Compliance Blog

Key to Effective Sexual Harassment Compliance Training: Focus on Stories, Not the Law

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classroom and online sensitivity training

In a recent article in TrainingIndustry.com, Andrew Rawson, Traliant’s co-founder and CLO, discussed the challenges of creating compliance training that can actually help reduce the widespread problem of workplace sexual harassment.

Here are some excerpts:

The problem

“For a generation,” says Andrew Rawson, co-founder and CLO of Traliant, “the working public in the United States has been burdened with an unceasing drumbeat of incredibly boring training written by lawyers that taught people the law.

This training was not engaging, and it didn’t effect behavior change. “Perfunctory anti-harassment training,” says the Economist, “can put employees’ backs up and, if it uses absurd examples, can even make them less sympathetic towards victims and less likely to see borderline cases as wrong.”  

Rawson agrees, saying that if “training is really boring, or the answer’s really obvious, it trivializes the message,” which can make the situation worse.

Hold managers and supervisors accountable

In a report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s task force on workplace harassment, the agency recommends tailoring training to the specific workforce and workplace, and emphasizes the importance of training mid-level managers and front-line supervisors, holding them accountable for preventing and/or responding to workplace harassment.

“The managers are the first line of defense,” Rawson says. They need to know how to handle situations when someone reports harassment to them, what they should be looking for in the workplace and what to do if they’re ever wrongfully accused of sexual harassment.”

People remember stories

“People remember stories better than they remember law,” says Rawson. He recommends creating videos with compelling stories that demonstrate harassment scenarios and their serious consequences. “Like any good drama,” the stories should make viewers “a little uncomfortable.”

Innovations in learning technologies mean videos can be interactive, so learners can select different options and see how different scenarios play out. Combining these videos with classroom training can engage a diverse learning population.

The future: more nuanced training

“Right now,” Rawson says, “most compliance training is a blunt instrument. It should really be much more nuanced.” Providing specific, engaging training at the moment of need – and developing a culture that reinforces the seriousness of sexual harassment – can help prevent it from happening and ensure an appropriate response if it does.

Traliant Insight
As the national conversation on sexual harassment continues, organizations should consider new approaches to preventing it, in all its obvious and subtle forms. An important step is shifting the focus of anti-harassment training from laws and regulations to changing behaviors and attitudes and promoting respect and civility in the workplace.

For more information, view our page on Discrimination, Harassment, and Sensitivity Training, California AB 1825, and California AB 2053 and California SB 396.

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