Are you a government or corporate organisation that receives information from internal employees, or external disclosers?


We’ve all heard of human resource management, but what is human source management?


Well, it’s kind of the same thing really. Both concepts involve looking after people.


In a law enforcement, regulatory, ethics/integrity or compliance environment, human sources are people that may have information about something. This could be about offences, intelligence, breaches of legislation, criminal acts, bullying, harassment, fraud or misconduct or a range of other matters. At the highest level it may be about national security or terrorism. Sometimes human sources are thought of a whistleblowers.


How human sources are managed – that is, cultivated, treated and protected – can be a real challenge for organisations, both government and private. Sure, most organisations have whistleblower policies and procedures in place and there exists legislation governing “blowing the whistle” (like the Corporations Act and Public Interest Disclosure legislation). The effectiveness of this legislation is sometimes questioned and often it’s how organisations promote disclosures (and then treat the disclosers) that makes the real difference.


For example, a government organisation with a confidential reporting line for people to report breaches or criminal/regulatory acts may be a sound principle, but if those dealing with the reports cannot effectively communicate with disclosers/informants, then it’s almost a waste of time. Equally, those tasked to build a relationship with informants and get the best information/evidence from them need to be trained to do so.

People responsible for managing sources must be trained and skilled in the following key areas:

  • Rapport building
  • Professional empathy
  • Active listening, and
  • Effective questioning


Of course, high level verbal and non-verbal skills are equally important. And whilst these skills seem basic and obvious, most people are not truly effective in all of them. Experience and training play a big part.


People think they know how to effectively build rapport, but in the management of human sources it’s a skill that determined whether or not there’s going to be an ongoing relationship. Whether that person will trust you to give over information initially and then continue to give information. In an earlier blog, I wrote about some of the facets of building rapport. It’s not just about asking how the person is and going on to what you’re there for; it’s more than that.


Rapport equals trust. If you have trust, you’re more likely to get the information you need.


Professional empathy is another learnt skill that is essential in managing human sources. Sometimes, you may need to show empathy to someone who (ordinarily) you would not. Take a detective obtaining information from a child sexual offender, for example. Showing professional empathy does not mean agreeing with the person, what they’ve done or their view on things. It means seeing things from their lens and is a helpful trait in obtaining information.


Active listening is vital in communication generally, but also in communicating with those who wish to give you information. People think they are good listeners, but the reality is that they aren’t. Put simple, active listening is listening to understand, rather than to respond. Why is this important in managing human sources? Well, if the informant doesn’t think you’re interested in what he/she has to say, then you’ll lose them.


Being able to effectively question is a skill that takes many years to master, and one that is also an important part of human source management. Things like asking open questions, focused recall, memory and trauma based questioning techniques, probing questions, use of minimal encouragers and effective non-verbal communication are essential. Investigative interviewing, cognitive interviewing, conversation management and other terms relate to effective questioning methods.


While intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world rely on human sources to provide information, government and private organisations are now seeing the value in effectively managing people who wish to tell them things. Whether it’s about fraud in the company, people committing offences, misconduct, reputational damage or the myriad of others things that may impact an organisation, the ability to promote, cultivate and manage informants and disclosers is part of good governance.


And it doesn’t all have to be about saving a country from a terrorist threat. Promoting disclosure on misconduct and other things adds ethics value and promotes confidence all-round. But if human sources are not effectively communicated with, protected and supported (and looked after) then that confidence is lost.


At the Professional Investigators College of Australasia (PICA), we’re the specialists in human source, whistleblowing and disclosure/informant management training.

We have one of the world’s leading authorities on human source management and our team of experts have extensive investigative, management and training experience. Further to that, we can design (contextualise) the training to suit your particular agency, or organisation. With a range of course delivery options, we can meet your needs and build the investigative capability of your investigation and compliance staff.

For a no obligation chat on how we can help you, please get in touch anytime at or 1300 649 967. Read all about us and our courses at