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Preventing expensive harassment and bias complaints using a skills-based approach

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In today’s increasingly diverse workplaces, avoiding harassment and bias is more important than ever.

Former employment lawyer Janine Yancey, the founder and CEO of Emtrain, a company that provides training and resources on harassment and bias prevention, issued this warning to employers: “Younger workers are very comfortable shining a light of accountability on actions that they think are unjust or unfair. And you can usually count on a jury to be sympathetic toward an employee who’s had an unjust experience.”

Meanwhile, companies that take proactive steps to prevent harassment and bias incidents before they happen not only have the best chance of avoiding lawsuits, but also create a more productive environment for everyone. Yancey shared some insights on how to get there in an episode of the HRMorning podcast “Voices of HR.”

She emphasized the importance of moving beyond traditional compliance training, which can become too focused on legal definitions. Instead, she recommended a skills-based approach that teaches employees how to identify and address harassment and bias in their daily interactions.

“Inclusion is a set of skills that we can all practice and develop. Respect is another set of skills that we can all practice and develop. And that way, we can be more intentional in understanding what actions are going to get us better results,” Yancey said.

Listen to the full episode here

What HR can do today to stop harassment and bias

Another key skill that can be developed is managing power dynamics. Yancey noted that most harassment claims stem from managers who misuse their power, either intentionally or unintentionally. Most often, it takes the form of making personal requests of employees that solely benefit the manager.

“That direct report is caught in a tricky situation (because) that manager holds power over their employment,” Yancey said.

By training managers on how to use their power respectfully and inclusively, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of harassment complaints.

Yancey suggested that HR leaders start analyzing cultural data related to respect, diversity and inclusion to identify areas where there may be risk for harassment and bias problems.

For example, tracking survey data and employee complaints can lead to the discovery of a pattern or trend. Then, once HR has identified a problem area, steps can be taken to address it. This might include providing targeted training to specific teams or individuals, or implementing new policies or procedures.

Watch the full episode here

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