Will 2018 be the year that sexual harassment finally becomes a leadership priority?

This week we released new data from our Voice of the Workplace pulse on sexual harassment in the workplace.

With our partner, Next Concept Human Resource Association, we sent this pulse to thousands of people from organizations of all sizes to get their thoughts on this increasingly important issue.

Of the nearly one thousand people who participated, 89% 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.” The responses were aligned across various demographics including age, gender, and job function. For respondents 61+ years of age and for people from large for-profit corporations with 20,000 employees or more, a full 94% 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% of participants agreed, but within these responses, there were some interesting demographic splits. For example, only 53% of men felt there was room for improvement, in comparison with 60% of women. Among respondents 51-60 years of age only 51% agreed, in comparison with 64% 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,” said 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. It’s clear that the high-profile cases we’ve seen in the news recently 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. There needs to be a seismic shift in the way that this type of behavior is dealt with going forward.”

We 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 5 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 owns this issue, lives up to it, and demands 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 strongly-held beliefs from everyone in the workforce. In order to address topics of core importance like this one, organizations need to create a forum for authentic communication, like Waggl. Providing people with a safe, open network in which to share their opinions anonymously is a great way to open up a 2-way dialogue and create a foundation of mutual respect and trust.

We want to hear your voice. Participate today in our follow-on pulse, which addresses how to get leaders to listen: