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.
It’s 30 seconds of sheer torment for a good cause that went viral. I personally know at least 20 people who took the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. And I watched every one of their videos on FaceBook. Every one of them.
Neighbors, friends, family. Each video had its own personality, its own setting, its own rules. No professionally developed script, no fancy camera work, no sizzle reel. Just a bucket of ice, a cell phone camera, and a willing participant.
As of September 22nd, the ALS Foundation reported receiving $115 million for the cause as a result of the challenge, with literally millions of people participating.
The shocking part of this phenomenon is that so many people wanted to dump an ice bucket over their heads. Imagine harnessing the same kind of energy to rally employees around a good cause! Picking a cause that’s worthwhile and challenging employees to a fun, easy activity is a great (and inexpensive!) opportunity to bring the personality and culture of your business to life and support teamwork.
So why was the Ice Bucket Challenge a game so many wanted to be part of?
In a recent Forbes article about the science behind the success of the challenge, contributor Rick Smith identified three traits that make ideas go viral:
“…Big ideas get noticed; Selfless ideas inspire action; Simple ideas write us into the story. Understand how to make your ideas big, selfless and simple and you will be able to control growth.”
Big. In a culture of media and information overload, only the really big (ubiquitous) ideas gain any traction. Because there was a feel that everyone everywhere was watching someone dump an ice bucket over his head, a sense of shared experience grew up. Ask yourself how you can use your communications channels in creative ways to pump up enthusiasm and get everyone in on the game.
Selfless. Empathy stirs us to action when we see someone else doing something selfless. And there may be more selfish motives as well. Ever heard of “the audience effect?” That’s what neuro-scientists call that urge to donate or help out when someone else is looking. That’s why video and images of team members taking your challenge on social media, in your newsletter, on your message boards, are so important to getting everyone involved.
Simple. Asking people to do something that’s not too complicated increases participation. Simplicity also gives everyone the opportunity to make the activity their own and be creative if they want to be.
You may already have some great ideas for a cause-worthy employee challenge running around in your head. Here are some (maybe a little of corny) ideas to bounce off of:
A Throw Back Thursday contest where employees donate when they post their pics to the company intranet.
How about prizes for the biggest ‘80s hair or the widest bell-bottoms?
Everyone loves a most beautiful baby contest particularly when team members supply their own baby pictures.
You can probably think of a lot of ideas more relevant to your culture. Give us a buzz at Insight! We’d love to hear what you think and help you execute your big idea to boost employee engagement!
I recently participated in a panel discussion for business owners and entrepreneurs hosted by the University of Georgia’s Entrepreneurship Program. Our businesses varied, from retail and professional services to banking and healthcare. No two businesses were alike.
Here’s the part that interested me the most: When asked to share their most challenging business issue, it wasn’t business growth, technology costs or the pace of change that drove the conversation. It was people. Nearly every business owner identified people issues as their number one challenge.
They talked about the lack of buy-in for programs and systems. They talked about hiring the right people for the job, and then losing them once they were fully trained. They talked about how difficult it is to motivate front line employees.
Employee engagement is vital whether you run billion dollar business or a mom and pop shop. Your employees are the face of your business to customers. To win their hearts and minds is no small achievement, but it can be done without throwing money at the problem.
A recent Gallup Survey, The State of the American Workplace 2013, states that 70% of American workers are “actively disengaged” and not working to their full potential. Those with the lowest engagement in any occupation are service employees who are on the front line serving customers.
What can we all do to build engagement? Few of us can offer the rich perks offered by Google (like free food, haircuts and fitness training), but there are lots of ways to build pride and engagement. Here are just a few low cost, but effective opportunities:
Hire the right managers. You can talk about how much you love your employees and what a great culture you’re building but your managers must deliver that every day. If they don’t walk the talk, credibility is lost. My favorite former boss used to say great leaders have a balance of skills and style and both are equally important. Don’t hire an individual who is technically superior but can’t motivate and connect with their team. That type of person will drive off your best people.
Say thank you. It doesn’t cost anything to say thank you. Why don’t business leaders say it more often? Recently a business owner told me he often sent thank you notes to clients, but it hadn’t occurred to him to send them to his team. Try it. It works.
Tap into the power of philanthropy. People feel good about helping others. Find a charity that is a good fit with your business and your people will take it from there. Their creativity will amaze you. There are 1.3 million charities in America, and every community has a public school that needs volunteers. Better yet, ask your people what they would like to support. Set up a volunteer work day or fundraiser and see what a meaningful impact it has on your people.
Ask for feedback. Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, built his brand on four little words, “How am I doing?” Be sure you have a feedback channel for bottom-to-top, instead of top-to-bottom communication. Whether it’s as simple as regularly scheduled staff meetings or a direct email box for ideas and questions, set up a way for employees to interact with management. Then take action. There’s nothing more discouraging than to share your ideas and issues and nothing changes.
Promote healthy lifestyles. Rising healthcare costs are a critical issue for all of us. You can show employees you care by supporting wellness activities. Start with healthier snacks in the break rooms and vending machines. Form an employee Wellness Committee. Celebrate with those who meet their wellness goals and encourage everyone to get healthier.
What do you think of when you hear the word “corporate?” Tailored suits, boxy skyscrapers, and leather briefcases are a few things that come to mind for most. That conception is often deceiving.
Corporate workplaces can be vibrant and cultured spaces. If you need proof, find photos of the corporate offices for companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft.
And that’s where Instagram comes in. The app gives us a medium to share our company’s core values in a way that’s fun, engaging, and human. Obviously we don’t all have the resources to spend lavishly on our office buildings like the “giants.” We can’t Instagram a slide in our office that goes from the HR break room to Reception. However, we can Instagram the delight on a colleague’s face after he or she acquires new business with a client.
The role of Instagram isn’t to show off, per se, but to share what your company is all about. When we think of it as a “tool,” it’s easy to be too strict with its usage. Go ahead, take that photo of some colleagues at a sporting event. Instagram the great holiday treats a client dropped off for you in the break room. Just please don’t Instagram your lunch.
I often hear conversations held by Gen X’ers or older about how to engage the Millenials. Well, as someone who is right on the edge of their generational borderline, I can say this: They’re more willing to support a company that they feel shares a similar set of values. Whether those values be social, moral or political, Instagram offers a way to share who you are.