Of the nearly 1,000 people who participated, 89 percent agreed with the following statement: “I anticipate that preventing sexual harassment will become a greater concern of company leadership in 2018, given the recent wave of high-profile cases in the news.”
Responses were aligned across various demographics, including age, gender, and job function. Among respondents 61+ years of age and for people from large for-profit corporations with 20,000+ employees, a full 94 percent agreed that sexual harassment will become a greater priority in the coming year.
As a follow-up question, participants were asked whether they agreed with this statement: “I believe that there is room for improvement at my organization for minimizing sexual harassment in the workplace.”
In aggregate, 58 percent of participants agreed, but within these responses, there were some interesting demographic splits. For example, only 53 percent of men felt there was room for improvement, in comparison with 60 percent of women. Among respondents 51-60 years of age, only 51 percent agreed, compared to 64 percent of respondents 31-40 years of age.
“Judging by the tremendous response we had on this pulse, sexual harassment in the workplace is an issue of keen importance – not only for HR, but for people of all job functions,” says Greg Morton, CEO, NCHRA. “Responses point to the need for leaders to own this issue and be held accountable or, as recent events indicate, suffer damage to their brand and bottom line.”
Morton says the high-profile cases dominating the news cycle are “just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Sexual harassment is an unseen risk at many organizations, and it’s been festering for quite some time,” he adds. “There needs to be a seismic shift in the way that this type of behavior is dealt with going forward.”
The survey also posed the open-ended question, “What is the single most important thing HR can do to eradicate sexual harassment, and why do you feel this would help?” Crowdsourced responses were distilled into a ranked list. The top five answers, as prioritized by the participants, were:
- “In any work environment, taking claims of sexual harassment seriously and educating employees on what is inappropriate behavior and why it is inappropriate. Creating a work environment where employees feel supported and mutual respect is not only expected, but rewarded.”
- “Hold leaders accountable to the policies, standards, and laws, no matter the level of the perpetrator.”
- “Gain top-level support for this initiative. It needs to be the CEO and management team of the company who really own this issue, live up to it, and demand that the organization meet standards that are set. In other words, it’s got to be a lot more than lip service or a program that HR rolls out. It has to be bona fide and from the top.”
- “Getting CEO and leadership committed to zero tolerance to sexual harassment. Unless the company’s culture changes from the top, we won’t be able to wipe out sexual harassment at work.”
- “Sexual harassment is not an issue for HR to solve on its own, it’s a problem that must be acknowledged and addressed by the entire organization. In order to really eliminate sexual harassment, everyone needs to take accountability for speaking up and addressing problems at the moment they occur, before it turns into a bigger problem.”
From these responses, it’s clear that sexual harassment is an important topic that elicits strong opinions from everyone in the workforce. In order to address topics of core importance like this one, organizations need to create forums for authentic communication. Providing people with a safe, open network in which to share their opinions anonymously is a great way to open up a two-way dialogue and create a foundation of mutual respect and trust.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Waggl blog.
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