September 30, 2019

Spotlight #002: An Interview with Michelle Disson, Title IX and ADA Coordinator, Florida Polytechnic University

At a small, fresh institution like Florida Polytechnic University — which opened for instruction in 2014 and has fewer than 2,000 students, faculty and staff — establishing a campus culture that upholds Title IX protections, along with other equity missions, is crucial. Michelle Disson serves as Florida Polytechnic’s Title IX and ADA Coordinator. When it comes to Title IX, Disson said she is “a party of one.”

“I do everything from initial intake at this moment, I do investigations, I do the training,” Disson said, “and I oversee the programming as well.”

With ADA compliance, Disson oversees other campus offices the Office of Disability Services, facilities and human resources to ensure the appropriate policies and procedures are followed. The intersection of Title IX and ADA compliance is centered on giving students equitable experiences.

“We want to make sure that students can continue their educational journey and have options and resources,” Disson said. “With the ADA, you want to make sure that everyone’s treated fairly and has an equal opportunity to continue their education and experience programs and activities within the university.”

Those options and resources, Disson said, present themselves through various student-life-centric offices like Florida Polytechnic’s Academic Success Center, Counseling Services and CARE Services, which handles student health and wellness along with crisis and safety concerns.

Those campus resources are supplemented with online information about Title IX and a reporting tool available on Florida Polytechnic’s website.

Florida Polytechnic provides Title IX education and training, Disson said, for students, faculty and staff. Each year, Florida Polytechnic employees complete Title IX training through Get Inclusive. New employees also receive training in their new hire orientation as well.

“For students, we are involved in orientation,” she said. “All of the new students who attend orientation get the training … They are provided, from Get Inclusive, Voices for Change. So, all students have to complete Voices for Change before they’re allowed to register for the following semester.”

In addition to the student body’s education through Voices for Change, Disson provides open sessions for faculty to learn more about Title IX obligations and programming for students on topics like healthy relationships, sex education, sexual violence prevention and intimate partner violence prevention.

With Get Inclusive, Disson said they are the only system she has implemented that receives positive feedback.

“Most people understand that, yeah, I have to do this every year, especially the employees,” Disson said. “But I typically hear, ‘This was horrible, this takes so much time, I didn’t really get anything out of it.’ With Get Inclusive, I have found more people recognizing … it got the point across, and ‘Hey, I’m remembering now I need to do this. I have this exact scenario.’”

Disson added that she appreciates the types of questions that are asked in the training modules. Evaluating answers to open-ended prompts allows her to identify what is important to students and learn more about them.

“I was very hesitant in the beginning of my time with Get Inclusive of the many open-ended questions,” she said. “I have found that has been almost invaluable when I go through them, just even [to] get a sense of what is the tone … that has been very helpful with students. I learned so much about our student population that you wouldn’t typically get from a first-year experience survey.”

Moving forward, Disson said Florida Polytechnic hits a lot of aspects in regard to Title IX compliance and education, with Get Inclusive in that mixture of resources. A goal she identified: continuing to get information out to students and remind faculty about reporting options. Progressing this outreach harkens back to the inherent values of Title IX and ADA.

“It is important to provide an equitable experience for students,” Disson said.

September 11, 2019

Transform your corporate culture with compliance training

Why is building a culture of tolerance and respect so important for your business? Employees have always been self-aware of their differences. This is just human nature. It takes a higher level of thought to recognize similarities, which starts with having respect for others. At the next juncture, diversity should be celebrated and this is the experience of full inclusion. It matters to all businesses that employees are working together in an environment where differences are put aside. The focus then is on each individual’s value and what they bring to the table. And this value is everything to the success of your business. 

Business benefits of tolerance and respect

Employee tolerance and respect are essential parts of working towards common goals, and using creative solutions to a wide range of workplace problems. This attitude fosters collaboration, innovation, and positive behaviors. In contrast, not having a culture of tolerance and respect can quickly thwart team and organization progress, while encouraging a breeding ground for employee conflicts, misunderstandings, and unethical behavior. 

From a cultural standpoint, when employees respect one another, they also see the unique value and skills that each person on the team has. This makes it far more productive because people are regarded as experts and can turn to one another to complete tasks and solve problems. This has the effect of creating more positive relationships with each other and improves the employee experience. 

In a labor market where great talent is hard to find, a culture of diversity and inclusion can support recruitment and retention efforts. Job seekers evaluate this when they are seeking a new opportunity, particularly if it is a value they hold dear. A Glassdoor survey discovered that two-thirds of active and passive candidates said that when evaluating companies and job offers, a diverse workforce is an important factor. Another revealing fact from this survey: employees think that diversity should be demonstrated at the top of the organization, as 41 percent surveyed did not think their company had a diverse enough executive team.

