Despite all the negative headlines about bad behavior at work, most employees in 2020 understand the importance of respect in their day-to-day jobs, as well as what defines respectful behavior. True Office Learning data confirms this.
When presented with scenarios about workplace safety and violence, employees who have taken our courses made the right decision 95 percent of the time. The same percentage was achieved for scenarios about reporting and non-retaliation.
Unfortunately, not every code-of-conduct category scores so impressively. For example, scenarios focused on a respectful workplace were met with the correct decision just 77 percent of the time.
In addition to being a personal concern, respectful professional behavior is a corporate compliance concern. No employee wants to encounter hostility on the job, and no customer wants to be treated badly by the people who are supposed to help them. Failing on these fronts potentially exposes organizations to liability, risk, and reputational damage—which is why compliance also must be involved in fostering a culture of respect.
Detailing the Data
True Office Learning offers a comprehensive code of conduct module, covering a broad range of topics from anti-corruption to computer security to conflicts of interest. The course also covers more interpersonal topics, and thanks to the millions of people who have learned from this module over the years—and the data their experiences generated—trends have emerged and conclusions can be drawn.
Here are the key categories encompassing some form of workplace respect, with the percentage of users who made the right decisions for the scenarios presented to them:
- Reporting and non-retaliation: 95 percent
- Workplace safety and violence: 95 percent
- Workplace harassment: 89 percent
- Diversity: 88 percent
- Social media: 81 percent
- Respectful workplace: 77 percent
These results are generally promising—but the comparatively low score for respectful workplace is notable. Based on the scenarios answered wrong, the data suggests that employees can identify obviously bad behavior, but they don’t quite know when a line is being crossed for less egregious, but nonetheless disrespectful, behavior. This ambiguity strengthens the case for quality training.
The Respect Problem
For the most part, successful workplaces are rooted in positive communication, trust, and empathy. When respect isn’t part of the equation, engagement dwindles, turnover spikes (and perhaps never improves), and innovation sputters. Consider:
- Turnover due to workplace culture cost American business $223 billion over a five-year period.
- Just 31 percent of polled women felt that they could safely report sexual harassment; the same poll found that 46 percent of women have left a job or switched careers because of harassment.
- When workers feel stressed at work, 41 percent say they’re less productive, 33 percent feel less engaged, and 14 percent were absent more frequently.
The last item is particularly telling: When someone doesn’t feel respected at work, efficiency-killing stress inevitably follows—just dwelling on the disrespect reduces productivity. Employees are human and can be easily distracted by an uncomfortable workplace. They suffer—and, just as critically, the organization’s bottom line suffers.
Working Toward Respect
A culture of respect must be more than an attractive, reassuring catchphrase on a mission statement—it must be ingrained in everything an organization does, from policies to corporate structure to the product to customer service. Such an initiative must start at the top; the example leadership sets gives employees a clear blueprint on how they should work and act. Defined principles, decisive discipline, and empowered employees create an environment in which people are safe and supported to do their best work.
Training should be (and, in many states, is required to be) a part of any culture of respect. There’s always room for improvement and reinforcement. However, for training to truly create a more respectful workplace and maximize your corporate compliance efforts, it should go beyond just lecturing users and intimidating them to act the right way. Great online training platforms include:
- Relevant, immersive scenarios: Employees experience real-world corporate compliance and workplace behavior situations that inspire them to think about the decisions the training directs them to make. This not only engages users but also builds muscle memory so when employees encounter a compliance problem in their day-to-day roles, they know how to act.
- Adaptive learning: Training courses recognize how a user is interacting with a program and automatically adjust based on those interactions. For example, if an employee is struggling with a corporate compliance concept, the module will continue presenting appropriate scenarios until the user understands the topic, thus coming away from the course learning what needs to be learned.
- Rich data: The best training platforms gather comprehensive data down to the individual level to identify effectiveness and problem areas, inform strategy, and even predict where issues may arise in the months ahead.
- AI capabilities: This innovation gives corporate compliance personnel the ability to let the platform analyze training data and determine which employees will benefit from additional help—“learning nudges”—and create custom AI Learning Paths for those employees in the future.
Transforming the Culture
Exceptional training gives organizations a big advantage toward creating and solidifying a workplace anchored in respect. However, such a culture must be ongoing, always striving to maintain and strengthen the respect that you, your coworkers, and company leadership worked so hard to establish. More than likely, your organization’s employees already act ethically and morally toward each other, their customers, and the community. With a proactive attitude and impactful training, your workforce can become even smarter, more empathetic, and more respectful—and, ultimately, more productive.