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After #MeToo: Communicating Your Workplace Harassment Policy

In the wake of widespread media reports of sexual harassment, what is your business doing ensure a safe and accountable workplace?  Consider this: the #MeToo hashtag was shared more than 1 million times in just 48 hours after being posted to social media. The public debate continues as others are empowered to share their stories.

This is not a new issue. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 94% of U.S. companies have harassment and/or bullying policies that outline conduct that is prohibited. But if you think having a policy is enough, think again.  A 2016 EEOC study of workplace harassment revealed that policies alone do not encourage appropriate behavior. The study reported that approximately 90% of survey participants who experienced sexual harassment never file a complaint.

This is a unique, timely moment to be very clear about workplace harassment. It benefits everyone to make this a priority in your business. When employees experience a safe and welcoming workplace, they perform at their best and drive business performance.  As you review this issue internally, consider these communication best practices.

Review and update the existing Harassment Policy

Start by examining the current policy. When was the last time it was reviewed and updated?  If it’s been more than five years, it’s too old.  The policy should, at a minimum, list examples of prohibited conduct, detail the process for reporting objectionable conduct, and be signed by the current CEO. Then ensure that the policy, and the reporting process, is accessible.  Bottom line: let employees know where to go for help.

Time for leaders to speak out

Every leader must be accountable. Let employees hear directly from the C-Suite that harassment will not be tolerated. Human Resources can support this endeavor, but can’t shoulder it alone. Executives must step up and commit that when allegations are brought, they will be investigated immediately and that appropriate actions will follow.  Convey that retaliation is prohibited since many cases are unreported due to fears of job loss or reprisals.

Train. Train. Train.

Most companies provide online harassment training, but do you mandate that training is completed? Is harassment addressed in new employee orientation? Training will ensure a better understanding of the behaviors that comprise harassment. Additionally, the HR team must be prepared and ready to conduct prompt, objective and thorough investigations.

Amplify the message through internal communications

If an employee experiences sexual harassment–or witnesses it–do they know what steps to take? Make it easy for individuals to report. Use multiple channels to share the harassment policy and reporting procedure. Talk about it in town halls, blogs, create a video from the CEO and put a link to the policy on the home page of your company intranet. Make it loud so that everyone understands that harassment is unacceptable in your company culture.

A Thought as We Welcome 2018

The first week after the holidays is always painful.  So here’s something to lift your spirits.  Our first bit of advice for 2018 is from the master essayist Emerson who has deeply influenced leaders, thinkers and communicators for more than 100 years.  Tuck this away for when you need some inspiration.

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our Holiday Gift to You: Five of Our Favorite Business Communication Resources

With a dizzying number of tools, apps and online resources available to business communicators, it can be difficult to keep up.  Here are five of our favorites; our go-to sources for inspiration, innovative design and fresh ideas.  Happy Holidays!

Creative Market— Creative Market is an online marketplace for community-generated design assets. The website sells graphics, WordPress themes, stock photography, and other digital goods.  If you are building infographics, there are thousands of icons to choose from. www.creativemarket.com.

Grammarly—Unlike cursive handwriting, correct grammar never goes out of style. Grammarly’s  writing app helps ensure your writing is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free by automatically detecting grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice and style error. It’s available as a free Chrome extension or online at www.grammarly.com.

HBR IdeaCast—This weekly podcast by the Harvard Business Review features leading thinkers in business and management.  What’s the connection to communications?  Great leaders understand the value of communications and alignment with corporate values.  There are lots of clever ideas to nab here. Available on Apple Podcast and www.HBR.org.

Ted Talks—Everyone needs a 15 minute mental vacation from the daily grind.  Watch a Ted Talk.  Our recommendation for business communicators is Talk Nerdy to Me by Melissa Marshall.  In less than five minutes she outlines a formula for bringing scientific content to a general audience. Use this approach whenever you’re sharing complex (or boring) information. www.TedTalks.com

Unsplash—There is no better site for beautiful, free images and photos than Unsplash. You can download high resolution files to use for any project. No attribution required (although always appreciated).  Just spend 10 minutes scrolling through the photo files and you’ll be inspired to improve the look of your presentations or handouts. www.unsplash.com

Build Workplace Culture by Communicating Gratitude

This month as we focus on Thanksgiving, consider the power of gratitude in your workplace. Before your thoughts turn to friends, family and football, spend a few minutes thinking about how appreciation can make a difference to your business.

Tom Peters was so right when he noted “People don’t forget kindness.” It’s the same with gratitude.  The power of a sincere thank you cannot be overestimated. In a recent study on employee engagement, the top factor of job satisfaction was respectful treatment of employees at all levels.  Second on the list was trust between employees and management.  If you practice the first item, you achieve the second one.

It takes conscious effort to build a culture where every employee feels appreciated.  We all like to be noticed for the good things we do.  People who feel appreciated believe their work makes a difference.  They are more willing to go the extra mile because they know someone notices.

Making gratitude visible is a step you can build into your internal communications.  Here are three ideas:

Appreciation by senior leadership—Create a year-end video of the senior management team thanking team members for their service this year.  Get out of the office and film it with front line workers.  Switching the wardrobe from suits and ties to ugly Christmas sweaters and elf ears will create smiles for years to come.

Appreciation by managers—Write a thank you note.  It’s low tech, but more effective than a gift card.  Be specific about how the individual contributes to the team.  Not only will your employee appreciate the gesture, they will know that you are paying attention.

Appreciation by team members—It feels great to say thank you.  That’s why peer-to-peer recognition programs are motivating to employees.  They strengthen a culture of support, collaboration and achievement.  Peer recognition programs should tie to your company values.  Tailor the program to your business, but make the recognition defined, public and fun.

The power of gratitude is a multiplier.  When you recognize people for their contributions, they perform better, trust grows and so does your workplace culture.

Listen Up: Try Podcasts in your Internal Communication Mix

Looking for a new way to reach your employees without blowing your entire budget?  Try podcasts. If you think it’s a niche channel, take a look at these numbers:

  • 4 in 10 Americans listen to podcasts on a regular basis
  • Podcast listening was up 23% between 2015 and 2016
  • 85% of listeners complete the entire episode*

Americans are falling in love with podcasts in numbers that increase every year. Recent podcast phenoms like Serial and S-Town attracted legions of new listeners. Guess what? Many of your employees are among them.

Internal communication pros are paying attention. Disney, IBM and Microsoft have added podcasts to their internal mix.  Perhaps it’s time for your business to do the same.

Consider these three things when developing a podcast strategy (or selling the idea to your boss).

  1.   Accessible everywhere.  What’s the one item most people can’t do without?  Their phones.  A podcast will allow you to connect with team members as they multitask: at the gym, on a walk, in the car. With the average daily commutes now at around 26 minutes each way, podcasts provide alternative listening content.  Smart speakers (think Alexa, Google Home, or Siri) are now in 20 million Americans in live in homes, providing another channel for podcasts.
  2.   Builds community. Engaging employees who work at remote locations or in non-desk roles is always a challenge. So is communicating across global time zones.  Podcasts are a viable alternative. It’s like being in a conversation, as if the speaker is talking directly to you.  There’s an intimacy that can’t be delivered in a company newsletter.
  3.   Shows your company leaders are human. Your CEO may be smart, but would you like to have a beer with him or her?  Effective leaders know the value of storytelling and conversation.  A series of podcasts with the senior leadership team will give employees insight into the personalities that lead the business and where the company is going.  It can help align people around  your business priorities.

* Source:  2017 Infinite Dial Study, Edison Research