Did you know that only 8 percent of employees report wrongdoing externally without first reporting it internally? 

Yet, when a frustrated whistleblower does turn to government regulators, the outcome can be harsh. Government enforcement actions that rely on whistleblowers can result in penalties as much as $92 million greater and prison sentences up to 27 months longer than if no whistleblower was involved. 

To avoid these harsh consequences, the wise organization encourages a culture in which internal whistleblowing is accepted. Here are five steps to consider.

1. Establish tone at the top.

Establish and communicate the organization’s support for ethical behavior and internal disclosures.

2. Put clear procedures in place.

The process of reporting, and the way the company investigates such reports, should be set out clearly.

3. Ensure timely response.

Set out and adhere to a clear, efficient timeframe in the investigation.

4. Implement internal controls.

Internal controls are key in detecting fraud: failure to follow such controls is a red flag that something or someone has gone astray.

5. Establish an anti-retaliation policy.

Many people do not report wrongdoing because they fear retaliation. Encourage employees to speak up via clear, protective anti-retaliation policies.