I’m excited to share my inaugural blog as Managing Director of Workforce Risk Management at Sikich. Our goal is to use this blog as an opportunity to micro-focus on trending topics and to synthesize information and ideas across disciplines, sectors and fields of study. Your feedback, questions and suggestions are always welcome.
Assessing Prevention in Action
When advising clients on how to best protect their people, I always stress that prevention programs can’t just exist with policies on paper – they need to show up at work every day. And I make a regular practice of informing (or reminding) leaders that when driving a prevention program, it’s important to keep checking your mirrors and gauges. Every opportunity to assess prevention efforts at work is an opportunity to strengthen capabilities. It’s one of the keys to maintaining peak safety and performance. There are many formal and informal ways to evaluate the effectiveness of programs, policies and systems in action.
A great example of proactive program evaluation can be found in the recently released U.S. Air Force Findings of the Interpersonal Violence Task Force. The report documents the Department of the Air Force (DAF)-wide comprehensive study to examine the entire spectrum of interpersonal violence (IPV). What makes the task force’s work stand out is that they focused their efforts on the safety and support available to Airmen and Guardians after they experienced IPV. They wanted to know if programs, policies and services were fulfilling their purpose.
“We want to understand what is going on, especially at that left side of the continuum, so that we can get after that.” said Brig. Gen. April D. Vogel, the Interpersonal Violence Task Force lead. “Because it is proven that when lower-level behaviors that are inappropriate are allowed to flourish, it creates an environment where worse, more egregious types of behaviors can happen.”
According to the report, roughly 10% of the department responded to the survey. Of those 68,000 respondents, 55% reported experiencing some form of IPV behavior in the past two years that resulted in “psychological or physical harm or that detract[ed] from a culture of dignity and respect.” Yet most Airmen and Guardians who experienced IPV did not seek help. On par with similar studies on why employees chose not to report, a quarter of respondents said they didn’t think anything would be done, and roughly a fifth said they thought it would make things worse for themselves.
Another significant issue common to many organizations emerged from the findings that showed a contrast in perception among the ranks. Even though more than 80% of command team members felt they had the “resources, training and authority” necessary to address interpersonal violence in the chain of command, most Airmen and Guardians who reported IPV were not satisfied with the support services provided.
“One of our top priorities is to create a safe environment free from interpersonal violence,” said Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the service’s top officer, in a statement. “It was essential to hear from our Airmen, Guardians and family members so we can ensure we understand how they are being cared for after experiencing interpersonal violence. Going forward, we need to build trust so reports can occur, and all get the kind of help they need.”
While the findings in the report are valuable and unique (I encourage you to dig deep and spend some time reading the report), I was not surprised by the outcomes of the focus groups. Airmen and Guardians named five key factors they believed would help them remain and feel safe, encourage them to report an incident of IPV, and facilitate them receiving services after experiencing interpersonal or workplace violence:
- Trust in leadership
- Feeling emotionally and physically safe
- Clear reporting process
- Trust in due process
These concepts are not new. They are the same essential qualities all organizations need to prioritize as they build or advance their workplace violence prevention programs. The key takeaway from the report is that all of us – across government and the private sector alike – have more work to do to ensure the safety and support of those who experience any form of interpersonal violence.
The Air Force should be commended for their top-level attention and progressive approach to prevention and support. We’re moving in the right direction.
If you’re a business or organization leader in need of a prevention program or are interested in learning more about workforce risk management, contact our leading professionals. We are eager to help you build a program that prioritizes your people and their safety at work.
Tens of Thousands of Airmen, Guardians Report Some Form of Interpersonal Violence – Air Force Magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2021, from https://www.airforcemag.com/air-force-interpersonal-violence-survey-results/.