When the threat comes from within, what can organizations do to protect their workers?

August 16, 2017 | Reskill Your Workforce | 4 min read


Unless you have been hiding under a rock these past few months, you will be very aware of the growing number of companies finding themselves in a firestorm of bad press over the mistreatment of employees. While I feel there is no benefit in calling out particular individuals and getting into some sort of mudslinging match, I do want to address the elephant in the room and I’ll start by saying this: training is not the place to look if we want to find a way to prevent further cases.

And I am fully aware how odd this must sound, especially coming from someone who works for a compliance training organization. However, between the recent spate of sexual harassment and discrimination cases and the complete lack of diversity within many high-tech companies, I feel it is time I reminded everyone that these issues are not training issues, they are company culture ones.

Leaders are responsible for their organization’s culture and in the fast-paced world of high-tech, where the very nature of the business demands that rules are broken, and often there is no time to reflect, it is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a standard of treatment and respect in which employees and customers should expect and receive.

When leadership fails to remember this, it either ultimately collapses, or those driving this culture will, as we have seen recently, be removed. What is a little disappointing is that although we have seen examples of this over the past few years, some people are still not learning from the experiences of others. Is that they still believe, somewhat arrogantly but definitely incorrectly, that the revenue they are driving will protect them and excuse such behavior towards employees and customers?

I also believe that the vast majority of employers do not want their brand tarnished or grouped into the same cohort/category as some other well-known entities are currently occupying. To ensure this it must begin and end with the example set by the leadership, that if those in charge establish and define an organizational culture that respects and treats everyone equally, then it will happen.

How easy is it to ensure you protect your brand internally?

Follow these 5 simple steps.

1. Put it in your Mission Statement

Make it a part of the organization’s very core. The wording needs to be clear, concise and to the point. And if shareholders are nervous about this, remember a healthy organization will in turn create its own shareholder value.

2. Hire to your Mission

Make sure prospective employees will not only embrace such a culture, but actively seek it. Look at work histories and do not hire simply on past performance only. When I’m hiring I look for examples or demonstrations of integrity, accountability and performance, all essential to maintain the culture of mutual respect and professionalism I have established in my department.

3. Onboard to your Mission

This is the ideal time, the perfect opportunity when a new employee is stepping through the door for the very first time. Use it to create and drive the desired culture. If employees can see a clear path, a defined company-wide direction that filters down directly from the top, they will absorb and participate to a greater extent.

4. Build Trust with and around your Mission

This is key. Employees must feel confident and secure when voicing a concern and perhaps more importantly, you must build this trust by following through on such concerns and taking action if required.

5. Reinforce your Mission with Training

I said training was not the answer, and it isn’t, but it is an essential part of the ongoing maintenance. Training enables and facilitates a consistency that might otherwise be difficult to achieve, particularly with the ever-changing demographics of the modern workforce.

So yes, recent examples of company’s treating their employees in a less than exemplary manner has drawn attention to the compliance as an issues across organizational types and sizes. But my hope is that when the dust settles, which it inevitably will, organizations take a look - an honest look - at their company culture and take action if what they see has the potential for situations similar to those we are hearing about now.

John Arendes is the VP & GM of Global Compliance Solutions at Skillsoft.