Talent Trends: Anti-Harassment

LinkedIn published their Global Talent Trends for 2019 to highlight 4 key trends transforming the workplace:

1. Soft skills

2. Work flexibility

3. Anti-harassment

4. Pay transparency

We’ve covered a different trend every day this week. Today, it’s anti-harassment.

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Businesses with harassment issues are more likely to fail.

The absolute best case scenario’s that employees become disengaged, productivity’s lost and attrition increases. On the other hand, companies that foster a culture of inclusivity and respect are the ones that rarely struggle with talent attraction, employee satisfaction and retention.

There are a number of measures businesses are taking to tackle harassment. Highlighting existing policies, adding new ones and promoting ways to safely report cases are chief among them.

“Zero tolerance” policies are 4th in the 10 most common anti-harassment tactics cited in the report. With around 62% of talent professionals saying they’re effective.

However, the serious consequences of a ZT policy – demotion or dismissal – can dissuade individuals from reporting cases. 

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Jess Ladd’s the Founder and CEO of Callisto, a non-profit that “creates technology to detect repeat perpetrators of professional sexual coercion and sexual assault”. Jess cites retention as one of the best business cases for anti-harassment:

“Most victims don’t report incidents; they quit, and you lose good people”

“Having a very clear explanation of your policy online is the most important thing you can do to encourage victims to come forward. It’s so simple and unsexy, yet so many institutions fail to do so”

To tackle harassment in the workplace, strong policy must meet an inclusive culture. Where open communication’s encouraged. Where anti-harassment’s part of the training programme. And where change is brought about from the top down.

It’s one reason female leadership’s seen as key to unlocking safer working environments. Because women are overwhelmingly on the receiving end of harassment in the workplace, “female leaders may be more sensitive to the issue and thus more likely to use their influence to combat it”.

That said, harassment’s indiscriminate: it can affect anyone at any time.

Company leaders are the architects of culture. And when they’re taking harassment seriously, everybody benefits.

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“Establishing a culture of respect”

While leaders are responsible for feeding company culture, it’s everyone else that has to eat it. And in this regard, employees have changed how they respond to harassment over the last few years.

We’re better at speaking up and calling out bad behaviour. We’re better at discussing social issues and telling fewer insensitive jokes. We’re better at listening than we were a few years ago.

But there’s still a long way to go.

Here’s what businesses determined to stamp out harassment need to do:

Understand The Problem

Hold your policy up against current legal requirements. If you haven’t got one, write one based on these.

Involve Consultants in the conversation. They’ll be able to tell you their interpretation of an inclusive, respectful culture. Given the subject matter’s sensitivity, anonymous surveys or external third parties could be useful in providing a more accurate bird’s eye view of the company.

Data helps. Decision makers will want to see there’s a business case for either amending existing policy or creating a new one.

Audit Your Policy

One thing that gets overlooked during discussions like this is that examples of good behaviour are just as relevant to include in anti-harassment policy as examples of bad. Some companies use a traffic light system to grade behaviours and make what can be quite dense policy easier to understand for everyone.

Make sure there’s multiple ways to report harassment. And that the policy isn’t overly rigid in this area. Again, you might want to use a third party to add an extra level of impartiality.

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Empower Your Team

Train employees about how serious physical and sexual assault is. But teach them to recognise that comparatively minor offences are likely to reoccur if they aren’t dealt with. And equipping Consultants with the confidence to step in, and phrases to de-escalate situations, is hugely empowering.

If you’re looking to build an inclusive culture, the training has to reflect that. So include non-traditional examples of victim groups (eg: men) and deliver it in a way that encourages involvement. Depending on your team, this could be a group exercise involving rolepay. It could also be a completely online learning module.

Deal With It

Talking about harassment’s extremely hard. So make sure victims are heard and feel secure from the first point of contact onwards. There’ll be disciplinary processes to adhere to, but the report encourages an open door response from leaders.

“Respond to inappropriate behavior publicly and with real consequences. This shows other victims it’s worthwhile to come forward and deters other harassers from acting”

An inclusive, respectful culture’s the goal. Balanced with policy that holds individuals to account. How you do so has implications on your brand and as a result will drive people either toward or away from you.

70% of talent professionals in the UK believe anti-harassment’s “very important” to the future of HR and recruiting. 

Figures from the House of Commons found that 40 per cent of women and 18 per cent of men had been harassed at work:

“We acknowledge a risk that portraying it as an issue that only affects women could discourage male victims from reporting complaints. However, women are significantly more likely to experience sexual harassment than men. Perpetrators are disproportionately men”

It’s everyone’s responsibility to prevent harassment. Because there isn’t a single person that doesn’t benefit from stamping it out. 


This article’s part of a series based on LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends for 2019Click here to read part one, on soft skills in recruitment. Click here for part two, on work flexibility.

Keep an eye on the Hunted blog for the next article, on pay transparency. And follow us on LinkedIn to have it appear in your feed first thing tomorrow morning.