The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently hosted leaders from the hotel, manufacturing, HR, legal, retail and other industries and associations for a roundtable discussion on strategies to prevent workplace harassment and create more respectful, inclusive workplace cultures. The roundtable was part of the EEOC’s ongoing efforts to better understand the needs of workers and employers in their industries and the range of solutions to prevent harassment in the #MeToo era.
Hospitality industry among groups proactively promoting workplace safety
Representing the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) at the roundtable, Rosanna Maietta, AHLA executive vice president of communications & public relations and president of the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation, outlined the 5-Star Promise to advance safety and security for hotel employees and guests. Announced by the AHLA and nearly 20 major hotel brands in September, 2018, the 5-Star Promise includes providing ongoing training and education for employees on identifying and reporting sexual harassment.
The initiative also focuses on building on the hotel industry’s longstanding commitment to hospitality and a “people culture,” ensuring mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies are in place in multiple languages, providing US hotel employees with employee safety devices (ESDs) to help them feel safe on the job and broadening partnerships with national organizations that target sexual violence, assault and trafficking and promote workplace safety.
Making anti-harassment training more interactive, engaging and relevant
Conducting periodic training on workplace harassment (and other topics such as bystander intervention and diversity and inclusion) is a positive step for organizations across industries. As part of a holistic approach to combating harassment and strengthening workplace culture, recurring training helps keep harassment prevention top of mind and provides a convenient channel to communicate and reinforce policies, reporting procedures and changes in regulations.
Training that is interactive and tailored to the culture and environment in which employees work is also one of the most effective ways to raise awareness of the different types of harassment they may encounter and steps to prevent it. Depicting familiar scenarios and using industry-specific terminology and images help to create a more relevant and meaningful training experience. For example, working in the hospitality industry is different in many ways from working in a manufacturing plant or insurance office, so it follows that to be effective, training should reflect the environment in which hospitality employees interact with co-workers, guests and others.
Training can also help organizations counter the risk factors for harassment that were identified in a 2016 report by the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. For the hospitality industry, risk factors for harassment include close or isolated work spaces, a significant number of young employees and serving alcohol during and around work hours.
Changing culture starts at the top
Training that includes a video message from the CEO underscores the importance of participating in the training and reinforces the organization’s commitment to a workplace culture that does not tolerate any form of harassment. Seeing and hearing from a CEO sends a clear message that preventing harassment is a priority and sets the tone for the standards of behavior the organization expects from everyone.
Workplace harassment remains a key issue for organizations across industries. A takeaway from the EEOC’s recent “Industry Leaders Roundtable Discussion on Harassment Prevention” is the need to keep evaluating best practices and tools. Among them is a comprehensive training program that addresses the specific needs of an organization, its work environment and employees. As part of a holistic approach to improving workplace culture and preventing harassment, training is critical to raising employee awareness of their own behavior and the behavior of others, and the importance of fostering a culture that is safe, inclusive, respectful and harassment-free.