In an ocean of L&D interventions, mandatory training, employee wellness initiatives AND work pressures, L&D programs that clearly state the value-add to an employee’s personal or professional growth achieve positive outcomes.
The POSH law enacted 10 years ago, was established to create and foster safe workplaces for all while affording employers the authority of a civil court to address internal grievances. Regrettably, despite its true intentions, it has often been misconstrued as a feminist measure and wrongly perceived as being anti-men, which contradicts its actual purpose.
When implemented effectively, raising awareness about the POSH law can serve as a potent Learning and Development (L&D) intervention. It offers much-needed clarity on behaviours that can cause discomfort, particularly in a multi-generational, gender-fluid workforce where the understanding of appropriate sexual behaviour can be perplexing. It helps establish clear boundaries between personal and professional lives.
Considering that most of our productive hours are spent at work, it's essential to recognise that personal relationships can naturally develop in a professional setting. However, the primary reason people come together in the workplace is to collaborate, build successful careers, and contribute to organisational goals. The POSH framework also forms the foundation for fostering diversity and inclusion.
For these initiatives to be effective, it's crucial to emphasise shared accountability and commitment between employers and employees. This partnership is vital for maintaining a safe workplace for all. Without it, any inclusion efforts can yield suboptimal results or, worse yet, be perceived as mere tokenism, which can harm the organisation's reputation.
POSH awareness is mandated by the law of our land!! Why not derive higher returns from a mandated spend by getting the narrative right?
The billion-rupee question: How do we ‘hook’ employees to take POSH awareness seriously?
The scene today: HR teams across organisations are seen ‘chasing’ employees to attend in-person sessions or sending email reminders ‘requesting’ people to ‘please complete this mandatory annual course’.
Now, imagine a scenario where HR teams DO NOT have to endure this…
Hook 1: rebrand posh awareness to something that resonates with people; when human needs align with business imperatives, the magic begins.
POSH compliance is mandatory. Your employees are not concerned about compliance or the legal aspects of the law.
Focus instead on the human aspect of workplace safety: its risks and benefits to employees; facts of the law that give comfort to all genders: punishment for false complaints is the same as when a case is proven AND that proceedings under this law are excluded from the Right to Information Act (RTI).
Of course, to be able to claim these benefits, employers should be compliant in true substance and not just form. Again, tokenism hurts brands.
Hook 2: Crucial for career enhancement and growth
It is common knowledge that IQ and pedigree will only get your foot in the door: i.e., land you a good job.
A successful career requires proof of high Emotional, Social and Adversity Quotients especially as we take on senior roles in any organisation.
These quotients begin with understanding our contribution (or a lack of it) in creating workplaces where everyone we interact with feels safe.
POSH sensitisation is a great way for employees to course correct and unlearn behaviours that are non-inclusive, biased, or simply off-putting.
Societal norms and culture often result in blind spots which a strong L&D intervention can help address.
As employees take on lead roles, their ability to attract and retain diverse talent, manage avoidable attrition, and create motivated and high-performing teams is an important KPI.
Hook 3: Content of the awareness programme
Now, let’s come to most POSH awareness ‘solutions’ in the market: even as a woman, I would NOT be motivated to sit through most of them.
Learning and development has ONE objective: To create awareness, stimulate that change and act on that change. However, there are very few solutions in the market to do this job.
Nothing prevented organisations from complying with the POSH Act while extending it to all genders. It would have made so much sense given that we now have ~107 gender identities.
Look for an L&D program that is scalable, covers India-specific lived scenarios, trains and tests understanding, and addresses sexual harassment in a way that is non-threatening to any one specific gender or stereotype.
Finally, if people and culture are important for the organisation, leaders and boards have to be deeply involved in interventions linked with ground realities. Again, tokenism will hurt you.