Starting From the Top
Federal law doesn’t require sexual harassment training, but many state laws do require some harassment training. Even if it isn’t required, it’s imperative you train your employees on these topics.
e-Learning is today’s preferred method of delivering training of all kinds to employees, and this remains true for sexual harassment training. The best place to begin this type of training is at the top, and it’s something everyone in an organization needs to participate in, including executives, supervisors and managers. The upper-level management and supervisors in organizations may think themselves excluded from taking part in training, but they’re the people responsible for handling these situations if they do occur, and also for setting an example for their employees, making it necessary for these people to be trained as well as everyone else.
CEOs Who Don’t Want To Participate
In 2013, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) covered something that’s all-too-common in many companies across the country, which is influential leaders who don’t want to be part of sexual harassment training.
David Lewis, who worked as a trainer for the HR consulting firm Operationsinc told SHRM that top company officials refuse sexual harassment training all the time.
“Training is done for employees, except the top person or a few top people manage not to attend, whether because they feel they’re too busy or they feel it’s not something they need to attend,” he said.
The SHRM article went on to say history shows us plenty of leaders don’t know what behaviors would fall into the category of sexual harassment, or they don’t understand the consequences of such actions, while many may know but just don’t care.
Under the state law in California, employers are required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors within six months of their hiring or election, and then again every two years, but despite laws like this, it’s not something that’s always followed.
With this being said, the first step to educating high-level professionals on sexual harassment issues is to require they participate in training.
Where to Focus Training
When you’re creating e-Learning and employee training focused on sexual harassment, it’s best to avoid putting the emphasis on broad theories or direct forms of sexual misconduct. If you’re too vague with concepts, you’re likely to lose the interest of supervisors. Most people are aware of the more blatant forms of conduct that constitute sexual harassment, making it more advantageous to focus on more complex or grayer areas.
Focus your efforts on the less obvious ways harassment can occur, because in many cases people may genuinely not understand these aspects of the law and workplace behavior.
One gray area that’s important to include in supervisory training is non-verbal harassment. Some non-verbal actions that may fall under the umbrella of sexual harassment include looking a person up and down, blocking their path or restricting movements, making certain facial expressions or invading someone’s space.
Also important to reiterate to supervisors is the impact of visual elements that can be construed as harassment. This could include wearing a shirt or having coffee mugs that display derogatory things, or showing things on a phone or computer that are inappropriate.
A Hostile Environment
Another important aspect of this type of training is the explanation of what constitutes a hostile environment. A hostile environment is one that is so full of inappropriate behavior that an employee could say it’s impacting their performance at work. Even very subtle comments can create a hostile environment, as can making demeaning comments to employees, or any sexual conversations, even if occurring in a playful way.
As well as creating e-Learning training that seeks to target the actual behavior of managers and supervisors, it’s also crucial to educate them on their responsibility to prevent harassment, and handle it appropriately if it’s something they discover. Train supervisors on the proper steps to take when an incident is reported, as well as their role in disciplining the person responsible for the behavior.
Emphasize the importance of never seeking retaliation on an employee who reports alleged harassment.
The steps for reporting a sexual harassment incident and what actions are then taken should always be entirely clear to managers and supervisors at all levels.
Cite Financial Consequences
Many people don’t understand the tremendous possible financial burdens that can come from sexual harassment in the workplace.
This is an important area to include in managerial training, as well as in training for CEOs and executives. These are people who often respond best to facts and figures, so make the financial impact very clear in training.
Train on Situations Outside of the Workplace
One area that could be improved within all harassment training pertains to what happens outside of the office, or the traditional work environment.
Create e-Learning training materials that focus on what would constitute inappropriate behavior at work-related functions that happen outside the traditional workday, as well as possible problems that can occur in digital and social media communication.
Use Case Studies and Emotion
You don’t just want to deliver this training to your company leaders—you want it to resonate. You want to ensure it either prevents harassment from occurring or changes potentially harmful behavior already taking place.
One great way to do this is by evoking emotion. Infusing case studies and real-life stories into your e-Learning is a good way to incite an emotional response that will help your training be more effective and have a long-term impact on your managers and supervisors.
Educate on Harassment Outside of Employee-Employee Situations
The first thought most of us have when we hear about sexual harassment in the workplace pertains to one employee harassing another, but sexual harassment can also occur between an employee and a client, and in some cases the employer can be found liable for not doing anything to prevent or stop these situations.
Include in your e-Learning information that will help managers identify these potential situations if they do occur, as well as how to handle them.
Let us know how you tackle the issues of sexual harassment trainers for supervisors, managers and company leaders.