Training is one of HR’s keys to preventing workplace harassment and keeping companies out of court. But when these common mistakes are made, the training might be ineffective or even backfire.
Here’s what to avoid next time you have to give a training presentation:
- Giving employees a grade — Testing employees’ knowledge of what you’ve covered sounds like a good idea, but imagine this scenario: An employee scores low on the test, then is later named in a harassment complaint. To a court, that might look like you knew the employee was a threat and didn’t take action. To avoid that, either avoid giving a written test or make sure you follow up with employees who “fail.”
- Trying to entertain — Holding people’s attention while you’re talking about harassment is a good thing. Making light of the topic isn’t. Training sessions aren’t the place for jokes or “funny” stories about harassment. It’s way too easy to offend someone.
- Talking in legalese — Complex legal terms appear way too often in training sessions. Many employees — i.e., most folks who aren’t in HR — don’t understand those terms and stop paying attention as soon as they hear them.
- Sticking to the videos, pre-made presentations, etc. — Ready-made training materials can be valuable tools that help HR stay on track and hit all the key points. But they can also be an easy way to put your audience to sleep. Try adding in your own examples and horror stories — for example, supervisor mistakes that you’ve witnessed in your career or lawsuits filed against companies in your industry or region.
- Only mentioning sexual harassment — Often, sexual harassment is the area in which most supervisors need a refresher course — but it’s certainly not the only one. A good training program will also mention harassment on the basis of race, age, disability, national origin, religion, and other categories that may be protected by state law.
- Asking for too much — A big complaint many managers have about training: It takes too much time. And if they’re forced to give up that time, the training might not be completely effective. Work with managers to come up with a schedule people can agree on. For example, several short sessions might be easier for your supervisors to swallow than one big presentation. Or, they might prefer to do it all at once. Find out by asking around.
- Forgetting about retaliation — When explaining policies to managers and employees, it’s important to emphasize your company’s stance against retaliation, too. That way, managers will know what to avoid, and employees will be more comfortable reporting alleged harassment.
- Not connecting it to their jobs — A manager’s job is to lead and get the most out of his or her workers. One way to do that is to prevent inappropriate conduct and handle complaints effectively. Making that connection will help managers see the importance of the training.
- Only using one version — Managers need to understand how the company can be liable for workplace harassment. Employees just need to know what harassment is and what to do if they think they’ve witnessed it. If you train both management and staff, it’s a good idea to give separate presentations so each group gets exactly what they need.
What has your organization done to overcome the obstacles of supervisor training? Let us know by leaving a comment below.