Have you asked your employees about harassment? Nike didn't either.

Have you asked your employees about harassment? Nike didn't either.

Earlier this year, at least six top male executives at Nike left or announced their impending departure. The departures came after Nike’s chief executive was presented with an unofficial, anonymous survey of female employees, in which they were asked if they had ever experienced sexual harassment or gender discrimination while at work. The results overwhelmingly described a hostile environment for women at Nike.

Even worse, many women had reported their concerns to human resources, only to be brushed off or ignored. The New York Times reported that interviews with more than 50 current and former employees revealed that many women at Nike felt “ignored, harassed and stymied in their careers.” Since the results from the survey were made public, Nike has been under public pressure to address the biases about which its management was either unaware or willfully ignorant.

Now Nike is taking steps to review and restructure its human resources operations, provide management training, and revise its internal reporting procedures. However, many female Nike employees are questioning why it took an anonymous survey conducted by other employees to force change.

Business owners are often removed from the day-to-day operations of their companies, making it difficult to know what employees are experiencing. In addition, the management team has a vested interest in presenting a rosy picture of the ground floor environment to a CEO or owner. It doesn’t help the situation that team members are usually afraid to speak up about human resources or management challenges. An annual anonymous survey followed by a clear response and training can help owners and operators understand the challenges their employees are facing each day, and how they can best be addressed.

Don’t wait until good employees walk out the door or submit their own survey. Be the employer who asks for feedback, hears it, and takes the steps necessary to build a productive and engaged team of employees.

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