Use your company's history to stay focused on its' future.
Update your company's harassment policy.
Effectively communicate the policy to your employees and customers and provide a roadmap for where to go for people to feel safe and where their concerns will be heard.
[A 3-minute read]
No one is immune from harassment. While it is difficult to control the actions of someone's bad decisions, employers can create an environment that is safe for their employees and customers.
This starts by having a harassment policy and communicating that policy in a way that
- Makes it clear what is and what is not acceptable behavior;
- The process by which the company will use in investigating what happened; and,
- A roadmap for where people can go to for help and support.
The silence breakers have helped pull the curtain back on the entertainment industry, on Congress and on athletes, including USA Gymnastics.
New leadership in a tainted organization provides a great opportunity for a fresh start. When your company or organization is embroiled in controversy, making changes at the senior level may be a good strategy for protecting the company's reputation and provides a great opportunity for you to reconnect with staff and your customer.
USA Gymnastics has been embroiled in controversy over a number of years and their new president came out of the gate strong in taking a power stand on the safety of their athletes, starting in an email to members of the organization.
In her letter to members, Kerry Perry embraced her role as a mom and business leader,
As a mom, there is nothing more important to me than the safety and welfare of our athletes and promoting an environment where everyone has a voice.
Then she set the tone for how she will lead the organization,
I have been asked what building a culture of empowerment means to me. A culture of empowerment means ensuring that our athletes are encouraged to speak up on difficult issues, such as abuse or misconduct; our members and parents are supported; our staff and partners are highly engaged; and our board and constituents are aligned. Being empowered allows all of us to focus on learning and thriving in a sport we all love so much.
Perry then goes on to remind us about the steps USA Gymnastics has taken to address its past and help the organization move forward.
As an organization, we have made strides in our safe sport efforts and will continue with relentless focus on ensuring athlete safety. Some of the steps already taken include adopting the USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy; and adding two child advocates, our Safe Sport Director Toby Stark and Safe Sport Legal Counsel Mark Busby, to our staff. The USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy is a comprehensive document that outlines the expectations and requirements of our members, which include requiring mandatory reporting; educating and building awareness and prevention; defining six types of misconduct; setting standards to prohibit grooming behavior and prevent inappropriate interaction; and establishing greater accountability.
She then provides us with additional resources for people to turn to.
As we continue our commitment to athlete safety, we have additional initiatives that are already being implemented and effective immediately.
- Creating a dedicated, toll-free number - 1-833-844-SAFE - to report abuse. The dedicated phone line and the safe sport email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) simplify the process for reporting.
- Building an Athlete Task Force. The voices of our athletes, especially regarding prevention, are important, and I want to provide a format that encourages sharing of ideas and perspectives as we build an empowered culture.
- Listening Forums. Meeting with and listening to our gymnastics community, partners and constituents are critically important to our efforts. Joined by our safe sport and senior staff members, I will be on the road visiting our member clubs, not only to share our strategic plan and vision, but also, more importantly, to listen, educate and support our athletes, club owners, parents and members to build an empowered organization together.
Now, under new leadership, USA Gymnastics is not running away from its' past. It is acknowledging what happened so that they can now focus on what it is doing to make people feel safe, with a roadmap if they need support.
While companies have a natural inclination to protect their reputation, companies will reduce their risk if it clearly communicates its policy about harassment and effectively communicates a plan for its employees and customers if they do not feel safe.
There has never been a more important time for companies to revisit their harassment policies as well as other policies involving social media and other behavior in the workplace.