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Written by Amanda G. Kassis
The 2019 EEOC numbers regarding workplace discrimination charges were recently released and show a 5% decrease from 2018. This is a promising improvement but don’t be so quick to let your guard down. We have a long way to go. The EEOC still reports 72,675 reported cases of discrimination (including harassment) in the last year. And that doesn’t include claims made to state agencies or through private legal counsel. So, there is still a lot of work to be done. Retaliation, sexual harassment, race, and disability are still the leading reasons for discrimination charges followed by age and national origin. So how do we improve? How do we get these number down? We work on our company culture. Make changes that lead to inclusive, respectful, unprejudiced, work environments. Implement a fair investigation process to increase the chances of every party feeling that a fair resolution can be met before resorting to litigation. And, we teach our employees the meaning and practice of civility.
Unemployment is down to 3.5% and it is changing the way people look for jobs. Job seekers are becoming more critical of the companies they want to work for, and expectations are high. With so many options available the incoming workforce is focusing more on company culture, values, and priorities. Job seekers are above all looking for a company who puts their people first.
Hello Heart reports than half of U.S. employers have implemented wellness programs to meet a growing demand that has emerged from employees who are prioritizing their mental and physical health. To sustain a healthy culture, employers need to be actively listening to employees about what it’s like to work for their company, and what they’re experiencing. It is also important to be aware of how communication is changing. Many companies are implementing online portals where disputes can be worked out or complaints can be lodged. The younger generation of employees may be more inclined to deal with conflict though these resources, rather than in person.
It’s all about the people. Foster relationships with your employees as you would with any other important relationship in your life. Create a trusting rapport with your employees. You want them to feel like they can go to their HR team in times of turmoil and be treated fairly and with compassion. They want to feel appreciated and listened to. Employees want to know that even their smallest concerns are being addressed and taken seriously. As Aretha Franklin once so eloquently put it, it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Create a respectful environment and, most importantly, model the behaviors you want to see. Most often good patterns of behavior start at the top. Employees will look to management to see how they are expected to act and handle conflict. And the difficult but most important part, hold yourself and others accountable for their actions and communications. Don’t be afraid to admit where your company is lacking, make an effort to change it, and be transparent about the process with your employees.
A company’s culture is the sum of many parts and is ever changing and growing. Employees spend a large amount of their lives at work, so do your best to create a place they can enjoy and feel safe. If we can create a culture within our companies that doesn’t just respect but celebrates people for their unique and diverse backgrounds and experiences, not only will business thrive but it is without doubt that we can continue to drive discrimination out of the workplace.
If you want to review the amount and types of cases prevalent in your state you can find it here.
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This is a question we ask often, and it tends to take people by surprise. Why? Because they are not sure. After 25+ years of conducting HR investigations, I understand the reasons why we don’t continue to talk with employees after an investigation is complete. It’s better to let sleeping dogs lie. Or is it?
As HR is finding new focus on strengthening company culture as a strategic step toward more effective recruiting, retention, engagement and employee development, we are finding new and better ways of receiving feedback from employees on their total work experience. Unfortunately, this does not yet seem to have made its way to matters of accountability, investigations and discipline as discussed in The HR Happy Hour Podcast.
In our company, we talk to HR professionals about their investigation practices every day. And we see consistent patterns in the feedback we receive about the investigation process. But when we ask how employees feel after an investigation, there is often silence. Some will say, “Nobody feels good after an investigation”. We’ve even heard strong statements such as, “Just the word investigation makes our employees feel like criminals”. And there are those times we hear, “I think they feel okay about it”. But wouldn’t it be better to know how they feel rather than to guess?
Small Changes have a Big Affect
Bad feelings fester. It’s just part of being human. Think about how you feel after a conflict, argument, bad customer service experience or even simply being cut off in traffic. That anger and frustration carries with you for some time. Now think of the relief you feel when the person who cut you off waves and says sorry, or the sales person apologizes and says they didn’t mean to snap at you, they got stuck working a double shift and are just exhausted. This immediately changes how you feel about the incident.
Asking for feedback after an HR investigation does not need to be another big task on your list of things you simply don’t have time for. It can be as easy as creating a brief email template that you send out to every participant each time you complete an investigation. Here’s a sample you can use to get started.
HR Investigation Follow Up Sample Letter
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for participating in the investigation we just concluded because I understand it can be a bit uncomfortable at times. The process is here to ensure our workplace is fair, safe and respectful for everyone. So, if you could please take a moment to reply and respond to the three questions below, I would really appreciate your opinions. The information will not be shared and will provide me with the insight needed to continue to refine and improve the investigation process moving forward. Thanks for your time.
- Was the investigation process what you had expected from the beginning?
- At any point in the investigation did you feel disrespected, uncomfortable or unsafe?
- Do you have any suggestions on how the investigation could have been a better experience for you?
If you would like to talk in person, please let me know and we can schedule a few minutes. Thank you again.
If you conduct post investigation feedback or have any questions on how this works, please comment below so we can all benefit from each other’s experience.
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Join our CEO, Dana Barbato, as the guest of HR Happy Hour for this important and timely topic.
Dana shared some of the most important things to remember when carrying out effective investigations, and how modern technologies can assist HR leaders in creating the consistency needed to undertake the investigative process, and reach the best and most fair outcomes.