Sexual Harassment: Effective Training for Employees

By | November 29, 2015

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there are approximately 12,000 sexual harassment charges every year. In fact, over 52 million dollars were awarded in 2011 to victims of sexual harassment. Keep reading to learn how to design and implement effective anti-sexual harassment training.

Focus on Relatable Behavior and Situations
Many companies make the mistake of simply focusing on a long list of rules. In fact, the training simply becomes a laundry list of what not to do without any mention of what kind of behaviors are appropriate. A successful sexual harassment training will also instruct employees on proper and respectful behaviors. Keep in mind that the most effective anti-sexual harassment training programs will provide real world examples. Therefore, role-playing is an important way to engage employees while providing feedback. For example, have employees role-play real life scenarios based on their actual duties and departments. Since management cannot assume that employees will take the material to heart, there should be comprehensive tests that ensure that employees fully understand.

Focus on the Minor Indicators of Sexual Harassment
Any mature and competent adult will naturally recognize the major warning signs of sexual harassment. For example, unwelcome touching from a coworker or inappropriate jokes from a supervisor during meetings. However, sexual harassment problems are often more subtle and gradual. For instance, it may start with a private joke between two colleagues or a tasteless email sent from a work email account. Random and rare occurrences are understandable, but still unacceptable. However, when this behavior becomes consistent and concentrated on a single individual, it becomes sexual harassment. Trainers must emphasize that work technology devices, such as email, computers and smart phones, must only be used for work purposes.

Provide Clear Guidelines and Policies
All anti-sexual harassment training must be centered on the company anti-harassment policy and guidelines. For example, the policy must include step-by-step instructions for how to respond to harassment. When designing these policies, HR professionals often rightly instruct employees to surpass their immediate supervisor and report to a manager. This is because supervisors are often the perpetrators of work-based sexual harassment because of their control and power over employees. If the manager fails to respond to the concern, the reporter should be instructed to seek help from upper management, such as a director or vice-president. The policy should include a clause that states that employees found guilty of sexual harassment will be disciplined, up to and including termination. Doing so will emphasize the serious nature of sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers an overview of model anti-sexual harassment programs and policies here.

In the end, training should focus on helping employees recognize subtle warning signs and teach them the appropriate protocols for reporting and confronting these behaviors. Training should illustrate how sexual harassment can negative impact an employees’ work performance and personal life.