supports a culture of trust. When followed up with meaningful action, it allows companies to avoid bigger risks, and gives employees tools to make their voices heard and address issues.

Here at Questback, we use a whistleblower solution that allows employees to choose whether or not to remain anonymous, and even gives them the option to follow up on concerns in an anonymous chat room. Because employees feel safe to sound the alarm, we can intervene quickly. These insights are invaluable for measuring productivity, risk, and assessing company culture. The more feedback, the more companies are able to get a real-time, comprehensive picture.

We should welcome this kind of feedback with open arms. Whistleblowers give businesses the opportunity to protect their investments and their people.

Culture of Integrity

The technology is here to help ensure physical, emotional, and financial safety for businesses and their employees. As much as we rely on technology to gather data and streamline processes, the human effort to analyze and respond is what actually affects change in the workplace.

When companies integrate the technology in line with their defined values and expectations, it supports and enhances trust and transparency. It provides recourse for employees who spot violations and allows managers and executives to address problems before they escalate. these features mean a safer, happier, and more loyal workforce.

Businesses have an obligation to their shareholders and consumers. We want companies to succeed and strengthen the bottom line. I certainly want to protect my company from legal strife. However, that need not come at the cost of employee’s rights and safety. Whistleblower solutions are a win for everyone. They provide a practical solution to mitigate risk and increase productivity. In the long-term, they can be a failsafe against the corruption and negligence that has failed victims and destroyed companies. We must always encourage companies to prioritize trust and accountability. We now have the systems to measure and back up those commitments with action.

Want to know more about whistleblowing? We have gathered some commonly asked questions.

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