This brings us to the next point - how should leaders set the example of diversity and inclusion? 

Creating a culture of tolerance and respect from the top 

It’s often been thought that compliance training is a human resource issue. If employees are assembled into diverse teams, they are expected to find a way to co-exist and learn to relate to each other. This isn’t the case. The values of tolerance and respect must come from the top down so that employees know what the company stands for. Examine your current compliance training measures to see if there are guidelines for the executive team, the directors, and other higher-ups. 

Leaders can send a clear message about the company’s stance on diversity and inclusion by establishing them as core values of the organization. They should also be participating in corporate compliance training along with all other employees. Leaders can also be covering these matters as part of their own professional development activities, from the standpoint of building a business that promotes these ideals. Advanced studies in this area are recommended. Communicate respect for diversity at every opportunity, to employees, colleagues, and customers. 

Future leadership challenges 

Diversity and inclusion will continually be disrupted by the future of work. According to Bernard Coleman, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Uber, there are four main factors that leaders should prepare for. 

  1. Artificial Intelligence - Already impacting the way humans interact with each other, AI has been considered to be an advantage in terms of reducing bias in the workplace. However, AI does not have the ability to be culturally sensitive, nor can it control output if the input isn’t carefully monitored. 
  2. Employee Activism - There has been a marked increase in the number of social issues that have become movements due to social media. Employees taking their own personal stance on issues should be serious, but not at the expense of others. Leaders should promote corporate values and stay out of activism that can reduce tolerance and divide employees. 
  3. Remote Workforce - Business leaders require a new mindset as a result of a rapidly increasing remote workforce. This is a time to step up diversity and inclusion education and also put policies in place to protect employees from being singled out or discriminated against. So too compliance training needs to be accessible by all employees regardless of where they work.
  4. Demographic Adaptability - As the market demographics change, leaders will need to be prepared to work with new technology, new ideas, and a whole new set of behaviors coming from the next generation. Having a strong foundation of tolerance and respect for others will remain vital as each organization adapts to a new world.

September 11, 2019

How to select a compliance training provider

Choosing the 'right' compliance training provider is a task requiring considerable diligence. If not done right, your organization could end up with compliance gaps requiring costly remediation. On the other hand, if done right, it can ensure that your organization is taking steps to educate employees about important ethical matters like Harassment and Unlawful Prevention". So too, it ensures that employees know what is expected of them, aligns behaviors with corporate values, and helps to create positive changes in the organization. 

For several years, compliance training has been shifting away from traditional in-classroom methods to e-learning and virtual environments. The Brandon Hall Group’s Compliance Training Study  uncovered the trends around this movement. As many as 27 percent of companies offer compliance training on a monthly basis, which shows that this is a critical area that needs a reliable long-term solution. 

4 Traits of an Outstanding Compliance Training Provider

With so many choices in training solutions out there, how can you select the best compliance training provider for your organization? Here are some key attributes to consider

A compliance training provider should be able to leverage your existing investment in technology, including any Learning Management System you currently have in place. Integrate with what you have if possible. 

Get the best provider for specific modules instead of one-size fits all. While it is convenient to go with one training vendor, it is incredibly difficult for a vendor to do a good job across all the learning topics. So be prepared to assemble a best-of-breed portfolio.

Ease of administering the program. As you hire and terminate employees, you will need to make sure you are assigning the training and there is automated follow-ups to those who do not complete it. You’ll also need to ensure terminated/retired employees are taken out of this list. The administration should be easy, demand to test-drive how this works before selecting a vendor. You could inherit a lot of administrative burdens if you do not do proper diligence on ease of administration. 

Measure the impact of training and performance. Make sure that the training modules have a way to measure the impact of what participants are learning. Quizzes, assessments and surveys are a way to accomplish this. But also tap into performance reviews as an indicator that the training is having a real impact on employee values and behaviors. 

September 11, 2019

Elements of an Effective Compliance Training Program

The biggest concern that most human resource leaders have when it comes to compliance training is whether or not it’s changing behaviors in the organization. According to an Ethics Compliance Initiatives (ECI) EthicsStat report from December 2018, one in four employees is reluctant to report misconduct when they observe it. More than half (58%) don’t believe that corrective action will be taken by management. If employees don’t have confidence that the compliance program is effective, how can you be sure that you are offering the best possible training in this area?

What does your compliance training need to be effective?

