On 4th March Suzanne Hurndall, our Relationship Director, will be drawing on her 15 years in HR and our Respect For People Programme to present a webinar in partnership with The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), on ‘How to build a respectful culture that tackles inappropriate behaviour at work.’ In this month’s hr inspire blog, Suzanne outlines what a workplace policy that builds a culture of mutual respect and minimises workplace disputes, should look like.

Inappropriate behaviour at work is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues facing leaders today with half of British women having been sexually harassed in the workplace according to a BBC survey. Despite this, less than half (40%) of line managers still lack training in preventing and addressing inappropriate behaviour, and a quarter of UK employees say bullying and harassment is overlooked, the CIPD found.

But thriving organisations that attract the best talent are also the ones who have created a respectful, accountable and diverse culture – one that encourages transparency and intolerance on issues like sexual harassment and discrimination. Whereas before most organisations focused on limiting risk and damage control, today the best businesses are realising that times are shifting to an ‘era of honesty’ which means being accountability and owning problems.

Professionalism, integrity and trust are just some aspects of a workplace that workers expect and have a right to, along with fairness, openness and understanding. Treating colleagues with mutual respect, not only reduces the risk of accusations and claims on ground such as discrimination or harassment (against the backdrop of a 26% year-on-year rise in Employment Tribunal claims), but also creates a positive and productive workforce. In fact, research by the ILM in its ‘New Decade, New Direction’ report revealed that good relationships with colleagues are essential to job satisfaction according to 77% of workers. A third (33%) said having a negative culture was a cause of their dissatisfaction at work.

So how do you build and nurture an atmosphere of respect across your organisation? It all lies with establishing a transparent ‘respect for people’ workplace policy that cultivates great leaders to set the tone, supported by clear tools, policies and processes that give employees the confidence and clarity to call out unacceptable behaviour. This policy should include:

  • Six monthly cultural ‘temperature checks’ – a cultural lens into the true state of the company’s culture through actionable insights to rectify weaknesses, build strengths and sustain to maintain positive cultures.
  • Plans to build these cultural checks into employee appraisals and exit interviews to reveal what is and isn’t working culturally. Technology can also be used to identify patterns of behaviour and complaints to give further cultural insight.
  • The organisation’s clear set of visions and values with respect at the core and a well communicated purpose, so employees understand what they are collectively working towards.
  • Reference points for up-to-date training materials and information, easily accessible to all employees on what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, protected characteristics under the Equality Act, ACAS latest guidance such as on the misuse of NDAs, and clear signposts on where to report any unacceptable conduct. Line managers should also have specific training on laws identifying and resolving workplace disputes.
  • Whistleblowing and grievance procedures along with equal opportunities, diversity and bullying, and harassment policies. These must be actively promoted with a clear message that neither harassment nor bullying will be tolerated. That way, employees and line managers feel supported and confident in making or handling a claim without repercussions to their career.

But any efforts to build a respectful culture and implement policy will be futile without the board driving this change, from the top down. Senior executives must lead by example, walking the talk, being respectful to all for the organisation to expect others to follow suit. So, finally ensure to agree with the Board behavioural expectations for them to lead by example, and how the business will be a champion of diversity and inclusion.

If you would like to attend Suzanne Hurndall’s webinar in partnership with the ILM on 4th March starting at 13.30 until 14.00 – then please register via this link here.

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