The #MeToo movement, new anti-harassment laws and the EEOC’s focus on promoting harassment-free workplaces are keeping the spotlight on sexual harassment training. While harassment training programs should comply with federal, state and local laws and help organizations reduce the risk of violations and costly claims, they also need to meet the needs of a modern workforce and workplace.
For HR practitioners looking for new and innovative ways to make harassment prevention training more engaging, relevant and interactive, here are four suggestions:
- Include bystander intervention and other workplace conduct topics
The EEOC and other experts consider bystander intervention training one of the most effective ways to empower employees to stop harassment and prevent future incidents. Through training, employees learn different ways to interrupt, intervene and stop inappropriate conduct before it becomes unlawful harassment. By enabling employees to support a co-worker, bystander intervention training also helps foster a collective sense that “we’re in this together.” In addition to bystander intervention, anti-harassment training should also address other related topics, such as workplace civility, diversity, inclusion and sensitivity and unconscious bias.
- Tailor training to the organization and workforce
One of the core principles for preventing and addressing harassment is “regular, interactive training tailored to the audience and the organization,” according to the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. Incorporating industry-specific examples, videos, images, and terminology adds a relevant and authentic tone to training programs. Including a video message from the CEO is another way to customize training to the organization and reinforce the message that anti-harassment training is a priority for all employees, at every level.
- Make training more user-friendly
Innovations in eLearning and video production are enabling organizations to provide employees with more user-friendly training experiences. For example, presenting training material in bite-sized episodes is much more appealing to employees than clicking through hundreds of static slides. High-quality videos with interactivity are also transforming training from a passive to an active learning experience. Video scenarios that tell a believable story have the power to connect with employees on an emotional level, keeping them engaged as the story unfolds and sparking future conversations about how to respond to workplace harassment. And, of course, training should be mobile optimized to enable easy access from any device, at any time.
- Align training with improving workplace culture
The connection between workplace harassment and organizational culture has been part of the #MeToo conversation from the start. Organizations that allow sexual harassment and other misconduct to go unchecked risk harassment claims, as well as reputational damage, which can affect morale, recruitment and retention, customer loyalty, productivity and other aspects of the business. As part of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen workplace culture, training offers new and creative ways to raise awareness of the impact of harassment on individuals and the entire organization, and reinforce values, goals, policies and behavior expectations.
In the #MeToo era, sexual harassment prevention training must move from a check-the-box approach to one that puts workplace harassment in a context that is relevant and meaningful for a modern workforce. With the right focus, content and format, training can be an integral part of an organization’s holistic approach to addressing and preventing harassment and driving positive cultural change.