One of the hardest parts of HR teams’ jobs is working through harassment. It’s something that unfortunately happens in some form or another in every office, no matter what industry, and no matter how strong the company’s culture is. According to a new study by Stop Street Harassment, a whopping 38 percent of women have dealt with some form of harassment specifically in the workplace.
The good news is that with the rise of #MeToo and other movements, employees are no longer staying silent about harassment. We’re celebrating that, because it means employees have a voice, and when employees feel safe to stand up against harassment and inappropriate workplace conditions in general, their entire company is happier, more efficient and stronger.
The bad news, though, is it falls on HR teams to address these reports. We saw the need for a complete system that allows people to report as well as helps HR teams process the reports. We knew that this reporting system needed to be accessible to reporters and HR teams, and we needed the system to have the option for complete anonymity for sensitive cases. From there, FirstVoice was born. We prevent, report and resolve workplace issues, and we give everyone a voice.
Here’s why every company should have safe and easy reporting system, and how FirstVoice can help.
The cost of harassment
Though sexual harassment has been across headlines, it’s important to note that there are lots of forms of harassment and workplace incidents, from harassment that’s racially based, to harassment of disabled people, and so on. All of these forms of harassment cost companies money, from legal fees to employee turnover and lack of productivity. Senators have asked for complete numbers on these costs, and they found that it’s difficult to determine because of all of the different costs. However, as an example, according to the EEOC, employers paid employees nearly $700 million in six years in the EEOC’s pre-litigation process alone.
Employers know that one harassment lawsuit can cost hundreds of thousands, yet they don’t have good infrastructure to avoid these lawsuits. Plus, with the movement against harassment, states like California are making it easier than ever to file harassment lawsuits– in California, someone can file a lawsuit after just one incident of harassment. Enter FirstVoice, with these three main steps of addressing harassment:
The first step to addressing harassment is to create a culture that doesn’t allow it to occur in the first place. With an accessible reporting system, you’re sending the message that you take harassment seriously and that it won’t be tolerated. But unfortunately, having a reporting system doesn’t always prevent harassment, and it doesn’t always encourage people to report said harassment. In fact, according to the EEOC, the most common responses for people who experience harassment are avoiding the harasser, denying or downplaying the situation, or attempting to ignore, forget or endure the harassment.
So how do you get people to report? What’s different about FirstVoice is that it’s easy to report, and we’re there for both employers and employees. While other reporting systems ask lengthy surveys that end up discouraging reporters, FirstVoice’s form should take less than 10 minutes to fill out, from what happened, where, and who was involved. Then, HR teams can follow up if they need more information.
We also know that fear of retaliation is a very real and very valid concern for reporters. According to SHRM, nearly half of the charges EEOC received in 2017 involved retaliation. We allow employees to report without fear of retaliation by letting reporters choose their level of anonymity. They can either report with their name, report anonymously but still communicate with HR teams via an anonymous and encrypted messaging system, or remain anonymous and receive no further communication within FirstVoice.
According to SHRM, 94 percent of employers say they have policies to protect their employees against sexual harassment. However, 33 percent of employees say their workplace fosters sexual harassment. This is proof that having a policy such as open door or zero tolerance isn’t enough. Companies need to make sure that when they receive a report, they take it seriously and resolve it.
Once employees report using FirstVoice, their report goes into FirstVoice’s Listening Center™, which HR teams use to process the report. FirstVoice walks HR teams through processing each report with clear steps and tasks, and the ability to assign team members to each task. With an intuitive solution, FirstVoice offers a way to consistently address reports.
This creates a positive cycle. When HR teams appropriately address reports, other employees will feel encouraged to report, which will then discourage people from harassing. You’ll have a culture of accountability, transparency and trust, and your company will be better for it. Learn more about FirstVoice here.
To learn more about building a harassment-free workplace, be sure to watch the on-demand HRExecutive webinar: #MeToo: Building a Respectful & Harassment-Free Workplace Culture. Hosted by Dr. Shirley Davis and sponsored by FirstVoice.