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EDI and Sexual Harassment Policies Need to Be Strengthened

Creating an Ethical Organization Culture

Ethical issues in the workplace are varied and create ethical dilemmas in many cases. Recently, we have seen an uptick in issues related to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and sexual harassment. I have previously blogged about EDI and sexual harassment and pointed out how important they are to an ethical organization environment. In this blog, I will examine some recent surveys on how employees view these issues.

According to a 2017 survey by Deloitte, Global Human Capital Trends, 69 percent of executives rate diversity and inclusion an important issue, up from 59 percent in 2014. Why has diversity and inclusion become so important? One answer is in today’s global business environment, it is common to have a diverse workforce that needs to be managed in ways that recognize equity and fairness in treatment. A diverse workforce poses challenges in the way people of different religions, genders, generations, and other types of diversity blend together to create an ethical corporate culture that values individuals from many walks of life.

The Deloitte survey indicates that 78 percent of respondents believe diversity and inclusion is a competitive advantage. Yet, despite this increased level of interest, only six percent of companies actually tie compensation to diversity outcomes. Solving diversity challenges is very difficult. Also, trending upward is a focus on eliminating measurable bias from talent processes, including hiring, promotion, performance management, leadership development, succession, and compensation.

In another survey by Deloitte – the Inclusion Pulse Survey – it was found that 72 percent of working Americans surveyed would or may consider leaving an organization for one they think is more inclusive. Thirty percent of millennials surveyed say they have already left a job for one with a more inclusive culture.  EDI

EDI policies are significantly more important in the 21st century than ever before. One reason is young adults and millennials have grown up in a culture that talks about these issues even though they may be lacking in reality. The expectations are high for an inclusive environment and the failure to do so can have negative consequences as the survey results indicate

Sexual harassment has been a hot button issue for a few years now ever since the Harvey Weinstein affair raised the consciousness of most Americans to the extent of sexual abuse of, mostly, women in the workplace. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a government agency responsible for processing the sexual harassment complaints that do get reported, says nearly one-third of the 90,000 complaints received in 2015 included a harassment allegation -- but the agency notes that that number is far too low to reflect reality. They also estimate that 75 percent of all workplace harassment incidents go unreported altogether.

In 2016, the EEOC released a comprehensive study of workplace harassment which concluded that “anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.” It’s a strikingly wide gap, but one that is very substantial even in its most conservative estimate -- statistically predicting one in four people are affected by workplace sexual harassment.

Deloitte’s 2017 survey reports that diversity and inclusion at the workplace are now CEO-level issues, but they continue to be frustrating for many companies. Why? I believe it’s a matter of establishing an ethical culture that permeates the organization and a tone at the top of every organization that EDI and sexual harassment issues are front and center in everything the organization does. Take it seriously and employees will believe their reports of violations will be acted upon quickly, fairly, and the guilty will be punished.

Ethics requires actions to match words. Empty statements in policies mean nothing if an organization doesn’t live up to its purported “values.” More often than not these statements are used as PR pieces and filed away.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on October 25, 2018. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his newsletter. Follow him on Facebook and “Like” his page.