With job openings across healthcare at a record high, according to a new report by the American Hospital Association, efforts to recruit and retain skilled employees can be hindered if organizations aren’t proactive in preventing sexual harassment and promoting diversity and inclusion. Adopting a modern, interactive approach to discrimination and harassment training can help healthcare HR professionals promote a respectful, inclusive workplace and improve recruiting and employee engagement.
An effective sexual harassment training program should:
1. Be tailored to the healthcare industry
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace said that regular, interactive training tailored to the organization and its workforce is one of the core principles for preventing and addressing harassment. Industry-specific videos, images, examples, terminology and assessments add an authentic tone and puts workplace harassment in a context that is relevant and meaningful to healthcare employees.
2. Leverage eLearning technologies
Innovations in eLearning and video production are changing compliance training’s boring reputation. Instead of clicking through static slides, employees can experience the effects of harassment and other workplace misconduct through interactive videos and other content designed to connect with a 21st century workforce.
3. Raise awareness of different types of harassment
There are many forms of sexual harassment — it’s not just unwanted touching or kissing. Harassment can be subtle (repeated compliments, sexting) and anyone can be a harasser — a supervisor, co-worker, supplier, visitor or patient.
4. Ensure training complies with state training requirements
Beginning with the onboarding process, training employees and managers on a regular basis is an important step in complying with state and local laws. To date, New York, New York City, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine and Delaware require employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training. More states are expected to follow. Effective training turns concepts, laws and regulations into learning experiences that focus on teaching behavior, not the law.
5. Encourage employees to report incidents
HR professionals should include training in their communications about the organization’s anti-harassment policies, complaint procedures and different reporting options. Encouraging employees to speak up and report incidents they may experience or witness helps drive positive behavior and enables organizations to quickly address misconduct before it escalates into illegal harassment.
6. Train supervisors and managers to avoid retaliation
Retaliation — taking “adverse action” against an employee or job applicant for making a good-faith complaint of harassment or discrimination or participating in an investigation — is illegal. Examples of retaliation include firing, demoting, reassigning, disciplining, bullying, and more subtle actions such as changing a work schedule to create a conflict. Training all managers and supervisors on their responsibility to respond appropriately to complaints can reduce the risk of retaliation claims — consistently the most frequently filed charge with the EEOC.
7. Teach bystander intervention techniques
Bystander intervention training teaches employees techniques to safely intervene, either directly or indirectly, if they see someone being harassed or threatened. Championed by the EEOC and other workplace experts, bystander intervention training is considered one of the most effective ways to stop harassment, prevent future incidents and empower individuals to be allies to targets of harassment.
8. Support leadership’s commitment to a safe, respectful culture
Setting the right tone from the top can make a difference in how employees perceive the organization’s values, culture and training initiatives. Including a video message by the CEO in the training reinforces the importance of preventing workplace harassment and accountability for all employees, at every level.
Implementing a harassment-prevention training program that is modern, interactive and tailored to the healthcare industry can help HR professionals promote a respectful, inclusive workplace, comply with a growing number of state laws, and improve recruiting, retention and employee engagement in a tight labor market.