The Strongest Predictor of Sexual Harassment? Your Culture!

A landmark study released this weekend by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine revealed that the strongest predictor of sexual harassment has little to do with individual perpetrators. Rather, the most potent indicator is what researchers call “organizational climate”—in other words, your company’s culture.

While there is no silver bullet to reducing sexual harassment, we’ve found that one of the best ways to keep harassers at bay is to not just throw out the bad apples but focus instead on improving the whole barrel. As businesses are being held increasingly accountable for taking ownership of sexual harassment, we’re seeing that culture remains key to an enjoyable and competitive workplace.

Human resources professionals and culture advocates have said that, to improve the organizational climate, leaders must set the example, women must be promoted, and organizations must take swift action against inappropriate behavior. But where does one start with these undertakings? We’ve compiled three steps you can take to improve your culture and help decrease the likelihood of sexual harassment:

1. Get clear on your commitments and definitions

Strengthening your company’s response to harassment creates not only a healthier workplace but also a stronger public image. A study from the UCLA Anderson School of Management found that when an organization is timely, informative, and considerate towards victims in the event of a claim, their reputation can be restored to the level of one with no incidence of sexual harassment at all.

Clarify your policies around harassment and discrimination. Is there an emoji or turn of phrase that might be questionable? A stated turnaround time promised alleged victims? Make this common knowledge in your organization (Facebook has a list of inappropriate behaviors) so employees know your standards and understand there are consequences for ill-suited actions.

2. Get your employees involved in improving culture

Your employees can be one of your strongest prevention tools if trained and educated properly. Several thought leaders have suggested bystander training, civility training, and even reporting. Doing so not only allows culture teams to delegate responsibility but also addresses a shifting demand in society. While a majority of Americans in 1998 said people in the workplace were too sensitive about harassment, more than half of Americans today say people in the workplace are not sensitive enough.

Make a case for bystander requirements or incentives and find new ways to encourage reporting. Getting your employees involved can empower them with a responsibility they value, increase the likelihood that unwelcome behaviors are swiftly addressed, and reduce the occurrence of unwanted actions.

3. Bring culture and narrative into your policy

Sexual harassment policies aren’t just legal documents. They are culturally significant, meaning-making texts that play a role in defining and stopping unprofessional behavior. Policies lacking in a strong narrative are susceptible to being usurped by harassers. But, when infused with emotional language and backed up with promised action, they disrupt offenders’ ability to harm fellow workers.

Turn your policies into a cultural code and meet with stakeholders at multiple levels to gather input. It’s your chance to ensure a safe working environment for everyone.

The best workplaces are built on a set of clear and compelling cultural codes, manifested in both word and deed. Implement these changes and you’ll see a happier and more inclusive workforce.

Sexual Harassment: An Inflection Point

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the veil has been lifted on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace and the numbers are staggering. Millions of men and women have finally been empowered by the #MeToo movement to come forward and tell their stories of being harassed. In fact, 1 in 3 women reported that they have experienced some form of sexual harassment while at work. Unfortunately, this problem isn't limited to a few bad actors either. About 20 to 25 percent of men self-reported participating in sexually coercive behavior, ranging from forced sex to verbal manipulation like guilt-tripping a woman into having sex.

Given the immense breadth of harassment claims that have emerged, it doesn’t seem that there are large enterprises in any industry that can credibly claim that harassment is not an issue they face in their workplace.

That being said, we have begun to learn a lot about the types of companies that are less susceptible to workplace sexual harassment. Organizations with more women in leadership roles, executive buy-in on anti-harassment efforts, and consistent enforcement of corporate policies have proven track records of being less likely to experience workplace harassment (EEOC). Unfortunately, even with all of these efforts, moving the needle on these fronts can still be quite challenging.

This moment has the potential to be a major inflection point in the effort to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. However, if we fail to truly understand the scope of the problem before us, the moment will slip through our fingers. We believe that leaders in technology, law, politics, and HR need to come together to find solutions that speak to the underlying foundations of this problem. Major victories have been won in rooting out some of the worst of the worst but our work is just beginning.

 

Fama helps identify harassment at the source and notifies HR professionals immediately to risky behavior. Fama’s web based solution leverages AI technology to identify potential threats before they enter your organization. Call us to learn more.

5 Examples of How Social Media Behavior Can Create Security Risks

There is increasing awareness among security experts about how social media behaviors can open the door for insider and outsider threats. However, other than an employee posting a direct threat online, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to look for.

When attackers want to penetrate an organization’s security, they look for vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities may be technical in nature but oftentimes employees themselves can be the weakest links in a security system. The content that employees post on social media can give would-be attackers clues as to who in the organization might be susceptible. At Fama, we’ve worked with numerous organizations to help them interpret potential risk indicators on social media.

 

Here are five examples of social media posts that have left organizations vulnerable to an attack.

 

1.     Complaining about security protocols – We’ve even seen employees complain online about security measures and even state that they don’t plan on abiding by those measures. In one instance, a government contractor had a policy prohibiting employees from bringing company phones to work. One employee complained on Facebook about the “absurdity” of the rule and joked about not following it. By posting these comments publicly, the employee not only encouraged others to ignore the protocols, but also advertises to potential outside attackers that his phone is a potential path into the organization. 