A compliance training program should include foundational elements in order to meet the objectives of an organization. And these objectives must be crystal clear. All objectives need to cover the questions you have listed, and if objectives are not clear then the organization needs to undertake a diagnostic to see where they need to move the needle. 

Focusing only on compliance is a lost opportunity to have a meaningful impact in helping prepare the resilience your organization needs. Compliance is more a part of the core of your business, reflected in the norms and behaviors of your employees, instead of a top-down checkbox approach. A well-designed workplace compliance training addresses these matters, and then some. 

Versatile as the organization changes

Compliance programs often come in one of two choices, each of which needs to be carefully evaluated for suitability.  

Custom training, while it can provide an exact fit for your organization, it’s very expensive and time-consuming to prepare, especially when the laws change so frequently, or when you need to refresh the training. This can only work if you are a multi-billion dollar revenue organization with a large dedicated training production capability

Off-the-shelf training is a great option for any size organization. This type of training offers a close enough fit, especially if it allows for the integration of branding and corporate policies. Our off-the-shelf compliance training product even includes an introductory message from your company leadership to set the stage. If there are changes needed, they can be done quickly and inexpensively. Updates are completed automatically so there’s no need to worry about law changes. 

Convenience and accessibility

In an age where many more employees are turning to mobile devices and organizations are hiring more remote employees, the cloud-based employee training option is more accessible. A compliance training product should include a simple and intuitive design. There is also the added convenience of adding new compliance training and updating all employees at once. 

Addressing timely and real compliance  

As mentioned above, one of the issues with getting employees to participate and take compliance training seriously is for employees to believe it is important to all. Making the training relevant to their experience, including addressing real compliance issues, can help make this happen. 

Self-paced to increase participation

One of the most frequent objections that leaders hear when it comes to compliance training is that people don’t have time to complete it. Employees are too busy on work projects. An effective compliance training program is designed to be self-paced so that employees can take at their convenience, picking back up where they’ve left off. This makes learning more personal and helps employees to reflect on their own behaviors and values. 

Administrative Ease

Having access to an easy-to-use administrative panel in your learning management system can make a huge difference. This makes it more efficient to add courses, set up users, track user progress, and run reports. Look for built-in support and communication features. The Learning Management system should also be configurable to send out automated reminders to those who have not completed the training. It should track communications as well as participant interactions, e.g. when they accessed the module, when did they complete, how much remains, etc.

Automated Tracking to substantiate participation 

Compliance training often requires being able to prove that employees have participated in and completed the training modules. A report feature is suitable, but a digital completion certificate can become part of the employee’s record. 

Cost-effective and sustainable

A cloud-based compliance training program has the advantage of being more cost-effective, which means it is more sustainable for the growing business. It can be cost prohibitive to have an entire learning management system built, but a cloud platform can be customized at a fraction of the cost. This is especially critical for a growing company.

Managers set the tone 

A great compliance training program includes plenty of support and training for managers to make sure every employee understands how to complete it. Managers can set the tone for the program and this includes expectations. This is important with many employees who work remotely or outside the standard business hours. Management can take the training modules and then promote the training to subordinates. 

By setting up a compliance training program that includes the above elements, your organization can promote the importance of participating. Employees who see management buy-in can find confidence in knowing it’s worth spending the time on. This can transform the organization. 

September 11, 2019

A More Modern Approach to Employee Compliance Training

In the last few years, we’ve seen a rise in the use of cloud technology to manage many business processes, including the shift to online training. Josh Bersin, principal founder of Bersin by Deloitte, mentioned in a recent article that modern workplace learning has become employee-centric by nature. It makes sense then that companies are moving their digital learning content out of internal learning management systems and to the cloud so that it can be responsive to the needs of today’s employee. 

At the same time, learning is rapidly heading towards always-on, curated content that is facilitated with machine-learning. Referred to as xAPI, this technology delivers complementary content to learners based on their individual learning habits and preferences. Cloud-based learning platforms connect employees and others to quality content that is available via the internet. 

Limited in its ability to adequately impact organizations, corporate training is moving to the cloud because of the potential for greater interactivity and better user experience, which has the potential to transform workplace cultures overall.

Benefit #1 - Accessible by all employees

The business world has gone mobile. According to Statista, this year the number of mobile phone users is expected to reach 4.68 billion. This indicates more employees are and will continue to seek out information on demand to complete tasks. At the same time, more employees are choosing to work remotely, with half of the U.S. workforce expected to be remote by 2020. A cloud model provides fast access to compliance training information from anywhere at any time. This makes learning accessibility much better for all. 

