Sexual harassment training holds a certain stigma within the work environment — employees often refer to their training experience as awkward or even comical because companies use outdated videos, unconvincing scenarios and sometimes scarring methods to get their message across. While these training procedures are fun to joke about later on, they do little to fulfill their intended objective — provide employees a clear understanding of what sexual harassment is and how to act if and when it occurs.
What makes sexual harassment training such a challenge is the gray area surrounding what signifies harassment. This makes it much more difficult for victims and other employees to identify what’s actually worth reporting.
Chances are an employee will experience or witness an uncomfortable situation and won’t know whether it’s inappropriate or not. While training can’t prepare employees for every potential circumstance, presenting the basics will help them respond appropriately should anything ever happen.
Consider these four tips when revising your sexual harassment training:
1. Make training mandatory for all employees. Too often, senior leaders blow off sexual harassment training sessions because they’re either unavailable or consider it a low priority. With the absence of company executives in each training session, training looks like an insignificant activity in the eyes of other employees. Training should be required for every employee, no matter what their position or busy schedule may be. According to a 2013 SHRM Legal Report, companies spend anywhere from $25 to $50 training each employee. While this seems fairly inexpensive, the total cost can get pricey after training hundreds or sometimes thousands of employees. In order to stay within budget, companies often eliminate sexual harassment training from the executive training program. Saving money is always a plus, but if a senior leader is involved in harassment case,the company could face a large lawsuit, with significant financial and reputational costs. This is why it’s important that everyone is properly educated and trained. You can offer training alternatives — use online platforms or have small group meetings—to accommodate both your training budget and employee’s schedule.
2. Place emphasis on behavior rather than rules. The biggest issue with training programs is that they place too much focus on rules. They direct your attention towards what not to do and put little emphasis on what actually constitutes respectful behavior. Instead of highlighting what to avoid,training should promote appropriate behavior as well as your company’s values and expectations.
3. Make training both engaging and reoccurring. You can’t expect employees to be familiar with all company policies and expectations after a single training session. It requires more than just that and an updated policy manual. Training should be a continuous process that also incorporates interactive platforms and a variety of media. Millennial workers learn through engaging programs, so material that is both relatable and character-driven will be better for retaining information. Your training will have a stronger impact when content is thought-provoking, relevant and offered through different outlets. Needless to say, it’s time to leave the monotonous lecture slides and outdated training videos behind—training becomes uninteresting and more satirical when presented this way.
4. Make training applicable to daily life. As mentioned above, training is more effective when both the information and presentation format are relevant and interesting. Your training should show the significance of harassment policies in the workplace as well as the advantages to working in a respectful environment. Your employees won’t necessarily tie the material into to their everyday lives, so it’s better to portray situations that closely relate to your company’s principles and what employees actually do.Training should also focus on the more subtle instances of sexual harassment — it’s not as black and white as it may seem. Often, it’s the understated occurrences like inappropriate jokes, comments, or gestures that lead to harassment. It’s important that employees can identify and report these minor incidents to avoid an even bigger harassment situation from occurring.