Strategies for building an inclusive company culture and preventing workplace harassment
By Andrew Rawson, co-founder and chief learning officer of Traliant
Just as creating healthier menus is increasingly important for the catering and event industry, so is creating a healthy, harassment-free workplace culture. In the #MeToo era, organizations across industries realize the consequences of letting bad behavior go unchecked. Sexual harassment claims can result in costly lawsuits and reputational damage, which can negatively affect morale, productivity, recruitment and retention, customer loyalty and the bottom line.
Preventing workplace harassment and building a respectful, inclusive culture requires a holistic approach that includes the following steps:
1. Setting the right tone from the top
Employees look to their leaders to set the right tone, so it’s critical that owners and management show their commitment to a healthy workplace culture in their words and actions. Leading by example reinforces the message that even though the work environment often involves long hours and high stress, everyone is expected to uphold high standards of behavior and accountability.
2. Developing an anti-harassment policy
A written anti-harassment policy should communicate (in clear language) what constitutes harassment, and provide examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. The policy should also emphasize that rules apply to everyone, wherever they are located—in the office, kitchen or on location—and the consequences of misconduct.
3. Establishing an internal complaint process
Along with an anti-harassment policy, implementing a formal complaint process is another best practice for preventing harassment, signaling the organization takes complaints seriously. Whether the reporting options include an employee hotline or a designated HR manager or supervisor, the complaint process should be easy and convenient for employees. Managers who are responsible for receiving, investigating and resolving complaints should be trained separately on their specific responsibilities.
4. Conducting regular training tailored to the foodservice industry
Providing all employees with regular, interactive training that is relevant to their industry and work environment is a cornerstone of an effective harassment prevention program. In the wake of #MeToo, a growing number of states now require employers to train their employees and managers on sexual harassment prevention. For employers in New York state, the deadline was Oct. 9, 2019, to train all employees (including part-time, temporary and seasonal workers), and then retrain them on an annual basis.
California employers with five or more employees have until Jan. 1, 2021, to provide at least two hours of interactive training on sexual harassment prevention to supervisors and at least one hour of interactive training to nonsupervisory employees, and then retrain every two years. Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware and Maine also have sexual harassment training requirements—with more states expected. Organizations would be wise to consult with a compliance training provider to help them navigate through the evolving requirements and fast-approaching deadlines.
5. Training employees on bystander intervention
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other workplace experts consider bystander intervention training to be one of the most effective ways to empower employees to stop harassment and prevent future incidents. Training teaches different techniques that bystanders can use to disrupt, confront, support and report harassing behaviors and diffuse potentially harmful situations. Bystander intervention training also helps instill a feeling among targets, witnesses and allies that “we’re in this together.”
6. Promoting diversity and inclusion
In today’s diverse business environment, employees need to be able to effectively work with people from a wide variety of cultures, backgrounds, races, ages, religions and perspectives. Diversity training can help employees and managers understand the benefits of diversity and inclusion, recognize and manage their biases, and apply the principles of inclusive thinking in their interactions with co-workers, clients, guests, vendors and others.
Successful organizations understand the importance of creating and maintaining a respectful, inclusive workplace, and adopting best practices that empower employees with the knowledge and tools they need to recognize, address and prevent all forms of harassment. •
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew Rawson is the co-founder and chief learning officer of Traliant (traliant.com), an award-winning provider of online sexual harassment training.