In today’s, #MeToo movement, women and men continue to demand a swift shift in the evolving workplace. Whether their career requires them to return to work in person or offers hybrid and remote flexibility, they still want to be treated with respect. They also desire equal job opportunities and equal pay with the ability to thrive, free from backlash, injustices and biased behaviors.
To help HR leadership better equip leaders, employees and potential bystanders with tools to stand up and speak out against bullying, intimidation or sexual harassment, the members of Forbes Human Resources Council share 13 tips to identify and address sexual harassment so employees are safe and supported each day.
1. Take Your Employees’ Complaints Seriously
Company leaders should host biannual sexual harassment training opportunities. Make sure that there is a policy for sexual harassment in your employee handbook and be sure to include it in your company’s messaging. – Dawn Taylor, Pinnacle Talent Acquisition
2. See Something, Say Something.
Create education and training, specifically, for the role of the bystander. It’s really critical for leaders to create organizational norms of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Anyone can step up and help or escalate the concern. It should not have to be the job of the person who is a victim. – Rohini Shankar, CIOX Health
3. Use Analytics To Root Out Problem Areas
This critical issue should be addressed through policy, analytics and compliance activities. In terms of policy, executives should release strong messaging regarding harassment. This can be supported by using analytics to identify problem areas, such as certain teams, locations or peak periods. Lastly, compliance activities and training can be used to drive enforcement. – David Swanagon, Ericsson
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4. Protect Your Employees Against Retaliation
When an employee works up the nerve to file a complaint, they need to know that they won’t face job-related consequences or the hostility of bystanders and that you are there to help. Ensure there is protection against retaliation by including a clause indicating that employees will not be reprimanded for reporting harassment. They may then actually report it before it gets worse or dangerous. – Sabahat Bokhari
5. Schedule Private Check-Ins With Employees
Create a policy and provide training on sexual harassment. Schedule regular, private check-ins with employees and host group discussions to avoid creating a taboo around the subject matter. – Leigh Yanocha, Knopman Marks Financial Training
6. Create A Culture of Due Diligence
One way to identify and address sexual harassment in the workplace, so employees are safe, is to create a culture where employees know that their complaints will be taken seriously, fully and timely investigated and fairly resolved. It is essential to respect all complainants, resolve to keep an open mind during the investigation and apply workplace policies uniformly and fairly to all. – Lynne Marie Finn, Broadleaf Results
7. Cultivate Trust Through Multiple Feedback Forums
Often sexual harassment goes unnoticed or unreported because people fear reprisal or inaction. One of the biggest ways to remedy this is to focus on cultivating trust within your organization and a “speak up” culture where there are multiple forums for two-way feedback. When this exists, people learn that their voice matters and are more likely to advocate for themselves or others. – Nicole Fernandes, Blu Ivy Group
8. Conduct Anonymous Focus Groups
When complaints are made, investigations and action have to be taken. Hold department and company-wide post-mortems or retrospectives with volunteer focus groups to anonymously talk about how the company performed in dealing with complaints in the last quarter and offer ideas for improvement. This removes the stigma, shows everyone that the company is serious and creates a continuous improvement loop. – Bontle Senne, Virgin Media UK
9. Deal With Sexual Harassment Complaints Swiftly And Decisively
Policies should be clearly outlined in the employee handbook, including definitions, procedures for filing claims and consequences. All claims should be taken seriously, with all parties questioned and information clearly documented. By holding everyone accountable to company policies, employers can ensure a safe workplace. – John Feldmann, Insperity
10. Be A Vocal Supporter And Role Model
Demonstrate the appropriate behavior to your employees. People need to see you as “safe.” Being a trusted ally with credibility is critical to being made aware of claims. Employees want to confide in a trusted resource and not be afraid of jeopardizing their careers for speaking up. They need someone who will take action and advocate on their behalf. – Nakisha Griffin, Virtual Enterprise Architects
11. Review Your Policy Annually
Have a set of procedures in place to guide staff members who feel the need to file a complaint. This may also include an HR employee hotline. Follow through with complaints. Listen to the employee, take them seriously and document the conversation. After the investigation is over, send them a note to follow up about the investigation and to let you know if any issues ever occur again. – Erin ImHof, Circadence
12. Treat Employees With Dignity And Respect
Ensure employees are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process. Refrain from judging, clearly communicate the process and reinforce that there will be no retribution. Determine if the alleged perpetrator should be temporarily moved. Never make promises, but make assurances that the organization takes the complaint seriously and an objective, confidential investigation will occur. – Misty Johnson Oratokhai, Events DC
13. Create HR Champions Across The Company
I love creating HR champions outside of HR in my company. This gives growth to those that want it while having more people educated, beyond legal requirements, on what is and isn’t okay in the workplace. By letting them know it is okay to call out something that seems to be in the gray, I get more people willing to come forward both as bystanders and as victims that, otherwise, would have kept quiet. – Kelly Loudermilk, BuildHR, Inc.