Benefit #2 - Underlying goals are addressed 

Human resources professionals generally have goals for employees that come about during other aspects of training. For example, teaching employees how to recognize the signs of sexual harassment also increases their awareness around interpersonal communication. Talking about diversity helps employees to recognize the value of their peers, resulting in greater respect for others’ differences. Whatever the training topic is, there are always underlying reasons that HR wants to promote it, even if it’s just to boost morale or productivity. 

Benefit #3 - Culturally reflective 

Building a strong company brand requires having an authentic culture that puts employees at the center. A business can accomplish this by establishing a culture of ongoing learning and professional development. The results of compliance training conducted by a cloud-enabled system also sets the tone for the culture -- that all employees matter in an environment of learning and collaboration. As learning becomes a deep corporate value, it’s no longer a matter of encouraging employees to participate. Instead, employees become enthusiastic consumers of learning material and this enhances their ability to be creative problem-solvers and experts in their areas of interest. 

Benefit #4 - Industry Inclusiveness

Modern compliance training is focused not only on the surface of diversity; it goes deeper into the core of what inclusiveness means to an organization’s success. We already know that diversity is good for business. McKinsey research has found that companies in the top percentile for ethnic diversity outperform their peers by 35 percent. Once everyone in the organization embraces diversity fully, inclusion happens. 

Benefit #5 - Employee Preference

The Learning in the Workplace survey conducted by Modern Workplace Learning demonstrates that learning is an aspect of the daily experience of performing work tasks. E-learning outranks classroom and conferences as a source of knowledge. Employees prefer learning that is personalized and self-directed. Technology allows for content to be delivered to employees that is relevant and useful for their job experience. 

Benefit #6 - Self-reflection 

Compliance training used to be thought of as something that needed to be delivered only once by human resources. Then it was packed away and never talked about much unless problem behavior came up. Fortunately, modern learning methods allow for ongoing dialogue around important compliance topics that shift the mindset and behaviors of employees. This gives employees an opportunity to self-reflect and determine what changes they need to make. 

Modern technology will only continue to enhance the experience of employees while giving them direct access to the content they need to succeed.

September 11, 2019

Why compliance training is more than just checking a box

Corporate compliance is something that can keep even the most seasoned leaders awake at night. Oftentimes, questions like, “Have I done enough to ensure my workplace is the best place for my employees to work?” and, “What if I have forgotten a critical area of compliance training that could put my organization at risk?” can dominate the mind. These are valid concerns, however, compliance isn’t just about checking a box. It’s about something bigger -- the future of your organization. 

According to an article in HR Dive, 2019 signals the start of placing diversity and inclusion at the forefront of organizations. The #MeToo movement, which put sexual harassment in the spotlight, and the continued push for pay equity are making it increasingly important for employers to offer structured training to address these and other workplace matters. 

Training is preventative, not reactive 

It’s important to start thinking about compliance training as a resource for preventing problems in the organization. Consider, for example, diversity and inclusion compliance training, which, when effective, raises employee awareness so that they can start to see things differently. An open mind can begin to understand the value of diversity in the workplace increases the level of respect that employees have for each other. Inclusion then becomes a more organic process that doesn’t require enforcement. 

Now, we are not deterring from the need for training, as compliance is one of those areas that require it. What we are proposing is that compliance can and should be a measure of prevention rather than a reaction to problems. 

Reducing risk by increasing awareness sensitivity 

What drives many organizational leaders to seek out compliance training is the fear that they are somehow putting the employees and the business at risk. After all, there have been too many cases where a serious claim has come up and zero compliance training was in place. Coming from a place of fear is not a good way to view compliance. 

Let’s switch this way of thinking for a second. Suppose that your company has a basic compliance program in place to address things like safety and information privacy. These are pretty much standard for all organizations. How does this training benefit your organization other than protecting you from a potential violation? Do employees benefit other than becoming more aware of their environment? It’s actually for an organization’s benefit of being able to prove compliance. 

When it comes to training for less procedural aspects of the business, like diversity and cultural tolerance, the increase in value tends to lean towards employees. They are the factors that are influential in the overall brand and culture of your business. Change this and all other matters can be managed from a place of high-level thinking. 

Importance of designing an employee compliance strategy

Compliance should not be approached in a casual unstructured way. It is far better to have a well-designed program that teaches core ideas of compliance. In diversity training, the foundation for appreciating people from all backgrounds requires a great deal of education. This is the area where ideas and attitudes can be transformed. 

