Despite sexual harassment being at the forefront of public consciousness, and organisations responding (commendably) to put preventative methods in place to protect their workplace and their people, incidences of inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct remain prevalent.
Why? Because of an inadequate approach to sexual harassment training.
Most would agree that training and coaching are incredibly effective and transformative tools for the workplace, which is why they have been adopted to tackle workplace harassment – and rightly so. However, the training itself is often inadequate, irrelevant and outdated.
Training is not a box-ticking exercise
The objective of rolling out sexual harassment training is not to say, “we have completed sexual harassment training” – tick. Training needs to make a tangible impact, and be relevant to your organisation, your people and your industry.
It is also not a lecture on the law nor a walk-through of the company’s grievance policy. An understanding of the Equality Act 2010 is good grounding, but irrelevant if it is not applied to “real-life” and relatable scenarios.
A lack of impact monitoring
For training to have an impact and for its success to be determined, you need to monitor its effectiveness. This starts by understanding the current landscape of the organisation with regards to company culture and employee wellbeing. As well as year-on-year monitoring of grievances, investigations and outcomes, data should be gathered for employee satisfaction, providing a baseline from which to monitor response to harassment training.
A lack of senior-management buy-in
Without senior management buy-in, training will be ineffective. Preventing workplace harassment requires leading from the front and messages cascading down from C-suite to grassroots. A commitment to sexual harassment prevention and a recognition of the value of training by senior management is essential for cultivating a culture of respect and setting expectations of what constitutes appropriate workplace behaviour.
Outdated training content
Health and safety training videos from the 1980s instantly spring to mind! The same can be said for sexual harassment training materials. Cringe-worthy and two-dimensional scenarios – Keith sleazy leaning against a photocopier while greeting a female colleague with a “Good morning, m’darlin” and raised eyebrow, for example – make content more comical than relatable.
Indeed, these types of training materials may do more to perpetuate gender biases and serve to demonise male colleagues; the result of which is a resistance among attendees to the training and to inspire antipathy rather than empathy.
Harassment training isn’t about dos and don’ts
There is so much more to sexual harassment training than telling employees how to behave! Harassment training should be practical, informative and not frightened to address the challenging issues, such as what to expect when making a complaint, your organisation’s approach to a sexual harassment case, what to do if an accusation is brought against you, and exposing the very real issue of victimisation.
So, how do you make your harassment training effective?
Sexual harassment training should not be carried out in isolation; rather, it forms part of an entire suite of employee welfare initiatives that underpins your company’s culture.
Indeed, sexual harassment training puts the onus on colleagues to cultivate a culture that they want to see by also exploring bystander intervention and the role of workplace allies. We have a collective responsibility for the welfare of our colleagues.
Finally, to be effective, training should be engaging, interactive, thought-provoking and encourage open discussion. And there are many creative ways in which training can be delivered – from lunch and learn sessions and webinars, to podcasts and even comic book narratives. Whether delivered in-house or by a third-party, training should also be relevant to your organisation and your industry.
Tell Jane offers bespoke sexual harassment workshops for organisations of any size, if you’re interested in investing in a programme with tangible results, contact me directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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