June 21, 2019
More than 18,000 HR professionals and business leaders from around the world are expected to convene in Las Vegas for the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, June 23-26. The theme, “Creating Better Workplaces,” should prompt a lot of conversations, particularly about how to effectively address and prevent sexual harassment.
Regardless of an organization’s industry or whether its workforce is local, regional, national or global, sexual harassment training is an important component of creating better workplaces. Consider these five ways that training can:
Strengthen workplace culture
When incidents of sexual harassment are allowed to perpetuate, they can lead to a toxic workplace and serious consequences. Among them are harassment claims and costly settlements, damage to an organization’s reputation and customer relationships, and more difficulty recruiting and retaining top talent — a critical HR issue in today’s tight labor market. Sexual harassment prevention training can help change a toxic workplace by encouraging individuals to speak up and take appropriate steps when they experience harassment or witness someone engaging in harassing or discriminatory behavior. Training is also a dynamic tool for promoting diversity, inclusive thinking, civility and respect and other workplace values.
Ensure compliance with mandatory harassment training requirements
For a growing number of states, creating better workplaces involves stronger anti-harassment laws and expanded sexual harassment training requirements. On June 18, Connecticut joined California, New York State, New York City, Maine and Delaware in mandating sexual harassment training for both managers and employees. Illinois is expected to follow soon, along with many other states.
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Raise awareness of what is and isn’t harassing behavior
In addition to covering topics mandated by state and local laws, sexual harassment training should raise awareness of what is acceptable behavior (and what is not), and explain the different forms sexual harassment can take — from the obvious to the subtle. Training should also engage the attention of a diverse, multigenerational workforce with realistic examples and fresh content that is relevant to their organization and industry.
Explain policies and procedures
When employees understand how policies and procedures apply in the workplace they are more likely to follow them. Sexual harassment training offers organizations regular opportunities to clarify their anti-harassment policies, share any changes and reinforce the different options available for reporting workplace harassment.
Support a holistic approach
The EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace and industry experts have said that organizations must take a holistic approach to combat harassment and change workplace culture. This involves leadership’s strong commitment, holding people accountable and having the right policies, procedures and training in place. As part of a holistic approach, training can help organizations reduce the risk of harassment and discrimination, promote positive behavior and empower employees with knowledge and practical steps to recognize, report and prevent incidents of misconduct.
“Creating Better Workplaces,” the theme of the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference, is a topic that should spark conversations long after the conference is over. For HR professionals, the theme underscores the increasing importance of taking a holistic approach to preventing sexual harassment and training all employees on their responsibility to maintain a respectful, inclusive workplace.