Focused training on inclusion then reinforces this value by teaching employees real-world skills they can use to demonstrate respect and collaborate with others. For example, how to help employees from other backgrounds share their ideas, how to make sure everyone has a say in projects, and when to intervene if you think someone is being disrespected or left out. 

Creating a culture immune to unpleasant employee behavior

As you can surmise, compliance training in diversity and inclusion is much more than just ticking off a list somewhere to prove it’s done. It is an ongoing effort to change the corporate culture to prevent it from ever becoming prone to unpleasant and unwanted employee behaviors. 

Organizations that put effort into making diversity and inclusion meaningful to their culture actually produce an environment in which the culture can become immune to negative behaviors. It also gives the organization a better brand in the industry as people learn this is a priority. This is good for business as it attracts and helps retain talent.

September 2, 2019

Anonymous Workplace Reporting: 10 Best Practices

For harassment prevention programs to work, they must not only include a channel for anonymous reporting, but an entire culture must be built around proving to employees that management really does want them to stand up and report harassment, discrimination, and other workplace misconduct.

Here are some key best practices when it comes to anonymous workplace reporting:

1. Set the Tone at Top

Creating a culture that cherishes diversity and inclusion and does not countenance harassment and discrimination starts at the top. Leadership must set that tone that reporting wrongdoing is not just valued, but an expectation of any good employee. This can go a long way in mitigating the fear and stigma associated with reporting wrongdoing.

2. Make it Part of a Holistic System 

 An anonymous reporting system in of itself is only one part of a larger harassment prevention and compliance program. The three main pillars of any holistic anti-harassment system are measurement, prevention, and intervention. Measurement involves establishing benchmarks and then regularly continuing to take the pulse of the situation through such means as climate surveys. Prevention depends on leadership and accountability as well as training programs that may include online anti-harassment training. Proper intervention requires a procedure that is tied to a reporting and case management system and includes a way to make anonymous reports. 

3. Set Expectations

 A key best practice is making it crystal clear to employees who make a report what they can expect from the process, e.g. what the follow-up will be after they lodge a report, how the investigative process works and what they can expect at the end of it. If the employee chooses to remain anonymous, that will add challenges to the fact-finding and follow-up process that they should be made aware of.

 4. Prevent Retaliation 

Retaliation is not only real; it’s pervasive. One study found that fully three-quarters of workers suffered some form of retaliation after speaking out about their mistreatment. One way to prevent retaliation is to provide a way for employees to file a report anonymously. On top of that, a company must have a written non-retaliation policy in place that must be broadcast regularly to the staff so they are aware it is illegal to retaliate against whistleblowers.

5. Make it Multipurpose

Reporting systems that are designed to receive information about all types of misconduct are bound to work better than those that single-mindedly focus on just harassment or just fraud. The more wide open a company defines the usage for its anonymous reporting system, the more employees will feel comfortable coming forward to use it.  The multipurpose reporting system that goes beyond sexual harassment or even harassment and discrimination in general, in turn, will provide more comprehensive data to leadership about the workplace environment, allowing it to take preventative measures and to intervene when necessary.  

 6. Actively Promote it 

Many companies make the mistake of going through the time and expense of setting up an anonymous reporting system and then doing nothing to actively promote it. One corporate email launching the system accompanies by some signage in the photocopier room is simply not enough. Positive reinforcement of reporting can be done through internal education and marketing campaigns, training materials, newsletters, intranets, town hall meetings, videos and so on.

 7. Keep The Message Positive 

 While it cannot be argued that the issues that are going to get reported through an anonymous reporting system are going to be negative, there is good reason to keep the messaging about it positive. The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation writes that using positive verbiage such as accountability, transparency, responsibility, and citizenship rather than negative words such as fraud, corruption, embezzlement, bribery, and crime, “may help alleviate psychological barriers” that prevent employees from reporting misconduct.

 8. Offer Incentives 

Companies might want to consider reporting incentives for those who come forward. These could range from fixed monetary rewards as well to extra vacation days.

 9. Provide Multiple Reporting Methods  

The EEOC reports “there is a significant body of research establishing the many concerns that employees have with current reporting systems in their workplaces.” Because of those concerns, the EEOC describes “broad support for reporting systems that are multifaceted, including a choice of procedures, and choices.” The types of harassment reporting methods include talking with managers or human resource departments as well as more formalized reporting systems ranging from employee hotlines to online webforms to chatbots that utilize the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. 

10. Use a Third-Party Vendor 

Let’s face it. It’s can be quite a challenge to convince some employees that their identities (not to mention their jobs) will remain secure if they report wrongdoing to HR or their managers. It may be equally daunting to make employees feel safe reporting misconduct through an in-house reporting system. Bringing in an independent third-party vendor to run the program is one way to ensure integrity, neutrality, and fairness in the process.

