Thirty years of corporate training focused on preventing workplace harassment and nothing much has changed, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC's Select Task Force, convened in January 2015 by EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang, put in 18 month of work and found that when the data was analyzed, the fact is little proof exists that well-meaning training helped prevent or limit workplace harassment.
EEOC Commissioner (and Task Force co-chair) Victoria A. Lipnic, speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C., called the findings "jaw-dropping."
The Task Force's research and recommendations, which were formally presented at a public commission meeting on June 20, don't mean that HR leaders should throw in the towel, according to Lipnic and Chai R. Feldblum (the other co-chair). Far from it. What they did say is that HR should "build on the foundation" of existing policies, but also realize that the data now shows that training programs are clearly not enough to change behaviors.
Instead, curbing workplace harassment requires a "holistic approach" to training that starts with C-Suite leaders. "Employees have to believe that 'leaders mean what they say' when they claim to want to stop harassment," Feldblum told attendees.
Among other things, the task force's work existed to give HR leaders more tools and data for educating leaders and help drive more respectful workplaces. "We're trying to change behaviors,” Feldblum said. "The best way to do that is to create a culture where it's just not cool to sexually harass someone or racially harass someone."
Of 90,000 EEOC charges raised against private-sector employers, 33% were due to harassment, with about half based on sex. And that's just the "tip of the iceberg," Lipnic said, noting that 90% of people who are harassed don't take employers to court.
The co-chairs advise that HR must make a business case for stopping harassment, use a more customized training approach, and finally, create a workplace culture of kindness and civility.