Reporting Workplace Sexual Harassment: Key Considerations for your Ethics Hotline

We conducted an anonymous survey of 400 people from finance, telecommunications, insurance, healthcare, utilities and advanced manufacturing who had experienced sexual harassment on the job. It's one we we could contribute to the recent (long overdue and much needed) dialog on sexual harassment in the workplace. Admittedly, it's also an opportunity to show how our software can help you create a more effective "speak up"workplace culture.

The survey found that 35 percent of those who personally experienced sexual harassment on the job had not received employer-provided training and 26% did not know of any employer-provided training about how to report it at the time of the incident. That's abysmal.

We also asked respondents about key factors in their decision regarding whether or not to report job-related sexual harassment. Amongst those factors considered "very important" where:

  • Concerns about anonymity (82%),

  • Concerns over possible retaliation (84%)

  • Accessibility of an impersonal reporting tool such as an app or hotline (85%)

  • A trusted manager with whom they could discuss the incident (86%)

The single biggest factor, with 89% responding it was very or vitally important, was a personal expectation about whether or not someone would respond to their report.

While there have been significant advances in employee awareness campaigns in recent years, much less attention has been given to ensuring that reporting methods keep pace with employee expectations. So, as a company focused on "Building Better Workplace Neighborhoods" by helping clients communicate with staff more effectively, we also looked into the efficacy of impersonal reporting tools/channels:

  • 85% responded that availability of an impersonal reporting method was an important factor in making a decision on whether or not to report an incident.

  • A mobile app hosted by a third party that allows users the choice of being anonymous was 70% more likely to be used to report an incident of sexual harassment than a telephone hotline, 64% more likely than a web form and 58% more likely than reporting directly to a manager.

  • Only 5% of survey participants reported that an app hosted by a third party which allows users the choice of being anonymous was available at the time of the incident.

  • Those surveyed were 58% more likely to report an incident of sexual harassment via an anonymous and guided mobile app experience. 91% responded that they were likely to return to the app to provide additional information or respond to questions as long as they could choose to remain anonymous, if desired.

Let this sink in a bit. While people will sometimes still use a web form, call a hotline or speak to a manager, there appears a huge preference for reporting via mobile app. While corporate culture and the actions (or inaction) of senior leaders remain the single biggest factor in creating a "speak-up culture," there are significant gains to be made by offering those who are faced with the scourge of sexual harassment on the job a guided, mobile-app based reporting channel from a third party. We owe our employees a stronger voice in Building Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Workplace Neighborhoods. If, like me, you believe in data-driven decisions, then it's time to consider updating your ethics hotline.