Together, all 10 of these best practices will go a long way in creating a harassment-free environment in the workplace

September 2, 2019

Anonymous Workplace Reporting: How to Make it Effective

Anonymous and confidential reporting mechanisms help foster a climate whereby company employees are more likely to report or seek guidance regarding potential or actual wrongdoing without fear of retaliation.”

—Elements of an Effective Whistleblower Hotline, Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation 

An anonymous reporting system is not a panacea that will magically convince employees to overcome their fears about coming forward to report harassment, discrimination, and other workplace misconduct. There will always be individuals who prefer to talk to their managers face-to-face. At the other end of the spectrum, some people will never come forward to report what they’ve experienced or witnessed, no matter how robust their company’s anti-harassment program is.

For everyone in between, an anonymous way to report misconduct is a vital cog in any workplace ethics and compliance program. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) makes the case for anonymous reporting in its “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace” report. It states that “effective reporting systems for allegations of harassment are among the most critical elements of a holistic anti-harassment effort” and specifies that a path to anonymous reporting must be a part of any comprehensive reporting system

This is because the fear of retaliation is a major factor driving the woeful lack of reporting. An estimated 90 percent of people who have experienced harassment never initiate formal action, such as reporting a complaint or filing a charge, the EEOC reports. 

In its report “Elements of an Effective Whistleblower Hotline” the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation found that “In companies with an internal hotline, tips account for over half of all fraud detection versus only one-third of detections in companies with no internal hotline. Notably, the rate of discovering fraud “by accident” more than doubles when a company fails to offer a hotline.”

Create a Speak-Up Culture

One of the five principles of a high-quality ethics and compliance program is encouraging a “Speak Up” culture, according to the Ethics and Compliance Initiative, which it defines as an organization that “encourages, protects and values the reporting of concerns and suspected wrongdoing.”  When employees felt encouraged to make their voices heard, even when it was with bad news, favorable ethics outcomes increased by 14 times, according to the ECI report, entitled “Measuring The Impact Of Ethics & Compliance Programs.”

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

The ECI report found that other critical actions a company can take that result in favorable outcomes involve the company’s communication about the anonymous reporting system. It lists the following key ways a business should behave in order to encourage reporting from its employees.

  • Company Responds in a Timely Manner after Reporting;
  • Management Keeps Employees Informed After Reporting, and
  • Company Explains Reporting Procedure/Process. 

All these points underscore the fact that a company is unlikely to reap benefits from an anonymous reporting system unless they actively communicate on its behalf and respond quickly to any reports they receive. 

Constantly Evaluate

The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation states that companies must constantly and actively evaluate their anonymous reporting systems to ensure their success. The forum states that evaluation is required to ensure they  “are operating as intended and are effective in preventing and identifying unethical or potentially unlawful activity, including corporate fraud, securities violations and employment discrimination or harassment. This evaluation should be a key element of every company’s assessment of its compliance and ethics program.”

The report goes on to list key factors necessary to make anonymous reporting systems such as whistleblower hotlines effective. They include:

  • Ensuring anonymity and confidentiality. (Read more about how anonymous reporting works here.)
  • Preventing retaliation against those who report wrongdoing. (Read about why so few employees report wrongdoing.)
  • Publicizing the hotline. 
  • Creating multiple uses for the hotline, including a helpline. (Learn more about how anonymous reporting systems can go beyond capturing just harassment.)
  • Recording and analyzing statistics. 
  • Benchmarking compliance programs to internal and external data sources. 
  • Hiring a third-party provider to manage the hotline.  
  • Allowing multiple methods for submitting tips. (Read about why multiple reporting channels are needed.)
  • Evaluating, testing and auditing the reporting systems. 

All the major studies show that a company cannot implement an anonymous reporting system and then sit by passively and assume that it will work. The business must play an active role in ensuring its success by encouraging people to speak up and then communicating about and closely evaluating to systems that have been put in place to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace. (Read more about best practices for anonymous workplace reporting systems.) 

September 2, 2019

Reporting Harassment: Why Employees Rarely Come Forward

Harassment, discrimination and other misconduct is a fact of life in the workplace. However, many of those who have been the target of it or even a witness to it, never report it to anyone. 

