Whether you run a small business or manage a large corporate entity, keeping your employees happy should be on top of your mind.
Needless to say, a happy workforce is a productive and loyal one. Additionally, this mindset can go a long way in steering clear of legal issues because workplace discrimination can land your business in deep trouble.
Moreover, the law mandates employers to protect their employees from any kind of discrimination (based on race, sex, age, or disability) in the workplace. Considering these facts, this is something that you cannot take frivolously.
However, ensuring that you have a discrimination-free workplace can be a massive challenge. Such acts may be subtle at times and people may not even come up to report the incidents until they escalate into major problems.
Moreover, prejudice isn’t always confined to bosses as your managers and employees may also be responsible for such behaviors. So it makes sense for business owners to go the extra mile to prevent such situations in the first place.
Fortunately, there are some simple measures and policies that can help you run your organization without battling with discrimination issues. Let us highlight them for you.
1. Have a clear policy in writing
First things first, you will need a written policy that clearly defines the rules and procedures you have in place for dealing with discrimination at work. Essentially, the policy must cover a wide range of potential discriminatory acts that may happen.
Further, it should include a protocol outlining how complaints need to be submitted, handled, and resolved. Keeping the language of the policy fair and simple is important.
Additionally, your employee handbook should cover this policy so that people who come on board have a clear idea of the regulations in case they face a situation in the future.
Also, ensure that every employee receives the handbook and signs an acknowledgment of receipt so that they cannot claim a lack of information later.
2. Establish a consistent process for issue resolution
When it comes to discriminatory issues, dealing with them fairly and quickly is incredibly important. Not only does it matter to prevent legal hassles for your company but also to maintain trust and credibility with the employees.
A consistent issue resolution process indicates that you want everyone to give fair treatment by the same standards, whether it is a team leader or a top management executive.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for establishing such a process, rather you need to look for one that fits the size, structure, and resources of your organization. Additionally, you need to make sure that everyone in the company has a complete understanding of the procedure so that they can go ahead when the need arises.
3. Review and realign the policies periodically
Having a written policy and establishing a process for complaints and issue resolution is a lot of work done but it isn’t a one time job.
You need to understand that discrimination may happen in different ways and you may come across unique and unexpected situations. Being far-sighted and well-prepared to handle them gives you a head start when they actually arise.
Although the scope of your policies may be broad enough, you cannot expect them to cover all kinds of acts.
Experts at Cary Kane who specialize in employment law recommend that businesses should keep a close eye on their policies and realign them periodically. In fact, they have helped clients secure settlements if their rights were violated because the employer policies weren’t good enough.
4. Educate employees continually on workplace discrimination
Even though you may address the issue in the employee handbook, it may not be enough. Some state laws mandate employers to conduct anti-discrimination training programs on a regular basis. Ideally, this is something you should do proactively, whether the law requires it or not.
Education and training make the employees well aware of their rights and corporate policies and procedures. Further, they also generate awareness about also how people can report allegations confidently.
Having an enhanced program for managerial employees is a good approach as they act as your first line of defense in the prevention of workplace discrimination.
5. Communicate with the employees
Seamless and consistent communication with your employees is another effective measure to prevent workplace discrimination within your organization.
It plays a key role in gaining feedback on the employee experience on the job, whether they have gone through a discriminatory situation firsthand or witnessed it in the organization.
Moreover, being open to on-going communication fosters trust and makes the employees more comfortable about being verbal for sharing their concerns with the management. It reassures them that nothing matters more than their best interests.
Obviously, this will get you their loyalty and enhance your reputation as an employer.
6. Build a culture that celebrates diversity
While the anti-discrimination initiatives should cover what isn’t permissible on legal and humanitarian grounds, that is just half the work done.
When it comes to preventing bias and workplace discrimination, you need to create a positive culture and environment. The key is to have a culture that accepts and celebrates diversity in terms of backgrounds, beliefs, and differences.
Think of a diverse workforce as an asset for your business. These employees are capable of generating diverse solutions because of the different experiences, backgrounds, and viewpoints they bring. It is also important to encourage positive actions and interactions that let employees to mingle and to know each other better.
Preventing discrimination in your workplace requires a pro-active approach, right from having a tangible policy to ensuring fair and consistent handling of issues to providing company-wide education and establishing an approachable workplace environment.
As an employer, you need to see discriminatory actions as a serious concern that requires quick and proper resolution because it can harm your business in more than one way. Surely, you wouldn’t want to lose on employee loyalty and your reputation as an employer.
Moreover, legal hassles are the last thing you would want your business to come across. Preventing workplace discrimination and dealing with it firmly, therefore, should your top priorities.
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I am Adeyemi Adetilewa, a media consultant, entrepreneur, husband, and father. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Ideas Plus Business Magazine, online business resources for entrepreneurs. I help brands share unique and impactful stories through the use of public relations, advertising, and online marketing. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, Hackernoon, The Good Men Project, and other publications.