Bidfood Whisleblowing Hotline Case Study

Safecall Whistleblowing Hotline Case Studies

Safecall & Bidfood - External confidential reporting system

How can you update your communication strategy to encourage your people to Speak-Up?

Bidfood – Safecall client story

Bidfood is one of the UK’s leading largest foodservice providers. A Safecall client since 2012, the business has developed innovative ways to communicate the Speak-Up message to its employees, supply chain and clients to ensure they know how to raise concerns. Gary Bartlett is Head of the Asset Protection and Investigations Department and actively drives the Speak-Up agenda. Here Gary explains why Bidfood appointed Safecall and how the service has supported his team and the wider business.

What solution did you have in place before Safecall?

Prior to my appointment in 2012 Bidfood had one telephone with a recording device set up to handle Speak-Up calls. On the rare occasion that a message was left, the quality of the recording wasn’t good which made it difficult to decipher what was being reported. The messages were only able to be picked up when someone was in the office, meaning they were not responded to quickly. Overall it wasn’t a well-designed, nor a well-managed process, and it came as no surprise to me when I joined that there had been only one call in three years.

Aside from the hotline itself, its promotion was also rather ineffective. Posters were dark and sinister with imagery of a judge’s gavel and wig. This I felt, sent the message that you should report only very serious issues and that the repercussions and your involvement as the reporter could be serious. It was clear that we needed to make changes.

Why choose Safecall?

I had not appointed an external Speak-Up service before so I looked thoroughly at the market. I found a lot of the services were provided within larger call centres and the Speak-Up hotline was a few phones at the back manned by staff from the main call-centre. It was clear this wouldn’t suit us. We wanted something professional; it is after all a reflection of our business. It was also important that the reports would be sent to us without any delay, containing enough detail and in a format we could action swiftly.

The experience our employees received when contacting the provider was also of paramount importance to us. Therefore when I came across Safecall, who provide this as their core business, not part of a call centre, it immediately felt like a better fit. I was pleased to find that they don’t audio record the messages; they have a more personal conversation and make excellent notes. The quality of their reports, both in the breadth and depth of information, meant that there was far more helpful and actionable information than in competitors’ reports. Due to the skill of Safecall’s call handlers, additional details were picked up that might not be directly related to the reason the call was made, but added context that was helpful for us in moving forward.

How has Safecall supported your work?

Given what had come before, we knew that we needed to help people understand the sort of things they should call about, that their concerns were valid and that this was an independent service – Safecall forward everything the reporter wishes to report directly to us but with an extra layer of protection for the person voicing their concern.

We have done a great deal of work on internal communications and Safecall helps us by providing their insight, knowledge and experience. Many of our staff are not desk-based, they are at depots and on the move, so we wanted to ensure that the posters effectively communicate the message in the short time they are viewed. We also wanted to avoid our corporate identity to ensure people appreciated the independence of the service.

Initially we had a three-wave campaign. The first set of posters focused on the things people should call about, Safecall provided posters that were light, bright and clear using simple language and engaging visuals. 

The next wave focused on the inclusive element of the service. No matter who you are, your call is important. The posters featured people of all ethnicities in all roles and we also highlighted the multilingual element of the service so people, whose first language isn’t English, felt more relaxed and confident in raising their concern.

The third wave focused on the nature of the service. Imagery focused on people on the phone looking engaged, approachable and relieved. We wanted to highlight that the call wouldn’t be formal or stressful, once you dial the number the hard part is over.

We try to change the posters regularly to keep them eye-catching. A recent campaign has used ‘industry speak’ as a way to communicate the types of concerns we want people to report. For example we have imagery of sheep along with ‘grazing is theft’ as this is a term used within the food industry.

Safecall has provided us with collateral that we leave in the canteens and on site such as pens and notepads that people can take away with them. These are helpful for our supply chain who also have access to the service but where we cannot put posters up on their sites.

Have you seen an improvement in this area of your business?

Since implementing Safecall’s service we have seen an increase in reporting. Some of these are minor reports, but we also are finding that the business is using this service when there are more serious issues to be raised. What’s great about Safecall is they take all concerns seriously and engage with the reporter, we are confident that they don’t dismiss an issue because it seems minor, and therefore potentially miss something bigger.

Reports come directly to me, and thanks to the level of detail it is easy to see to how they should be triaged, be it HR, health and safety, general managers or security. This means that in spite of the increase in reports no one team is over stretched.

The ability to go back to the reporter with follow-up questions through Safecall has proven hugely effective as we are able to keep the reporter informed as we work to resolve issues. Our action is not always seen more widely, so having the ability to let them know we have indeed taken action is vital in keeping up morale and is linked strongly to the overall success of the programme.

Safecall provides metrics on the reports received so I can see trends. For example, if a specific depot is the subject of a number of calls, I can look into why. I use this analysis to support my conversations with colleagues and our leadership team within the business. There is complete buy-in into the benefits of this service and that Safecall is the right provider for us. We are, as a business, comfortable that we have given our people every opportunity to raise concerns and that we manage these reports effectively.

What’s next for Bidfood?

We are looking at how we can use technology to promote the Safecall service and our overall message more widely, simple things like screensavers are areas we haven’t yet tried.

Of course, we are also constantly working on new messaging for the traditional channels, such as posters and printed material, as we need to keep refreshing these to ensure the service is always at the forefront of people’s minds.

Any top tips for others considering appointing an external Speak-Up provider?

Really my advice is simple; get buy in from your leadership teams as a first step. With their backing you are halfway there in terms of getting this signed off and rolled out, but also in spreading the right message to the wider business. People won’t call if they feel like the company is not sincere in its interest to hear concerns.

For us, Safecall is absolutely the right fit, it has the personal touch we wanted and the quality of reports takes the strain off our internal resources allowing them to spend time investigating. I would recommend that people research the market to make sure they find the right solution for them. The ease of the relationship we have with Safecall and their understanding of our needs has certainly enabled us to build a successful Speak-Up programme.

Gary Bartlett Head of Bidfood Asset Protection & Investigations Department

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