Is Your Harassment Prevention Training Working?

Is Your Harassment Prevention Training Working?

The Facts

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*This article was first published by ThinkHR on March 5th, 2019.

Thanks to new training mandates in California, New York and Delaware, more employees will be trained on sexual harassment & discrimination prevention in 2019 than ever before.

Previous harassment prevention training mandates, like California AB 1825, focused primarily on teaching supervisors about reporting responsibilities and what constitutes harassment. As a result, the majority of compliance training content (historically) has been centered around managing within the law rather than holistically addressing EEOC prevention best practices.

This “check the box” approach has also defined how sexual harassment & discrimination prevention training initiatives have been measured. Specifically, completion or participation numbers have been the key metrics for HR in reporting the relative success or failure of an annual harassment prevention training initiative.

Those days are over.

Thanks to the increased public pressure from the #metoo movement, along with #metoo legislation like SB 1343 in California and the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act that requires all employees be trained, there’s now an increased expectation relating to the quality of harassment prevention training initiatives.

Put simply, employers need to defend both the efficacy and investment of their harassment prevention initiatives.

The Rise of the Workplace Climate Survey

The question is: how do you measure the efficacy of your harassment prevention initiatives?

An article published in Harvard Business Review in January, 2018 introduced a very simple, and approachable way to answer that question: ask your employees. Referred to by the EEOC as climate surveys, these questionnaires can help employers measure the efficacy of existing prevention programs as well identify blind spots relating to harassment and discrimination.

In its 2016 study of harassment in the workplace, the EEOC made the following recommendation: "Employers should conduct climate surveys to assess the extent to which harassment is a problem in their organization.”

There are 5 key benefits to conducting a workplace climate survey:

  1. Better understand your training investment: mandatory sexual harassment prevention training may be one of your only, if not the only, company wide training initiatives. As such, defending your annual training strategy and budget will be an ongoing challenge. Need to upgrade training vendors? Need approval for booster training? Climate Survey data will help demonstrate ROI and get buy-in with key executives.
  2. Identify gaps in knowledge: What constitutes harassment? Where do you report? How do you report? Ensure that employees are retaining key information in your training, and identify gaps where booster training or other educational programs can be implemented.
  3. Identify risks and opportunities: Invariably there will be areas for improvement revealed in your workplace climate survey-- and in some instances, there will be clear risk areas. Uncover those before they become front page news.
  4. Demonstrate commitment: Sexual harassment & discrimination training is often viewed as a check the box initiative. Irrespective of the quality of your training, by implementing a workplace climate survey, you’re signaling to your employees that you want to identify opportunities to improve and go beyond “check the box.”
  5. Benchmark: Measuring your year-over-year improvement is important. But to really understand what “good” looks like, it’s important to compare your workplace climate survey against industry peers. This will also help in getting executive and board level support for future prevention initiatives.
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