This may seem hard to understand. If someone is harming you or someone else on the job, of course, you would come forward to make it stop. However, the reality is the complete opposite of that. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that 90 percent of individuals who say they have experienced harassment never initiate formal action, such as reporting a complaint or filing a charge. In fact, reporting is the least common reaction to harassment. Instead, victims employ avoidance, denial or simply putting up with the misconduct, including sexual harassment and discrimination. 

The EEOC describes the extent of non-reporting as “striking.”

There are a host of reasons why reporting sexual harassment and other harmful workplace behavior is so difficult and each one of them plays a role in the chronic lack of underreporting in the workplace. 

Retaliation 

Retaliation is not only real; it’s pervasive. One study found that fully three-quarters of workers suffered some form of retaliation after speaking out about their mistreatment.

Retaliation comes in many forms. The National Business Ethics Survey of Fortune 500 companies found that the most common type of retaliation was getting the cold shoulder—with 66 percent reporting that type of treatment from co-workers. (This may not seem like a big deal until you’ve been subjected to it.) Getting excluded from decision-making was also high up on the list, with 61 percent reporting this type of retaliation, followed by denials of promotions or raises (51%), almost losing a job (46%), getting verbally abused by a superior (40%), hours or pay cut (40%), relocation (38%), demotion (37%), verbal abuse by other employees (36%), online harassment (31%) and physical harm to person or property (29%). 

Retaliation is so “alarming” according to the National Business Ethics Survey, because it “discourages future reporting of observed misconduct, enabling problems to persist.” 

This fear of backlash has led to the development of anonymous reporting systems such as employee hotlines to encourage workers to come forward without fear of retribution. 

Confusion Over Definition

It is rarely black and white for many people whether they’ve been subjected to or witnessed “real” harassment. The #metoo movement has made it painfully clear how many people doubted themselves even though they knew something bad had happened to them and therefore never came forward. It is essential, therefore, that employers implement a holistic harassment prevention program, which includes online Anti-harassment training. Through explanation and re-enactments, high-quality training programs cut through the confusion to make it clear what types of behaviors constitute harassment, discrimination and other forms of workplace misconduct. 

Employer Inaction

Harassment reporting is often followed by an employer doing little or nothing about it. The EEOC states  that reporting is “often followed by organizational indifference or trivialization of the harassment complaint.” 

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission writes that and employers’ responses are inconsistent and, in many cases, risk being ineffective. The Commission reports that of the cases where individuals surveyed did report an incident, employers took no action in about half of those cases. This data is corroborated in the sweeping National Business Ethics Survey of Fortune 500 companies. It also found a lack of faith the employer would take action as the top reason: sixty-one percent of employees who observed misconduct explained they did not report it because they “believed no corrective action would take place.”

The “Untouchable” Harasser

Employees subjected to harassment are especially wary of reporting the behavior when the harasser is in a position of high power and influence in the organization compared to the victims 

“Many individuals believed that senior colleagues, due to their position of influence within organisations, were not challenged by HR departments or other colleagues, with some describing these individuals as ‘untouchable,’” the Equality and Human Rights Commission writes. The Global Business Ethics Survey reports that discrimination in particular, 56 percent of employees indicated the misconduct was committed by those in leadership positions.  

The EEOC labels such individuals as “superstars” and describes them as the type who bring in lucrative clients or are partners in a firm or who are renowned in their field. Because of their stature, they see themselves as privileged, which may make them more prone to be harassers and for the company to look the other way and do nothing in terms of harassment prevention.

Lack of Appropriate Reporting Procedures

Some employees who are keen to report harassment fail to do so because they don’t know whom to contact or what the process is. In order to promote reporting in the process, the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends “anonymous reporting tools” as well as “clear policies and processes communicated through induction and training.” The National Business Ethics Survey of Fortune 500 companies found that 15 percent of employees who observed misconduct did not report it because they did “not know whom to contact.”

Encouraging Employees to Report Misconduct 

A number of safeguards and systems need to be put in place to create a harassment-free environment by encouraging reporting. Written standards of what ethical workplace conduct back up by online anti-harassment training as well as a mechanism to not only seek advice and information but a way to anonymously report it. Lastly, companies must intervene and take action against those who violate workplace and standards, as well as to protect the employees who take huge personal and professional risks to come forward to report it.  

September 2, 2019

Anonymous Workplace Reporting: Going Beyond Harassment

While sexual harassment has gotten most of the headlines lately in the time of the #metoo movement, misconduct in the workplace comes in many shapes and sizes. Anonymous reporting, because it removes employees’ fears of retaliation, can be valuable in helping management better understand its own workplace culture above and beyond the single issues of harassment. 

