In the last few months, we have become familiar with a new routine: a high-profile executive is accused of sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct, resulting in bombshell headlines, followed by “me too” allegations. Now more than ever, boards of directors and business leaders are looking for assurances that their company is fostering a safe and inclusive work environment that reflects a culture of respect for all employees. The following are actions that leaders can take to ensure a safe and inclusive work environment that promotes a positive corporate culture.
POLICY & COMPLAINT PROCEDURES: Review written policies related to workplace behavior, including policies addressing harassment, complaint procedures, and investigation procedures. Make sure that policies are up-to-date and they are effectively communicated to all employees. Consider an anonymous hotline or ombudsperson in addition to other internal reporting mechanisms to ensure that employees feel safe in reporting misconduct.
TRAINING: Workplace harassment and diversity training at all levels is imperative to ensuring that all employees know the “ground rules” and to creating a positive corporate culture. Additionally, regular training is evidence in the event of a lawsuit that an employer took reasonable steps to prevent harassment in the first place.
INVESTIGATIONS & REMEDIAL MEASURES: Ensure that the company has a process in place to quickly respond to and fully investigate all complaints of harassment or sexual misconduct. Consider using independent counsel to investigate complaints to provide an objective third party review of the facts and to keep an investigation moving forward on a timely basis.
FOCUS ON CORPORATE CULTURE: Consider bringing in an expert to conduct a cultural or climate assessment. The goal of this assessment is to discover whether there are underlying cultural issues that need to be addressed by the company.
The costs of making a proactive investment in your corporate culture now is far less than loss of reputation, loss of talent, potential loss of investors, and the cost of sexual harassment litigation.
Contact Kim Love, Mary Lohrke, Tom Hillis, Jim Love, Shannon Wheeler, Miles McFadden, or Jessica Ridenour if you would like assistance implementing a cultural assessment for your company.