When it comes to preventing sexual harassment, the most effective training approach is one that tailors the learning experience to a specific work environment, workplace and workforce.
That’s the finding of a comprehensive Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report, which recommends that employers tailor sexual harassment training to the workplace realities of their industry, company and employees. Training should also comply with state anti-harassment laws, including current sexual harassment training requirements set by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New York and Washington state.
The EEOC report also recommends that employers should look for alternatives to one-size-fits-all sexual harassment training that narrowly focuses on legal issues and avoiding liability. To improve effectiveness, organizations should instead opt for personalized, interactive and ongoing training that focuses on behavior and is part of a comprehensive anti-harassment strategy.
While sexual harassment is a pervasive problem across industries, work environments can be very different. Tailoring sexual harassment training to the real-life environment of a specific industry, such as restaurants, retail, construction or healthcare, helps engage and motivate employees to think about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior and what they can to address and prevent harassing conduct.
Improving sexual harassment training effectiveness
Here are a few additional tips to provide more effective anti-harassment training that resonates with your workforce:
Include content unique to your organization
When training is customized to incorporate your logo, familiar faces and background images, realistic video scenarios and your company’s policies, it becomes more interesting for employees and easier for them to connect the dots to their jobs. Adding a chief executive officer’s video message further heightens the training experience and reinforces expectations for conduct.
Provide different versions of training to employees and managers
The issues and experiences of an entry-level employee are different from that of a frontline supervisor. For that reason, it’s important to provide different versions of sexual harassment training to employees and managers in their preferred language. Training for employees should include procedures for reporting incidents and reassure them that their complaints will be taken seriously, and they won’t be retaliated against. Managers who handle reports of harassment need proper training on how to promptly address and investigate complaints and avoid retaliatory behavior.
Choose training that is behavior-based
A behavior-based approach to training provides an interactive learning experience that goes beyond rules and definitions to empower employees to change workplace behavior. For example, practicing bystander intervention techniques gives employees the tools and motivation to know how and when to interrupt harassing behaviors, defuse potentially harmful situations. and prevent future harassment. By engaging employees and managers in exercises to build their knowledge and decision-making, behavior-based training boosts learning and retention to foster a respectful and inclusive workplace.
When employees and managers find sexual harassment prevention training relevant to their industry, workplace and job, they are more engaged and motivated to change their behaviors and attitudes in positive ways that support a harassment-free work culture of respect and inclusion.
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