Most HR pros would agree that conducting harassment training is no walk in the park. Here are the most common problems companies face, and strategies that will reduce an organization’s legal liability:
1. Getting buy-in from management
Nearly all HR pros have heard the comments from supervisors when it’s time for mandatory training: “I’m too busy for this,” “I’ve heard all this before,” “How’s this going to help me do my job better?” It’s a problem most companies face.
The solution: Start at the top, says Stephen Anderson, CEO of Anderson-davis, Inc., and a trainer with more than 33 years of experience. Visible support from top management is necessary before training will positively impact the workplace.
Before the training begins, run through the program with top-level management so they understand the value (reduced legal risk, increased productivity, lower turnover, etc.).
- Be sure top management holds supervisors accountable if they don’t support or attend the training
- Have a senior executive introduce the program and make it clear the company takes the issue seriously, and
- Make the training mandatory for all employees, not just managers.
2. Keeping the audience engaged
The truth is, if your managers really have already heard everything you’re telling them, no one will pay attention and the training won’t have an impact.
The key, says Anderson, is to challenge the audience.
Look at subtle forms of harassment and ask managers how they’d handle situations they may not have thought about. For example:
- You witness harassment involving employees who don’t work for you
- An employee complains but asks to you to “keep it between you and me”
- You overhear two Latino employees tell derogatory jokes about Latinos
- Two employees try to guess a co-worker’s sexual orientation by asking personal questions.
One tactic that doesn’t work: threatening managers without offering help. Telling supervisors they can lose their jobs or be sued individually can get their attention, but it may do more harm than good.
It’s more important to teach managers how to intervene in harassment situations, and how to properly work with HR.
3. Measuring the impact
Gauging whether the training’s had a positive impact is often the toughest part of an anti-harassment program. But here are some key factors to measure:
- No increase in false complaints — that could be a sign of an ineffective program for employees.
- A decrease in hostile work environment situations, and
- An increase in communication from supervisors to HR.
Caution: Having no complaints at all doesn’t necessarily mean a workplace is free from harassment. An increase in legitimate complaints could be a positive sign that previously existing problems are now being handled properly.