7 training tips for improving workplace culture

According to a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management, one in five Americans left a job in the past five years because of a toxic workplace culture, costing companies an estimated $223 billion in turnover. Photo credit: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

For the hotel and lodging industry, providing ongoing employee training on preventing sexual harassment, discrimination and other workplace misconduct is a cornerstone of creating a safe, positive environment for staff and guests. Organizations that prioritize training and other initiatives to strengthen workplace culture can benefit from improvements in recruitment and retention, customer loyalty, brand reputation and the bottom line.

As hoteliers seek new ways to make sexual harassment prevention training more effective and relevant for employees and managers in the #MeToo era, here are seven tips:

1. Tailor Training to the Hotel Industry

Regular, interactive training tailored to the organization and its workforce is an essential step in effectively addressing and preventing workplace harassment. This is especially true for the hotel industry, with its unique working environment and people-centric culture. Effective sexual harassment training should focus on teaching hotel employees what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable and equip them with insights and practical steps on how to recognize the different forms of harassment and how to respond—whether they are a target or a witness. Hoteliers should also stay up to date with state laws requiring employers to train employees and managers on sexual harassment prevention. To date, New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine and Delaware have training requirements, with more states expected to follow. 

2. Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking

Combating human trafficking is a priority for the hotel and lodging industry, which, unfortunately, is vulnerable to traffickers. Training staff regularly on how to recognize the warning signs of human trafficking and how to report their suspicions is an essential step in fighting this global crime that affects millions of people every day. Hotels and motels operating in California should be aware of a new law, SB 970, that requires them to provide human trafficking awareness training by Jan. 1, 2020, to employees who may come in contact with traffickers or trafficking victims.

3. Explain the Different Types of Discrimination

All employees—especially hiring managers and others in supervisory roles—need to know what constitutes discrimination and how to avoid it in all aspects of employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits and other conditions of employment. Besides federal protections against discrimination based on religion, race, color, sex, age (40 or older), national origin, genetic information and pregnancy, some states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and many other characteristics. In addition, New York and California recently passed laws against discrimination based on natural hairstyles, such as afros, braids, twists and cornrows.

4. Teach Bystander Intervention Techniques

Bystander intervention training has emerged as one of the most effective ways to stop inappropriate workplace behavior before it rises to the level of illegal harassment and discrimination. Training employees on different techniques to safely intervene before, during or after a harassing or threatening situation is a tangible way to encourage employees to be allies of coworkers who are targets of discrimination and harassment and help prevent future incidents.

5. Promote Inclusive Thinking and Actions

Diversity and inclusion are important parts of the conversation on creating a workplace culture in which all employees feel empowered to share their ideas and perspectives and contribute to the organization’s success. While diversity gets most of the spotlight, inclusion is what makes D&I initiatives stick. Training employees and managers on the concept of inclusion can foster a more productive environment in which individuals who may feel left out have opportunities to thrive and participate in the organization’s operations and leadership.

6. Address Unconscious Bias

While everyone has unconscious biases—hidden attitudes based on social stereotypes—if left unchecked, they can create an unhealthy work environment and lead to discriminatory behavior. Managing personal biases is especially critical for hotel employees, who interact daily with coworkers, guests, vendors and others from different cultures and backgrounds. Training employees to recognize and understand the different types of unconscious bias can help minimize their influence on workplace decisions and underscore the connection between unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion and preventing discrimination.

7. Cultivate Workplace Respect and Civility

According to a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management, one in five Americans left a job in the past five years because of a toxic workplace culture, costing companies an estimated $223 billion in turnover. As part of a multifaceted strategy, workplace respect and civility training raise awareness of the impact of a toxic culture on individuals and the organization while teaching employees different ways to proactively promote respect, civility and fairness.

With the active support of the CEO and leadership team, an interactive training program tailored for the hotel industry and focused on essential compliance, workplace conduct and culture topics can help prevent sexual harassment and other misconduct and lead to a safe, inclusive culture for employees and guests.

Andrew Rawson is the chief learning officer and co-founder of Traliant, a provider of sexual harassment training and other compliance and workplace topics.