On Thursday, Google employees in several different cities staged a global walkout to raise awareness about the company’s mishandling of sexual misconduct and harassment claims. Google offices in different cities around the world, including Berlin, Zurich, New York, and Tokyo, took part in the walkout. The walkout was the result of a few different causes, including a payout awarded to Andy Rubin, who is the designer of Android mobile software. Rubin reportedly received a $90 million exit package, despite sexual misconduct claims against him. In addition to the walkout, Google employees created a list of demands for the company including more transparency regarding sexual harassment claims, a clear and objective process to report sexual misconduct claims, and more focused and concerted efforts to end the pay gap. Google’s gender issues reverberate a trend taking place in the rest of the tech industry, and in corporate America in general. Just last month McDonald’s employees staged a similar walkout to raise awareness for sexual misconduct at the company. How can companies learn from the missteps of Google, McDonald’s, and other organizations that have been affected by comparable issues?
- Clear chain of command. One of the demands made by Google employees was a desire for a concise process of reporting sexual allegations and misconduct. Employees want to feel heard and protected, without fears of retaliation. Companies must create a clear chain of command for reporting incidents, and employees should be informed about the chain of command. Who do the managers have to answer to within the organization? What if the perpetrator is a member of the C-Suite? Or even the CEO? Who would hold them accountable in this instance? There must be a system of checks and balances in the organization; if one does not exist already, it is imperative to create one.
- Transparency matters. Another one of the demands made by Google employees was a transparency report regarding sexual misconduct in the company. Research indicates that transparency in the workplace can have a positive effect on employee performance, as well as a positive impact on customer perceptions. Employees do not want to feel blind sighted by issues taking place in the company. What are you, as an organization, or as an organizational leader, going to do to end sexual misconduct at your company? There must be strategic goals that are shared with employees. How many sexual misconduct reports were filed last year at the company? What about the year before that? Not only should goals be shared with employees, but frequent progress reports should be shared as well.
- Closing the gap. Google employees indicated that they wanted the company to put forth a concerted effort to end the pay gap. It is not enough for Google to say they want to end the pay gap—what is the company actually doing to make this happen? Organizational leaders should be held accountable for their commitment to increasing wage equity. It may be beneficial to tie performance measurements and evaluations to these goals. As a guide, the Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that leaders should analyze the starting pay, merit pay, and promotional pay that employees receive to ensure equity. Assessing how pay grades are assigned, how pay increases are allotted, and who pay levels are determined by, can allow companies to evaluate whether pay is equitable. Ending wage disparities should be a critical part of a leader’s role within the company and should be tied to their performance goals.
The time is now for organizations to take proactive steps to ensure that the workplace is an environment where employees feel safe and protected. A fire has been ignited with the Me Too and Times Up movements and employees across the world are refusing to accept inequitable treatment. Employees are starting to feel emboldened to speak out and let their voices be heard. If companies want to be sustainable, there must be a focus on fostering an inclusive environment for each and every employee.