McDonald’s pledge to tackle sexual harassment is a good start but could go furtherby
McDonald’s has committed to a number of measures to tackle recent sexual harassment claims. But the company has overlooked a critical tool that ditches divisive procedures for a more compassionate, humane approach to addressing conflict.
McDonald’s hit the headlines last week with news that it has signed a pledge with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to tackle a stream of sexual harassment allegations that have arisen over recent years.
The magnitude of the issue cannot be overlooked, with reportedly over 1,000 complaints having been raised in the UK. However, the company should be commended for shining a light on the problem and making a strong and very public commitment to action.
McDonald’s willingness to gather evidence and data, develop a clear strategy, and enter into a legally binding agreement with the EHRC puts it streets ahead of other employers – many of whom are at best myopic when it comes to these issues, or at worst actively ignoring or disregarding the horrendous behaviour that is happening on their watch.
As recent examples in government, the police and fire service have shown, if sexual harassment – or any other kind of bullying or harassment – is not called out these bad behaviours will take hold, resulting in toxic, damaging cultures.
What’s missing is a focus on resolution – rather than retribution – when it comes to dealing with these cases.
What’s missing from McDonald’s response?
In its agreement with the EHRC, McDonald’s outlines plans including:
- A zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment
- Improved training for managers to help them identify risks and handle issues
- Enhanced reporting procedures for employees
These are laudable and well-intentioned approaches, but what’s missing is a focus on resolution – rather than retribution – when it comes to dealing with these cases and creating the safe, respectful and inclusive environment it aspires to.
Many organisations – Burberry, Aviva and Nationwide to name just a few – are finding that an over-arching Resolution Framework is helping them move away from traditional disciplinary and grievance procedures, which are divisive, damaging and in most cases, wholly ineffective.
These outdated policies provide an illusion of justice and a mirage of compassion. The reality is that they create stress, pit people against each other in unhelpful win/lose scenarios and fail to get to the root of often deep-seated systemic and cultural issues. In other words, these formal remedies just don’t work.
Ditching retribution and embracing restorative solutions in this way is not just the right thing to do, it also makes sound business sense.
How resolution works in toxic cultures
A Resolution Framework offers an alternative, people-centred, compassionate and more humane approach, while also allowing recourse to formal sanctions in the cases where these are appropriate.
It is typically led by a resolution centre which is established within the business. Resolution centres operate a robust triage system and use powerful decision-making processes to assess cases and support line managers to resolve issues quickly, in the most appropriate way, and at a local level. Mediation, facilitated conversations and coaching are just a few of the restorative processes the resolution centre can draw on to help resolve disputes.
This approach allows organisations to take a pro-active, rather than a reactive stance, working to embed values-driven, dialogue-led approaches to conflicts of all kinds, reducing the likelihood of situations escalating, and changing the dynamic to a more employee-centric approach.
For more serious cases, and where other approaches have failed, employers are still able to hold formal resolution meetings which, if appropriate, may result in formal sanctions being taken. It’s an approach which is fully compliant with the ACAS code, and allows all parties to retain their legal rights.
HR has the potential to become the single most strategic function of the organisation.
HR as stewards of the resolution shift
Ditching retribution and embracing restorative solutions in this way is not just the right thing to do, it also makes sound business sense – Nationwide BS, for example, shared client feedback with us that they reduced spending on conflict by more than 90 per cent by adopting this approach.
HR has a critical role to play in supporting this shift to a resolution-focused approach. The profession should be acting as custodian of the organisational values, setting out clearly what behaviours are expected of employees, and coaching and mentoring managers in how to build happy, harmonious and healthy workplaces.
A win-win for McDonald’s
People professionals have an opportunity to help the business join the dots so that everyone can see how this shift supports the organisation’s purpose, vision and strategy. By doing this, HR has the potential to become the single most strategic function of the organisation. Even in cases, like those being addressed by Mcdonald's, this is a win-win situation.