Understanding policy is only one part of an effective harassment trainingÂ program.
By Andrew Rawson
Since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, one of theÂ main challenges for HR leaders is how to implement anÂ effective sexual harassment training program. TodayâsÂ programs need to be relevant to a diverse workforce,Â up to date with evolving laws, and part of theÂ organizationâs strategy to improve workplace culture.
For thousands of HR officers and their organizations,Â ensuring that all employees are trained on sexualÂ harassment prevention is now the law. While previouslyÂ some states have had sexual harassment trainingÂ requirements, it didnât legally apply to all employees.Â Since 2018, six statesâCalifornia, New York, Illinois,Â Connecticut, Maine, and Delawareâhave passedÂ laws that mandate sexual harassment training for allÂ employees and managers.
In its influential 2016 report on workplace harassment,Â the Equal Employment Opportunity CommissionâsÂ (EEOC) Select Task Force on the Study of HarassmentÂ in the Workplace said that regular, interactive trainingÂ is one of the core principles for effectively addressingÂ and preventing workplace harassment. With the activeÂ support of senior leaders, training can help ensure thatÂ employees and managers have a clear understandingÂ of the rules, policies, and procedures for reportingÂ complaints. Training can also help clarify expectations forÂ behavior and the consequences of misconduct. Further,Â the EEOC said that effective training must shift theÂ focus from teaching laws and avoiding legal liability toÂ changing behaviors and promoting respect and civility.
Developments in eLearning tools and video technologyÂ are ushering in new approaches to online harassmentÂ training. These platforms provide interactive, realisticÂ video scenarios, point-scoring assessments, and otherÂ elements to engage a 21st century workforce. BuildingÂ on the idea that people remember stories, videoÂ scenarios can illustrate the effects of harassment as wellÂ as depict its subtler forms andÂ gray-area situations in waysÂ that static content cannot.
Organizations can also benefitÂ if they present the informationÂ in a way that challengesÂ assumptions about sexualÂ harassment. This can create aÂ more active learning experienceÂ in which employees are more likelyÂ to pay attention, stay engaged in theÂ storyline, and follow up with questions orÂ concerns afterwards.
In todayâs diverse workplace, thereâs no one-size-fits-allÂ training model that can be effective for all organizations.Â For example, employees working in restaurants, hotels,Â healthcare, or manufacturing can benefit from trainingÂ that is tailored to their specific industry and experiences.
Organizations with a global workforce may also wantÂ to provide training in multiple languages and that canÂ be easily customized to reflect cultural and geographicÂ differences.
Mobile-optimized training is also increasingly importantÂ as more employees work remotely and prefer toÂ access courses on their laptops, smartphones, orÂ tablets. Mobile technology benefits HR managers andÂ administrators too by providing a convenient platformÂ to assign training, monitor employee progress, and sendÂ out reminder messages.
Another way to modernize harassment training isÂ to include workplace conduct and culture topicsÂ like bystander intervention, diversity and inclusion,Â unconscious bias, respect, and civility. In particular,Â bystander intervention training, which teachesÂ employees safe ways to disrupt, support, confront,Â and report harassment if they witness it, has gainedÂ the support of the EEOC and other workplace experts.
Chai Feldblum, former EEOC commissioner and cochairÂ of the harassment task force, said that bystanderÂ intervention training could be a âgame changer inÂ the workplaceâ and âcreate a sense of collectiveÂ responsibility on the part of workers and empower themÂ to be engaged bystanders in preventing harassment.â
Lawmakers are taking note. New York City set a precedentÂ in 2018 by requiring employers with 15 or more employeesÂ to include bystander intervention in their annualÂ sexual harassment training. Regardless of whether itâsÂ mandated, teaching employees how to safely interveneÂ and stop harassment is an important part of an effectiveÂ harassment training program. By training and educatingÂ on the concepts of diversity, inclusive thinking, andÂ unconscious bias, organizations can help foster a cultureÂ of respect and fairness, leading to better recruiting andÂ retention, productivity, and business results.
Andrew Rawson is chief learning officer of Traliant.