Case closure times on employee hotline reports improved last year—one of the most promising findings in NAVEX Global’s 2017 Hotline Benchmark Report. The four-day drop in median closure time indicated in the 2016 report halts a four-year increase during which median case closure times experienced a steady rise.
Case closure times have been increasing since 2011 when the median closure time was 32 days. During the following four years, closure times rose to risky levels reaching a median of 46 days (a 44% increase).
In this year’s report, closure times have fallen to 42 days despite the fact that the overall median reporting rate increased from 1.3 to 1.4 per 100 employees and with no impact on the case substantiation rates. This highlights two significant progress points for compliance programs: Employee reporting systems are experiencing higher adoption rates; and programs are able to more effectively process those reports.
This could mean organizations are applying additional resources to address the increasing volume of reports. In past benchmark findings, insufficient resources were often cited for closure delays. It could also mean that maturing programs have been educating employees to give them a better idea of what should be reported and the types of information that needs to be provided which helps investigators complete an investigation more efficiently.
Case Closure Rates by Allegation Categories
Closure of accounting, audit and financial reports remained above 50 days
Going deeper, we looked at case closure rates by allegation categories, and the trends there were less encouraging. For example, closure of accounting, audit and financial reports remained above 50 days and misuse and misappropriation of corporate assets closures ticked up to 44 days. But closures on HR, diversity and workplace respect issues fell from a median of 47 days to 41 days.
That’s important because HR, diversity and workplace respect allegations had, as always, by far the greatest percentage of reporting, at 72%.
To be sure, more work needs to be done in that category. Best practice for case closure time is 30 days—any workplace issue that festers over 40 days can damage morale and threaten operating success. But still, the improvement seems to be meaningful, based on some other related NAVEX Global research.
Last year following our Hotline Benchmark Report, we surveyed approximately 600 compliance professionals and asked them whether they followed up or had input on the outcomes of reported issues referred to HR or other departments for investigation. The idea was to determine how many compliance professionals considered a case closed when it moved off of their desks—something we advise against, given the necessity of cross-departmental collaboration.
We were pleasantly surprised by the results (which look even better in light of this year’s findings). Just 16% of those surveyed took the out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach, considering a case closed when they moved it to another department. Twenty-six percent said they followed up informally, and 58% said they didn’t close a case until they had “reviewed and concurred with the findings and any action taken” which we believe is best practice.
What this seems to indicate is that closure rates for matters related to HR, diversity and workplace respect are improving while compliance professionals are staying involved longer.
These are important and hopeful developments, especially at a time when some experts are worried about issues like respect and workplace harassment. Effective training in these areas is crucial—and this data suggests organizations seem to be improving their overall incident management processes. As we’ve noted before, this all comes back to creating a culture of ethics and respect that goes beyond posters, plans and programs and demonstrates to employees that the organization takes their concerns seriously.