Published in InsuranceNewsNet
Given the rise of corporate reputations blowing up in personnel scandals, and the speed with which losses can be accelerated by social media, do insurance carriers need to take a deeper look at workplace culture and risk?
We conducted a study using a simulation research approach to understand the core dynamics that drive workplace problems such as harassment and bullying. Instead of relying on surveys that rarely reflect actual behavior, we enlisted managers from a range of organizations – large, small and across industries – to participate in our live, multi-part simulations of real workplace scenarios.
What We Found
The data reveal key missing links that cause many organizations to fundamentally mishandle complaints and, consequently, expose themselves to liability and erode workplace culture. Most organizations do not realize these mistakes are being made.
For example, during the course of the simulated harassment and bullying complaints, more than 40% of managers neglected to ask questions, repeat key facts and clarify critical details with complainants, bystanders, and alleged perpetrators.
More than half of managers did not explain to individuals involved in the incident that the organization has an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy in place. Many of the managers who participated in the simulations lacked a clear understanding of whether they can, or should, ask employees involved in a workplace incident to keep the details of the situation confidential.
This is not a surprise given the conflicting guidance from the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But training needs to be updated across organizations.
In addition, training must be designed to teach managers to request participants in an investigation keep what is discussed during the investigation private and confidential to protect the integrity of the investigation and to avoid influencing the recollections and statements of other witnesses or potential witnesses. That said, managers certainly cannot stop the employees from discussing workplace conditions — including facts relating to a particular event or situation.
The study revealed that managers on the frontline of these tough workplace issues must have a better understanding of the legal sensitivities around this important topic, or the organization may be faced with substantial liability.
The simulations also revealed that the existing approaches to training are not getting the job done. “Watch this video and answer some multiple-choice questions” has a role to play but, without application by the learner, the lessons are not properly internalized. Current live training approaches are too sporadic and “one-way” to have the intended impact. Training must be optimized if you expect behaviors to really change.
What More Needs to be Done
Making changes goes beyond better training, and starts with defining leadership. Do managers understand what it actually means to drive the culture to a better place? Do they know what specifically is expected of them when tough workplace issues arise? Are they held accountable when they don’t meet these expectations? The first step to address these issues is to give managers clear guidance and direction.
Don’t repeat your policies, clarify them. People do not consume content the way they used to, and yet we continue to rely on lengthy handbooks to convey critical policies. With legal requirements in mind, important policies must be communicated to managers and employees in a more digestible, easy-to-understand way.
We have serious concerns about whether managers understand their company’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. If they don’t understand them, they clearly cannot explain them to employees dealing with tough workplace issues.
This data highlights the shortcomings of existing training approaches and how clear policies and ethical culture is within organizations. Despite the employee handbook and other policy and procedure documents employees and leaders are required to read, managers must have a better understanding of the policies that are in place to protect employees in the workplace. They certainly don’t need to be experts, but they need to know more than they do today.