Should Companies Change Harassment Training in the Wake of #Metoo?

One of the benefits of the recent #Metoo movement is that companies in every industry are rethinking not only employment policies, but their approach to training and organizational culture. I was recently interviewed for an article on how companies should adapt their training to address the cultural impact of the #Metoo movement. That article can be found here.

The dramatic return of sexual harassment cases to the forefront of pop culture and employment litigation should be a wake-up call to employers who rely on outdated and clunky harassment training videos or other boilerplate programs. Ask yourself, are you really having a dialogue with your employees about company expectations, how those expectations are applied in your particular workplace culture, and how to address concerns if they should arise? Admittedly, it gets hard to have effective and engaging training with thousands of employees in large organizations. Quality trainers are not cheap, and many companies don’t have this expertise in house. But, the expense of a few lawsuits will quickly tip the scales in favor of training over litigation.

Here are five tips to shift your company’s anti-harassment training into top gear and effectively address these challenging times:

  1. Unless you have employees in isolated, far flung locations, ditch the impersonal videos and computer-based training or at least alternate between live training and a boilerplate refresher. People need to see and hear someone talk about these issues to know the company takes it seriously, and so employees have the confidence to make a complaint. Create a training team made up of both internal and external participants to create an engaging, practical training program, keeping in mind that longer is not better. Aim for one hour or less.
  2. Bringing in an outside speaker is a good idea, especially if you don’t have a dynamic expert in your organization. That said, someone from HR needs to be a part of every training session to put a name with a face for employees to know and trust to handle these issues. It is also helpful for HR to listen to questions and get a sense of what issues may be present in the organization or might require follow up.
  3. Conduct separate training for managers and rank-and-file employees. Part of the message is the same, but part of it should be different. Employees will not be comfortable asking questions or talking about problems in front of their supervisor. Similarly, managers won’t be comfortable asking questions about handling an issue if the employee with the issue is in the room.
  4. Upper management must demonstrate commitment to the training program, and that starts with executives committing their own time to attend the same training as all other members of management.
  5. Update training every two to three years. Even the best programs and speakers can get stale. Having different speakers explain things differently can be helpful to avoid the boredom effect for long-term employees who have been through training multiple times.
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About HR Headaches
HR Headaches is a blog for Human Resources professionals, business owners, and in-house counsel to get the latest news, analysis and tips in the area of labor and employment law. Every day there are new court decisions, agency interpretations, and regulations which affect the workplace, making it difficult, if not impossible, for many employers to keep current. HR Headaches is dedicated to providing information in a practical, no-nonsense manner to help employers avoid legal disputes and keep policies up to date.
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