The #MeToo movement is impelling organizations to rethink and revamp their approach to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Left unchecked, incidents of sexual harassment—and all forms of harassment and discrimination—undermine workplace culture, and can negatively affect recruitment and retention, company reputation and the bottom line.
Given that professionals in the meetings and events industry can spend almost as much time at on-site locations as they do in the office, it’s never been more important to ensure that employees understand their responsibility to prevent sexual harassment.
Here are five ways that you can help your organization build a more respectful, harassment-free workplace culture:
1. Set a strong tone from the top.
Employees look to their CEO and senior executives to lead by example, so it’s critical that leaders reflect their personal commitment to a harassment-free environment in their behavior and interactions.
2. Develop an anti-harassment policy.
Creating a written anti-harassment policy is an important way to communicate to employees that harassment and discrimination is unacceptable and illegal. The policy should make it clear that rules apply to everyone and everywhere—whether individuals are in the office or in a convention center, conference hall or hotel ballroom. It’s also a good idea to include the anti-harassment policy in your organization’s written code of conduct and employee handbook.
3. Implement an internal complaint process.
Too often incidents of harassment go unreported, which can perpetuate a toxic environment and lead to lower morale and productivity, employee health issues and other negative consequences. Implementing a formal complaint process for employees to report sexual harassment and other misconduct is another important way to demonstrate a strong commitment to a harassment-free workplace. Reporting complaints—whether through a hotline, dedicated email or designated manager—should be easy and convenient for employees.
4. Conduct regular, interactive training.
Making sexual harassment prevention training a priority and requiring that all employees participate on a regular basis is another key way to reduce the risk of workplace harassment and foster a positive culture. New York State, New York City and California are among the states and municipalities that recently passed laws requiring employers to train all employees annually on sexual harassment prevention. When training is interactive and relevant to your employees and industry, it can be a powerful tool for raising awareness of what harassment is and the various forms it can take. And rather than focus on laws and legal jargon, sexual harassment training should motivate positive behaviors and attitudes.
5. Promote diversity and inclusion.
Promoting diversity and inclusion has become increasing important in preventing harassment and discrimination. A lack of diversity and inclusion is one of the top risk factors for workplace harassment, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s task force on workplace harassment. However, welcoming people with different backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, genders, ages and abilities is not enough. For diverse environments to be successful, there must also be inclusion—including individuals from diverse backgrounds in your organization’s operations and leadership.
As part of a holistic approach to preventing workplace harassment and discrimination, these five ways can help the meetings and events industry become a leader in addressing this pervasive problem, and educating employees on what they can do to create a respectful, harassment-free culture where everyone feels they belong.
Jeffrey Frankel is the Vice President of Marketing for Traliant. The company is transforming diversity training from boring to brilliant. Traliant creates online, interactive training experiences that motivate employees to act ethically, to speak up and prevent harassment and discrimination and help promote positive, respectful workplaces.