Written by guest blogger: Lorrie Howard of Horizon Point Consulting
I recently attended an HR luncheon where a good question was raised. How can HR ensure that leadership understands the importance of and supports anti-harassment policies?
Many organizations focus their anti-harassment efforts on minimizing legal liability and not on minimizing inappropriate behavior within their organization. Their training consists of annual anti-harassment training, usually in the form of a bland training video that most employees sit through, but don’t pay attention to. In order for an anti-harassment training program to be effective, it must focus on minimizing the behavior and should include a few key components:
- The training must be relevant- Just because it’s a serious topic doesn’t mean it must be a boring topic. Make the training interactive and interesting. I briefly worked as a sexual harassment trainer for a company that designed their training in the form of a game (think Jeopardy). It kept the participants engaged, made them think, and they enjoyed the training. Think of ways to keep your audience actively engaged. The more engaged you can keep them, the more information they will take away from the training.
- Don’t just check the box- many organizations conduct annual training just to mark it off their To Do List. Harassment training should be a year-round endeavor. In addition to your annual mandatory training, schedule quarterly events, whether those are trainings, brown bag lunches with speakers, articles in the company newsletter, or some other form of communication. Provide training to your leadership on their roles and responsibilities. Make sure they understand the importance of taking claims seriously and involving HR in those investigations. Make sure they understand the policy and how to enforce it. Consider having an employment attorney come and speak with leadership. Do they know that not only can the organization be named in a lawsuit, but individuals can be named as well in some cases?
- Back up what you say- review your anti-harassment policy. Make sure it is well written and details confidentiality (to the extent possible), your investigation process, and disciplinary process. Also review your policy on anti-retaliation. You want your employees to know that if they come to you with a claim, they can do so without fear of retaliation, but also that if they make false claims, there will be consequences for that. But remember, your policy means nothing if you don’t back it up with actions. If you have an employee file a claim, follow through with an investigation and appropriate action. If you don’t, your organization will quickly get a reputation for not taking such claims seriously. And make sure your leadership and your employees know these policies. Be sure you’re reviewing them during new hire orientations and touch on them again during your annual training.
Managing harassment claims is never easy. Often times managers minimize the seriousness of claims or ignore claims altogether because they don’t know how to handle claims, they are uncomfortable handling claims, or they themselves don’t see the actions as a serious problem. Developing a strong partnership with your leadership team is key to successfully handling harassment claims and ensuring that your organization is able to minimize inappropriate workplace behaviors. And as always, be sure that all claims and investigations of harassment are well documented.
How successful is your organization’s anti-harassment program?