Steve Miranda, Global HR Expert

In the first blog in our ongoing series, I posed the question of whether our workplace culture encourages leaders to “be right” or “be effective” as they seek out ways to reduce harassment and discrimination in their organizations. Today, let’s discuss the question, “Do we have a healthy information diet to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination?”

Prevent Workplace Harassment and Discrimination by Properly Utilizing Data

There’s a great story about an individual who’s walking down the street and comes upon another person down on his hands and knees frantically looking for something on the sidewalk. Upon asking, the passerby is told by the searcher that he’s lost his cellphone. The passerby immediately also gets down on his hands and knees to look around. After ten minutes of looking, he says, “No luck. Are you sure this is where you lost it?” The searcher responds with, “Oh no, I lost it about 30 feet up the street.” Astonished, the passerby asks, “So why in the heck are you looking here?” To which the searcher responds, “What do you mean? Can’t you see the light’s much better here than up the road?”

While this story often elicits a moan from listeners, it’s amazing that organizations adopt the same strategy when dealing with workplace harassment and discrimination challenges. They often resort to looking “where the light is better” or where they have current and reliable “hard” data.

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Examples of Misused Workplace Data Include:

  • Candidate hiring slates
  • High-level organizational demographic data,
  • The most recent compensation distribution analysis.

While useful, this is not always where the “lost cellphone” is to be found. It’s the information equivalent of sticking to the same foods day after day. Rather, consider broadening your information diet by adding alternate forms of “fuzzy” data on workplace harassment and discrimination prevention. This will likely prove far more effective in reducing future claims of harassment and discrimination at work.

Some specific areas to consider include the organization’s reputation in the job market as represented on external sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor as well as exit interview data collected by an external third party. One of the richest sources of “soft” workplace data is likely to be the comments section of the most recent employee engagement survey. With plenty of text analytics software applications available, this section is often one of the most underleveraged sources of “Aha!” moments of insight into where organizational hot spots around harassment or discrimination claims may be brewing. Whether an organization uses a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly “pulse” survey or even an annual review, this gold should definitely be mined.

Read More About The Case for Data-Based Harassment Prevention

It is vital that employees feel that their answers are truly anonymous and will not result in blowback or repercussions to the originator. Their candid feedback can be one of the best early warning indicators of when and where morale and group stress may be trending in the wrong direction.

Another good source of data can be your workplace harassment training platform itself. If you have the right data embedded in your program you can evaluate the knowledge, attitudes, and needs of employees before, during, and after the harassment prevention training takes place.

Want to probe deeper into your organization’s information diet and how this might prevent future claims of workplace harassment and discrimination?

Consider asking the following questions:

  • What is my primary source of information when it comes to employee morale? Why?
  • Is the information we look at backward-facing and “hard” or future-focused and “fuzzy?”
  • Where (or to whom) would a prospective employee look to find out what it’s like to work here?

It takes organizational courage to pose the right sorts of questions and a very keen understanding of human behavior to determine which specific steps will prevent workplace harassment and discrimination. It’s therefore recommended that harassment and discrimination initiatives be undertaken in conjunction with HR professionals specifically skilled in both survey design and the thoughtful creation of follow-up action plans.

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