In March of 2015, the EEOC launched a special task force to look at the issue of harassment in the workplace. After more than a year of study, they’ve recently released their recommendations. Steve Paskoff, CEO and President, and Tucker Miller, VP of Client Consulting of ELI sat down with host Paula Garlen to discuss the report and offer their insight into the recommendations.
What did research conclude?
Workplace harassment is alarmingly under-reported. The highest estimate of reported events is 15%, so when you consider the prevalence of charges, it gives you a sense of the problem. The more telling issue is the number of people who are not speaking up and the effect in the workplace overall.
The report identifies a strong business case for preventing harassment, including reputational damage, profitability, morale, employee engagement, and any other areas that have a business impact. It also clearly points to the top of the organization as the starting point for change. New approaches to training was a large part of the recommendations, as was exploring different topics for delivery.
Essentially, the EEOC report supports the beliefs and the approach that ELI has championed for years. “It was exciting to see that the Commission found the same things when they assessed what was needed to reboot harassment prevention efforts,” said Paskoff.
What needs to be rebooted?
The report calls for a greater sense of urgency. Time and resources need to be allocated to address and resolve problems, making it a priority among leaders. Leaders need to model the values and demonstrate the behaviors that are acceptable and hold people accountable—including correcting “superstar” harassers.
Accountability is not just about correcting inappropriate behavior. It’s also about acknowledging the successes that you have. “We need to think as leaders how to reward and recognize people who are modeling your values in a really positive way,” said Miller.
The major disconnect is that we are all struggling with accountability. Are we doing it consistently? This is an opportunity for us to really think about how we are communicating and setting those standards.
The task force provided clear guidelines that address the kind of training that will change behavior and attitudes. It discusses how to train more effectively in terms of engaging people to think and address behavior in a more holistic, cultural way.
One delivery method the commission highly recommended was face-to-face training. They advocate having an expert who is adept in facilitating conversations in an environment where employees can exchange ideas and talk amongst each other. “One of the powerful things is that you’re learning situationally so that it mirrors what you’re experiencing on the job,” Miller commented.
There is clear value in the application that’s recognized and advocated by the EEOC. Yes, there are business challenges getting into the classroom, but this can be an opportunity for blended learning that may start with an e-learning event continue with a live classroom event and maybe a virtual platform delivery for reinforcement.
In terms of training topics, The EEOC advocates not just talking about rules, but civility, too. What does respect, integrity, honesty look like in the workplace and what does that look like from the perspective of your culture and your business? Spend time on the additional details that expand on what people’s values are and the ways to behave that align with those values as they relate to our culture.
Bystander training is a specific area that the EEOC mentions in its report. It is derived from the It’s On Us program seen on college campuses designed to help to prevent sexual assault and is based on the idea that bystanders must intervene. When a person speaks up on behalf of someone else, they are demonstrating the cultural norm, what we do and do not accept.
The EEOC report provided a wealth of valuable information and guidance on rebooting harassment training. From ELI’s standpoint, the EEOC recommendations are incredibly encouraging and validating as they align so well with the training methodology ELI has promoted for years. The overall conclusion is that harassment training is only effective when it changes behavior and to do that there needs to be a shift in culture that is fully supported by leadership. Training should be designed to build a healthy, more inclusive workplace that benefits both the company and its employees.
Want to learn more about the EEOC report and the Reboot Your Harassment Training webcast? Click here to view an on-demand recording of the event.