The pros and cons of using anonymous incident reporting software

No matter the industry you work in, harassment and bullying can occur. It’s almost unavoidable, but there are lots of things you can do to stop harassment from going unnoticed, including investing in anonymous reporting software.

Many organisations feel an anonymous reporting tool would do more harm than good, with fears they may receive too many reports they can’t address due to lack of information. However, universities that our implemented anonymous reporting found it had the opposite effect. They received a manageable number of reports and were able to implement real change.

We’re taking a closer look at all the pros and cons of anonymous incident reporting software so you can decide what’s best for your workplace.

The pros of anonymous incident reporting software

There are several reasons why an individual may wish to stay anonymous. They may hold back because of the stigma surrounding speaking up. They may also have a close working relationship with the accused person or fear retaliation by the accused or their employer. 

So, the biggest advantage of using anonymous reporting software is more employees will come forward following an experience of harassment. This is because employees will feel less vulnerable and confident when their name won’t be attached to the incident. 

In organisations that don’t provide anonymous reporting, employees may go to the media or police instead, which would be bad for reputation as it shows they don't trust their workplace. Anonymous reporting encourages issues to be dealt with internally, so businesses can nip problems in the bud, protect their reputation, culture and employees. 

Using anonymous incident reporting software like Culture Shift, you can also gain actionable insights. These insights let you learn more about your culture than ever before, as you can identify behaviour patterns through real-time reporting. By having access to data, you can spot trends early and take proactive and preventative steps, rather than reactive.

This deep understanding of what's happening throughout your organisation will help you create and maintain a positive culture where employees are encouraged to speak up.

Another big advantage of using anonymous incident reporting software is you can ensure every report gets the attention it deserves and doesn't slip through the cracks. With manual methods, it’s easy for complaints not to be followed up properly and employees can quickly lose trust.

With software like Culture Shift, you can not only direct people who've submitted a report to meaningful support content, but you can also manage the case in a much more advanced way. You can follow individual cases, look through the audit trails, log case activities, status updates and much more.


The cons of anonymous incident reporting software

Although anonymous reporting software enables organisations to detect issues faster, it can come with its disadvantages. Organisations often worry that not knowing the identity of the person reporting an incident can make it harder to investigate. Without further questioning the individual who reported the incident, there may be information gaps that make it challenging to move on with the investigation. Whilst this is true, it’s important to remember there's always something you can do.

This all depends on the software you choose. With Culture Shift, you'll know when unacceptable behaviour has taken place as you'll give employees a simple and secure way to speak out confidentially - with the option for anonymity. So when you choose a platform, be sure to check the reporting options available.

Organisations also fear that employees may use this software to bully a colleague by submitting untrue reports. Without the identity of the person who reported the incident, it’s harder to punish false reports. This is a fear that doesn’t warrant you spending much time or energy thinking about. We know that the stats around false and malicious reporting is incredibly low. People generally don’t report something if it's untrue.

It’s also thought that protecting the reporting individual from further harm could be difficult when they’re anonymous. For example, if the accused employee figures out who has reported them and further harasses them, the employer may not be aware of this and the situation may be made worse. 

This means the anonymous incident reporting software you choose needs to be secure, not only internally but also from external threats as well. Papers can go missing and files can fall into the wrong hands, but software like Culture Shift is packed full of enterprise-level security features, such as:

  • Two-factor authentication
  • Single sign-on
  • End-to-end encryption
  • GDPR compliance
  • Cyber Essentials certification

An additional con when looking to implement anonymous reporting software is the time it can take to get up to speed. In your organisation, you might not have the luxury of waiting for countless months to get the software up and running and then even more time to train the relevant people on using it. 

This is where research is essential. Some software can take months before your organisation can start using it, so be sure to keep this in mind. On the other hand, Culture Shift can be live and in use within four weeks, so you don't have to worry about the time it takes to get started.

How has anonymous reporting worked so far?

Amongst our current partners that have implemented anonymous reporting software, not one of them has been overwhelmed by reports - either anonymous or named. This is because reports tend to start slowly and build up over time as students have grown more confident with the system. 

If you’re worried about only receiving information about the perpetrator and not having enough information about the victim-survivor to protect them, there are things you can do within the system to mitigate this risk. For example, you can choose not to offer a free text box within the anonymous reporting. Instead, you can offer a multiple-choice option, enabling people to disclose what has happened to them. 

If you find you start to receive reports that once investigated seem incorrect, you’ll then understand who the real victim-survivor is. With this information, you can provide help to the individual and potentially discover who the perpetrator is. 

What action can you take after receiving an anonymous report?

If an anonymous report is submitted regarding bullying, one way to respond is by creating a campaign around appropriate workplace behaviours.

In this campaign, include information for victim-survivors on how to deal with bullying and information on disciplinary action that will be taken if a person is found to be bullying a colleague.

In a situation where you receive many reports against the same person, it’s important to conduct an investigation. That way, you can get to the root of the problem and provide appropriate action. 

You may find individuals reporting some behaviour that isn't harassment but isn’t correct conduct for the workplace. In these circumstances, providing more training for the teams affected would be the appropriate action to take.

Using outdated processes isn't the answer and trying to build your own system can deplete a lot of resources you might not have. The last thing you want is to wait even longer before giving your people a voice. Culture Shift is ready to go and is built as a complete solution for organisations of any size.

We're also constantly improving the software based on real-life feedback. Have you ever thought about investing in reporting software to tackle workplace bullying head-on? Book a demo with our team below to see how it can help transform your organisation and give your employees a voice.

Discover how Culture Shift can help your organisation

At Culture Shift, we firmly believe the benefits of anonymous reporting far outweigh the risks. Take action against bullying and harassment today and contact us to book a demo.

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