2.     Bullying or harassing others online – We unfortunately see public bullying of co-workers on social media. This behavior is obviously unacceptable and hurtful in its own right but it also indicates to outside attackers someone who is potentially hurt, angry or resentful and would have a reason to lash out against the company.

3.     Financial desperation – Financial debt is the second leading cause of insiders turning rogue[1]. An employee talking about student loan debt but not be a problem but when an individual starts talking about financial problems with emotional desperation it is an indicator that they may be willing to do something extreme.

4.     Badmouthing the corporation – While most insider threats are motivated by financial gain, employees who are happy with their jobs and their companies are less likely to take such an extreme step. An employee who talks about hating their job, hating their boss, or calling their company “evil”, is more likely to rationalize self-serving behaviors.

5.     Revealing sensitive client information – Revealing privileged information is a problem that you need to know about. When someone seems to talk too freely about clients or corporate IP, even if it’s not a direct privacy breach, it is an indicator that this person is likely to share information that he probably shouldn’t.

 

Make sure that your organization has clear policies for what is acceptable for your employees to post online. Have process in place to ensure that those policies are being followed because a policy with no enforcement might as well not exist. Finally, make sure you have options for how to act in the event a policy was violated whether it be further training, restrictions, or more serious action steps. We'd love to tell you more about how Fama can work with you to identify these kinds of risks at your organization.

Contact us at [email protected] if you’d like to learn more.

 

[1] “Insider Threats and the Need for Fast and Directed Response,” SANS Institute, 2016.

 

AI and Hiring, How to Keep Things in Check

In 1997, IBM’s computer “Deep Blue” defeated Grandmaster and world champion Garry Kasparov in a best of six chess series. It was one of the most impressive early demonstrations of the power of machine intelligence and while the best computer in the world can still beat the best human in chess, the best “chess player” is actually a computer-human team.

 

The most successful computer-human teams have not necessarily been those with the best chess players, but rather those where the human player deeply understands the strengths and weaknesses of the computer counterpart. The need for this understanding in computer-human teams becomes even more important when the decision isn’t about moving a knight but about whether an individual poses risk to your organization.

 

Currently, no AI solution is a silver bullet, but these solutions can be very effective at identifying patterns and helping deliver insight that would have been very difficult to uncover otherwise. However, business decisions are always made in a specific context. An AI solution may help isolate you’re highest performing hiring channel but it won’t tell you how to change your resource allocation given your budget, hiring volume, open roles, etc.

 

"AI offers exciting possibilities” said Jim Hare, research vice president at Gartner, “but unfortunately, most vendors are focused on the goal of simply building and marketing an AI-based product rather than first identifying needs, potential uses and the business value to customers." AI companies must prioritize actionability by explaining to users how to incorporate insights into a fuller decision-making process. The best solutions provide the minimum amount of raw data to enable the most informed decisions and enough analysis to improve efficiency and pattern recognition. Striking this balance is not easy.

 

When considering an AI solution, you should focus on how just how specific you can get with the data. In other words, is it a generic solution or is it highly customizable to match your unique business context? Keep in mind that there will always be variables that the solution will not be able to account for.

 

That is why when you consider your companies approach to hiring it is important to recognize that it’s impossible to look at all of your candidates in the same way. Every position carries a separate set of responsibilities and therefore requires a varying level of scrutiny. That is why, at Fama, we are taking a big step in the right direction by now allowing users to customize adjudication and interpretation criteria by department, seniority, or even on a role by role basis. Users will only see information that matters for that particular candidate as it applies to a specific role. This not only promotes more informed decision-making but also helps to train recruiters and hiring managers to become better at identifying the relevant indicators of job performance.

To learn more about Fama's automated approach to social media screening please feel free to reach out to Fama's Head of Business at [email protected] 

 

Defining Corporate Culture: Google Takes A Stand

The recent events in Charlottesville have forced companies from small startups to Fortune 500s to ask themselves difficult questions about what they stand for as an organization. This blog is the first in a series spotlighting companies that have had to make tough decisions about what their core values actually mean in practice. Today we take a look at the recent controversy around the released memo written by a Google employee.

This past week, the tech giant fired an engineer who wrote a controversial memo criticizing, among other things, the company's diversity efforts and the role of women in the workplace. The memo spread like wildfire internally and then went viral, causing a massive PR headache for the company. The news story is a setback for Google which has been already under fire for gender discrimination. According to Tech Crunch, "The timing of the saga is not good for Google, which was hit by a lawsuit in January to obtain compensation data, ending up with a snafu over gender pay discrimination."

If Google is serious about addressing the real issues of gender discrimination in their organization, then they have some difficult work cut out for them. To do it, an organization must be committed to consistent communication to their employees of the values of the organization and be willing to take controversial stands when those values aren’t upheld.

However, these efforts will likely be futile absent a systematic approach to bringing on board individuals who are aligned to the company’s values and mission. Building a strong corporate culture is hard enough when team members do generally agree on values; it’s almost impossible when most don’t.

If your organization cares about your mission statement being more than just a tab on your marketing page, it will have to make decisions like the one Google recently made. The blowback from Google’s actions were magnified because it had failed to convince the public and its own organization of its authentic commitment to those values. Looking at strength of character in addition to job experience of your candidates is one way to do just that. You may even prevent hiring someone who discriminates against your employees or causes a media scandal for your organization.