Organizations with a globally distributed workforce face unique challenges in combating discrimination and sexual harassment. A 2020 study by the University of California, Los Angeles, found that three quarters of the United Nations’ 193 member states have laws addressing workplace discrimination. The WORLD Policy Analysis Center, a non-profit policy research center, reports that over 122 countries have laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace.
Rather than concentrating on specific laws, organizations should approach global anti-discrimination and harassment training by raising awareness of respectful and inclusive behavior and ensuring employees know how to recognize, report and prevent incidents of discrimination, harassment and other misconduct. This approach is particularly effective for global organizations that are headquartered in countries with strong workplace protections in place, such as the US, UK and Canada.
Rolling out training on a global scale
An effective compliance training program for a global workforce should:
- Help strengthen workplace culture
Preventing discrimination and sexual harassment training should be part of an organization’s global strategy to improve workplace culture through policies, processes and practices. Moving beyond the traditional check-the-box model, discrimination and harassment prevention training should cover a range of topics that are relevant for a multicultural and multigenerational workforce, including bystander intervention, handling complaints and preventing retaliation.
- Reinforce leadership’s message that prevention is everyone’s responsibility
With senior management leading by example, ongoing training can underscore the organization’s commitment to reduce the risk of discrimination and harassment and promote a safe, inclusive work environment that encourages all employees to speak up and report incidents of misconduct, wherever they occur.
- Be available in multiple languages
Language barriers can impede learning for employees around the globe. An online training program should allow individuals to choose the language version they are most comfortable with and reflect the nuances of local translations.
- Be accessible 24/7 on any device
Distance makes in-person training more challenging for global organizations and is further complicated by the shift to virtual work in the COVID-19 era. Fortunately, online training makes it easy for employees to access courses from a desktop, tablet and mobile phone from anywhere in the world. And if interrupted, they can pick up right where they left off when they’re ready to resume training.
Creating a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment involves much more than simply following laws and regulations, which can differ from country to country and region to region. By focusing on standards of conduct and raising awareness of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, a global compliance training program can play an important role in building an ethical organizational culture that fosters respect, civility and inclusion.
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