US laws protecting employees from harassment and discrimination are well developed and entrenched in our business culture. Federal and state anti-discrimination laws have matured and evolved to address more than just the most blatant forms of harassment. The importance of training on employment discrimination, retaliation, and harassment prevention is no longer in question—it’s a business imperative. A strong ethical culture is a business differentiator, and triggers increased employee engagement, productivity, and bottom-line profitability. (Download a copy of the Ethics Resource Center’s 2011 National Business Ethics Survey to see the numbers.)
But until now harassment training efforts often slowed to a near halt at US borders. The justifications have been many: that Americans are more sensitive about sexual and other forms of harassment, that laws outside the United States are not as robust, that US harassment training won’t resonate with a global audience, and that obstacles to rolling out a global solution are simply too daunting.
Employers Are Now Embracing International Harassment & Retaliation Training
In the first few months of 2012 alone, I have seen a surge in interest in global harassment training. Employers have cut their teeth on global Code of Conduct and ethics training, and are now eager to communicate their commitment to a harassment-free workplace worldwide.
And even though local laws and cultures vary, employers are focused on the big picture and are less concerned about the nuances of local law. They are asking themselves, What do our values mean, and how do we want our employees to be treated, regardless of home country? How can an effective global harassment prevention effort actually enhance business performance?
Workplace Harassment Is a Global Problem
Employees around the globe are victims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. It’s not just a US issue (check out this clip of James Bond star Daniel Craig dressed as a woman that explores sexual inequalities in the UK).
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released in August 2010 found that 10% of workers globally have experienced workplace sexual harassment (where a superior has tried to have a non-consensual sexual relationship with them).
Notable results by country include:
- 26% India
- 18% China
- 16% Saudi Arabia
- 8% United States
- 9% Italy
- 5% Great Britain
- 5% Belgium
- 5% Germany
- 5% Poland
I can only imagine how high these numbers would be if individuals were asked about environmental harassment, such as sexist comments, visual displays of offensive behaviors, and the impact of negative stereotypes. Add in other types of harassment—race and religion—and the numbers would soar.
Just like in the US, we cannot assume that our employees simply “get it.” Time and time again, we are left speechless when we learn the details of the latest and greatest harassment scandal. It’s critical that we continue to teach employees about their responsibilities to behave in accordance with our workplace values and to proactively help prevent harassment. And all employees should understand their duty to report a problem and how specifically to make a report. These efforts must extend to our global workforces as well.
Training a global workforce about harassment prevention presents incredible challenges. Live training can be time consuming and expensive, and it’s hard to ensure that your message is delivered consistently in all countries. Most e-learning providers simply repackage and translate their US harassment training courses and label them “global.” Rolling out a course riddled with US-centric scenarios, language, and content often backfires with international audiences. Learners tune out, wasting precious dollars and undermining your organization’s training efforts.
A topic as important as global harassment prevention deserves a unique and dedicated solution—one that strikes the right balance between cultural and legal variances and the importance of establishing global standards of respect and fair treatment.
NAVEX Global’s brand-new International Workplace Harassment course (developed in conjunction with Littler Mendelson’s international employment law team) was created specifically for a global audience. The program covers traditional forms of harassment but also includes content on topics critical to learners outside the US, such as bullying and social origin harassment. Professional international actors help bring critical concepts to life, capturing the attention and the interest of your learners. And ELT’s proprietary International Policy Management Tool™ allows an organization to deliver the right policies to the right employees, concurrent with the training. Based on their specific location, each learner certifies to the appropriate policy.