Involve Real Conversations During Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

sexual harassment prevention

Involve Real Conversations During Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Rochelle van Rensburg | Dec, 27 2019

How To Involve Real Conversations During Sexual Harassment Prevention Training


Sexual harassment continues to be a major problem in today’s business environment, and there is a need for better solutions. One of the reasons why traditional approaches to sexual harassment prevention training fail to work is because they do not provide the needed impact and are only passive.

In this article, we look at why it is important to involve real conversations in sexual harassment prevention training and how organizations can incorporate them effectively.

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Isaac E. Dixon was conducting online sexual harassment prevention training for an all-male group of attendees when he noticed that they were no longer focusing or paying attention. So, they were given a task by the Associate Vice President of HR at Portland State University in Oregon: each man was to ask the women in his life whether they had ever experienced sexual harassment and, if so, to share their stories. Many of the men were weeping the next day as they shared the stories they had heard.  “Some men spoke about their frustration, but they also realized how their actions had played into the system that women had to contend with in their lives,” Dixon said.

Typically, employers rely on sexual harassment prevention courses to limit the legal responsibility of the organization. This illustrates that they have taken reasonable steps to inform employees of what is regarded as illegal sexual harassment and to ensure that employees are familiar with company procedures for reporting violations. But, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), online sexual harassment training does not change the behavior of employees. While media coverage and public backlash shine a spotlight on sexual harassment and assault, it is a reminder to businesses attempting to address the issue: Make sexual harassment prevention courses hit home.

So, will employers improve their sexual harassment training? This depends on who you’re asking. Just 10 % of 1,512 adults working in the U.S. said their companies provided additional training or support on anti-sexual harassment after senior leaders of multiple institutions were publicly accused of sexual harassment and the campaigns #MeToo and Time’s Up began.

When asked what their companies did in response to growing media and public coverage of sexual harassment, most respondents (18%) said their company was reminding them of existing sexual harassment prevention or resources.

However, nearly one-third (32%) of 1,078 Human Resource Management Society participants said that their organizations have changed sexual harassment prevention courses in the last 12 months.
What are some of the changes we can make to make these courses more effective?
What goes into an effective online sexual harassment in the workplace training course?
We’ve collected a few pointers to help HR professionals select solid training on the topic.


Rebrand The Training Content

Do not tag online sexual harassment training as prevention of “sexual harassment,” said Alison Davis, J.D., shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C. law firm in Washington, D.C. Rather, redefine it so the emphasis is on creating a respectful working environment.

She proposed appealing to a broad audience with scenarios involving same-sex perpetrators and victims, as well as female supervisors as harassers. Emphasize attitudes that you want to promote, such as explaining what a positive and welcoming culture means for everyone rather than just the behaviors employees should avoid.


Incorporate Bystander Training 

The EEOC has advised employers to include bystander intervention training in sexual harassment courses.  Educating staff on how to respond when encountering sexual harassment will help to increase a sense of accountability and maintain a safe office environment.

Employers are kidding themselves if they believe there is no need for training because they have not received any complaints about sexual harassment. That usually means that the complaint process of the organization does not work, said Kelly Marinelli, J.D., SHRM-SCP, principal consultant at People Strategy at Solve HR Inc. in Boulder, Colo.

Employees are often aware of problems with bullying by management, but they are often not reported. They may not be aware of the reporting process, assume that someone else is going to speak up or be reluctant to get involved.


Encourage Participation

Due to the nature of sexual harassment prevention, interventions should be tailored to the environment and the staff and should include training in-person. According to the EEOC, there should still be incentives to engage if in-person training is not feasible. Some businesses are using a mixed approach that requires learning in-person as well as online.

The online component will send a consistent message throughout the company and accommodate staff whose schedules make it difficult to complete in-person training during normal business hours. Interactive learning makes it easy for staff to speak about an uncomfortable topic.


Use Separate Training For Managers

While sexual harassment prevention training in California should be provided to all employees, including interns, there should be different programs for managers and non-managers. In addition to the information presented to all staff, managers have special responsibilities when it comes to sexual harassment and need to be informed and prepared accordingly.


Bottom Line

To ensure a significant impact and cultivate an atmosphere of respect and accountability at the workplace, it is important to involve actual talks in sexual harassment training. In addition, openness, understanding and active involvement should be given priority by these organizations as this will help them empower individuals who can detect and deal with harassment. Therefore, it is essential for organizations to focus on substantive conversations in sexual harassment prevention training that would lead to a safer workplace with an increased inclusivity approach. The Sexual Harassment at Work online course in Coggno’s online library will help your organization raise awareness about this sensitive topic. Click here to access it.

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