Companies are changing because of the #MeToo movement.

According to recent research, 55 percent of organizations have made changes or plan to make changes with how they deal with sexual harassment, 57 percent are now tracking or plan to track harassment metrics, and over 72 percent of employees and managers have either received new training or will within the next year. 

However, new findings from Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey show that everyone still has work to do:

  • 60 percent of managers who are men are uncomfortable participating in common work activity with a woman.
  • Senior-level men are now far more hesitant to spend time with junior women than junior men across a range of basic work activities such as one-on-one meetings, travel, and work dinners.
  • The number of male managers uncomfortable with mentoring women has more than tripled.

We're heading in the wrong direction.

Most management positions are occupied by men, and their hesitation to mentor women is perpetuating gender equality issues. Organizations must provide safe, civil, and respectful workplaces. That's a given. But, you must also provide environments that are fair, free from bias, and equitable for all.

Organizations that make a diverse and inclusive culture a priority are more productive, more innovative, and drive higher levels of employee engagement. And according to a McKinsey report of 366 public companies titled, "Diversity Matters," the most diverse organizations are 15 percent more likely to make above-average amounts of money.

To create a culture that treats employees uniformly and helps beat issues like bias, you have to put practices in place to help govern employees. Here are the three best strategies that I've learned throughout my career in HR:

1. Prioritize respectful treatment. 

Gallup found that respect highly correlates with discrimination and harassment. 90 percent of those who say they aren't treated with respect report one of 35 different discrimination or harassment experiences at work.

Your company's mission and values shape its culture and help others understand its purpose and vision for the future. When decisions need to be made, these "beliefs" act as a guidepost for every employee. Adding respect to the mix of values will ensure that your employees know what's important to the organization, and that they should speak up when they witness a violation.

Treat people with respect regardless of the situation, and you'll never have to worry about being accused of uncivil behavior.

2. Recognize employees for their performance. 

Let's remove the subjectivity. Employee's performance should determine their opportunities--period. If you're the boss and you decide to take the month's top producer out to lunch, do it uniformly. Be consistent and professional.  

Where possible, add structure to the way you recognize and reward employees. Unstructured systems have more room for bias and unethical behavior. To hedge your risks, articulate your expectations and clarify your requirements to your colleagues--especially when defining what success looks like in a role and what constitutes successful performance.

The more structured a process is, the easier it will be for you to remain fair and objective in your decision-making and actions.

3. Educate on bias and encourage managers to talk about it. 

Everyone is subject to bias. It's a subliminal response to mitigating fears and protecting yourself. It's a result of years of conditioning and associations.

Making the best decisions, and not discriminating, by considering all of the facts before drawing conclusions requires an awareness of bias and accountability. Here are a few of the biases that directly impact the workplace, according to the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School's program director of executive development, Horace McCormick, Jr.: 

  • Affinity bias: The tendency to gravitate towards people who remind us of ourselves. 
  • Halo effect: The tendency to always see someone in a positive light because of their title or because you like them. 
  • Perception bias: The tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups that make objective decision making impossible. 
  • Confirmation bias: The tendency for people to only seek out information that confirms their preexisting beliefs or assumptions. 
  • Group-think: The tendency for people to go along with the group rather than voicing their individual thoughts and beliefs. 

This mentorship issue is a combination of a couple of these. Educate yourself and question your decisions. Make sure that you can provide objective reasons to back up your actions.

We're making strides towards more fair and equitable workplaces. To keep closing that gender inequality gap, you have to make a conscious effort to challenge bias and commit to fair and equitable management practices across the board.

Published on: May 21, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.