Anonymous reporting mechanisms can unearth all kinds of workplace issues that management may not be aware of—issues that could pose a serious risk to the health of the company. Companies need to benchmark where they stand today and continue to measure changes so they can get to where they want to be tomorrow. Anonymous reporting is a necessary component of a holistic workplace reporting system and can work hand-in-hand with climate surveys to give management a fuller picture of the health of the workplace and help not just with harassment prevention but a whole host of workplace issues. 

Beyond Harassment 

The types of allegations that could be reported anonymously include illegal harassment on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, age, ethnicity or nationality, color, and religion. Other issues include reporting drug use at work, employee mistreatment and unsafe workplace conditions, as well as sexual assault reporting and other types of violence. This is in addition to a host of financial misdeeds that could be reported such as fraud, accounting irregularities, embezzlement, bribery, and theft. 

Many times, harassment and other misconduct in the workplace start off as smaller infractions before snowballing.  Anonymous reporting can be valuable in red-flagging a simmering situation before it escalates into a full-fledged one, acting as an early warning system to help with harassment prevention. Last, having a formal reporting procedure to connect the dots between disparate complaints can help leaders establish a pattern that may otherwise get missed. 

If You Build It, They Will Come

Anonymous reporting mechanisms such as ethics hotlines or employee hotlines have been required at many companies since the passage of the 2002 federal law designed to combat financial fraud. One section of the act requires publicly traded companies to set up a mechanism for employees to anonymously report suspected fraud. To comply with these laws, companies began employing anonymous reporting systems, often referred to as ‘whistleblower’ or ‘ethics’ hotlines. Yet research has shown that the bulk of concerns reported to these anonymous employee hotlines are not related to finances at all, but are to raise issues normally designated to the human resource realm, such as harassment and discrimination. 

The Ethics Resource Center reports in its National Business Ethics Survey Of Fortune 500 Employees that the top types of misconduct observed and reported include: conducting personal business on company time; abusive behavior; lying to employees; health/safety violations; discrimination; Internet abuse; company resource abuse; and sexual harassment. These rank way above financial categories of bribes and kickbacks from suppliers and vendors; misreporting financial records; bribes to clients; and misuse of competitors' inside information.

Decades of experience have shown that anonymous reporting systems set up for one issue will be hijacked by employees to report other types of issues. History has shown it’s going to happen whether management wants it to or not, and it proves the need for an anonymous channel through which employees can speak up. Any outlet that encourages employees to come forward is critical since employers can’t correct issues they aren’t aware of. And while this creates the need to set up some back-end processes defining which internal unit is responsible for reviewing which types of reports, it is well worth the effort. 

And, while there is no shortage of internal debate around whether this mission creep should be welcomed or prevented, this is mainly due to the siloed structure of organizations. The experts agree it’s actually a positive thing. 

Multiple Uses for Anonymous Reporting Systems

Companies should expand the reasons for which an employee may make an anonymous report beyond just one type of misdeed, according to the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation.  The rationale? If an anonymous reporting system is comprehensive, encouraging employees to speak up about numerous issues from less serious to very serious, it can reduce the overall fear and stigma associated with anonymous reporting. Used in such a way, it can “reduce the barriers an employee feels before reporting his or her first tip and, after such tip, the employee may be more readily inclined to report future suspected wrongdoing.”  

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners agrees. “Employees, suppliers and other stakeholders are likely to use a hotline number to report any issue that makes them uncomfortable. Ideally, one hotline should handle all complaints,” it writes in Best Practices in Ethics Hotline report. 

An employee who is trying to report sexual harassment through an anonymous reporting system designed to capture financial fraud should never be turned away because the complaint is not the correct channel for that type of complaint. Doing so “may alienate the employee, who has made the difficult decision to take action,” according to the report, which goes on to say that a general anonymous reporting system allows the company to learn about any high-liability issues as early as possible. When that happens, damage control can begin and potential legal action may be averted. In addition, having multiple reporting systems for various types of misdoings is confusing for employees and fractures information into different entities that may or may not talk to one another.

All-Inclusive Anonymous Reporting Systems 

Along with online anti-harassment training and benchmarking surveys, an anonymous reporting system that welcomes all types of complaints is a necessary part of any holistic harassment prevention program. Companies must go beyond compliance hotlines created only to capture financial fraud. The more wide open a company defines the usage for its anonymous reporting system, the more employees will feel comfortable coming forward to use it. An all-inclusive anonymous reporting system that goes beyond capturing just harassment or just fraud provides more robust data to leadership about the workplace environment, allowing it to take preventative measures and to intervene when necessary in order to create a harassment-free environment. 

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