The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have put a spotlight on sexual harassment, especially when it occurs in the workplace. Most employers want a culture free of discrimination and harassment, but it can be a challenge to create effective training programs. Luckily, a few good ideas can make your anti-harassment training program much more useful and engaging to your employees.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently had its annual conference, and creating anti-sexual harassment programs was one of the topics covered. Here are some tips for ensuring that employees are engaged in the training and leave with the information they need.
Start with a goal. Consider your overall policy goals as well as the goals for the training. SHRM recommends employers have “effective anti-harassment policies that enable thorough investigations of harassment complaints and hold perpetrators accountable.” Work with your attorney to develop a strong policy that aligns with your company’s mission and values. Stand behind that policy with your training. If your employees suspect the training is merely a compliance measure, it won’t be as effective.
Work backwards from the lesson to be learned. Begin by considering what you want employees to learn. For example, you may want them to report issues sooner so that human resources can intervene early. If so, design your program around understanding the root causes of sexual harassment and what behavior warrants a report at your company. This may be lower-level behavior that isn’t illegal but which could escalate into a legal problem.
Choose the most effective format. If you have used online training in the past, what was the result? A strong training program can work in either format. Live training may not be feasible, but it offers greater opportunity for questions and feedback.
Don’t focus only on legal compliance and obvious issues. It’s helpful to define sexual harassment and give examples of actual harassment. However, it’s just as important to talk about borderline behaviors that may not constitute harassment but could result in consequences at work. Similarly, give more nuanced examples. Some workers feel condescended to when given only obvious examples.
Consider providing ongoing training. It can be difficult to cover everything in a single session, and additional questions can come up later. Periodically revisiting specific topics like sexual harassment can provide additional value and boost overall compliance.
Who should design and provide the training? Training involving legal issues should always be designed by a subject matter expert such as a lawyer or human resources expert. If the training is not developed by a lawyer, your attorney should review it for legal accuracy.