Tips on Creating a Respectful Workplace—and Maintaining It
Over the past few years, we've seen the national conversation about diversity change as people respond to movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. People increasingly expect their employers to support DE&I initiatives and support an inclusive workplace. One survey found that up to 86% of candidates are more likely to choose an employer that supports diversity.
While most companies have a diversity equity and inclusion policy in place, not every office is welcoming to women and minorities. This presents a real challenge for employers. How do you go about creating a respectful workplace? And how do you keep diversity alive on your team?
The workforce is changing
Until surprisingly recently, most teams were homogenous. For example, companies might have a team of all-female typists or a team of all-male executives.
These days, there's vastly more diversity at every level of every organization. It's no longer possible to hear someone's job title and guess their race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other protected characteristics.
Unfortunately, this transition hasn't always been easy. Even today, there are still problems of harassment and bullying occurring in the workplace, as well as structural issues, such as favouritism in the promotion process.
Much as we'd like to, we can't think of discrimination as something in the past. The first step in creating a respectful workplace is to admit: these problems still exist. And it's the job of leadership to do something about them.
Leaders can help in creating a respectful workplace
What can you do about employees who do not behave according to your principles of diversity, inclusion and equity?
As leaders of organizations, we need to help our employees overcome any stereotypes or biases they may have developed during their career. Often, this is a training issue that you can tackle with the right kind of support and education.
It's also important to ensure that the leaders themselves have adequate training in DE&I issues. For example, it's a good idea to provide managers with sexual harassment prevention training, which helps them directly address any issues that arise on their team. With this kind of training, they can also speak to their team from an informed position about harassment policies.
In some instances, you may be obliged to provide this kind of respectful workplace training. Government contractors fall under the OFCCP’s Sex Discrimination Guidelines which are in fact, widely held as requirements. Ideally, the managers would have a different level of training than the individual contributors in your organization. This helps to ensure the message is targeted to the audience, thus increasing the likelihood of better information exchange.
Creating a Respectful Workplace—
and Maintaining it
We have noticed more recently that recent events such as #MeToo are triggering leaders to take action to address sexual harassment prevention.
Our increase in requests from organizations wanting to address these changes has significantly increased. And while we advise organizations to conduct sexual harassment training annually, it's never too late to begin.
At Helios, we call our training “Creating and Maintaining a Respectful Workplace”. This training is best done in-person and helps participants learn about and respect each other’s differences and also teaches appropriate ways to interact in the workplace.
The training is interactive, using real-life experiences to help guide the messages delivered. In addition to in-person training, Helios has a blended approach that includes online and mobile-based training.
This helps to solve the challenges of training remote workers and ensuring they get the same experience as those trained in person. Our training programs and approaches are tailored to take into consideration the specific culture of the organization we are working with.
Even though training on sexual harassment prevention and creating a respectful workplace may not be required, it’s a great idea, because:
- It’s the right thing to do
- It puts your brand in a good light with the outside world
- It shows a good faith effort on your part to ensure your employees and managers are properly equipped to handle anything that comes their way.
Key strategic areas of importance to establish in your culture:
- Training and awareness are imperative. Ensuring employees and managers are clear about what is acceptable in the workplace, and what is not is essential.
- Consistent, timely feedback and course corrections are needed. When you learn that an employee’s behavior is causing offense, you need to take immediate action with that employee. Swift feedback gives the employee a chance to avoid causing any further frictions with their colleagues, and that's in everyone's best interest.
- Equally important is how management models behavior. Leaders set the standard for the organization, so it's important that they show their commitment to creating a respectful workplace. By maintaining professional standards in the office, an organization limits its chances of creating an unacceptable workplace setting.
- Establishing clear procedures for reporting these types of behavior is critical to ensuring any areas that may arise are handled swiftly, fairly and firmly.
I'm not saying it's easy, it can be a challenge, however with a strong strategy and commitment to standards, an organization can build the ideal culture for productivity and peace of mind in the office!
Need some help implementing DE&I policy? Book a no-obligation consultation call with a Helios HR expert and lets talk about how you can create a respectful workplace.