When zero tolerance and full compliance go hand-in-hand, everyone can thrive on the job.
How you address workplace sexual harassment can play a powerful role in how staff feel, work, and interact; but too many companies spend money and time on training that isn’t effective and develop programs that don’t have a lasting impact. Experts suggest a variety of ways to ensure the organization’s words, actions, and policies engage and resonate with employees for the long term.
Train outside the box. Booklets and written materials may have some value, but adult learners gain and retain more from training programs that are interactive and involve activities such as role playing and virtual reality. Consider the value of bringing in experienced, certified trainers.
Ensure top managers are part of the training. Employees at all levels need to know that C-suite executives and key leaders support the culture of respect and zero tolerance; so organizational leaders need to participate in training activities and model appropriate behavior.
Spread the word—put anti-discrimination policy in writing. Give all employees a copy, have them read it, and ask them to tell you (in their own words) what they read to ensure comprehension. Emphasize your zero-tolerance policy, and make sure that employees know how and to whom they should report sexual harassment.
Enforce zero tolerance. You must promptly investigate every complaint, even if it seems trivial or questionable. You need to use a consistent process for each investigation, so that there is no suggestion of favoritism, pre-judgment, or other concerns.
Communication, communicate, communicate. After your investigation, inform the victim what you uncovered and what the consequences will be. As for the accused or the enabler of sexual harassment, this individual also needs to be told about any consequences or actions to be taken and reminded about the zero-tolerance policy. Communicate your findings to top management as well. Again, follow the same process for every complaint, and ensure that everyone knows what this process is.
Address consequences. If your investigation determines that there has been an incident of sexual harassment, it is essential that you impose consequences. No matter who the victim is or the identity of the harasser, the consequences must be swift and consistent across the board. For instance, top manager can’t be given a pass for harassment if you fire a front-line worker for the same behavior.
Insist on a place at the table. It is essential for HR to be involved in management decisions, particularly on sensitive issues that potentially impact all employees. You need access to and the trust of managers and executives so that you can resolve employment problems/complaints quickly.