New York Companies Will Have to Provide Anti-Sexual Harassment Training: What Kind of Training Will Really Work?

NEW YORK, May 3, 2018 — New York City and New York State legislation will require companies, even very small ones, to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees.  The new requirements beg the question: What types of anti-harassment programs are the most effective?

“It’s important for anti-sexual harassment initiatives to build trust and respect in the workplace. Simple do’s and don’ts conveyed in some training programs aren’t enough to accomplish that: Workforce education has to reinforce the specific values-driven behaviors that the organization aspires to,” says Jennifer Farthing, who leads learning content development at ethics and compliance firm LRN Corporation.

Farthing points to three approaches that can help make anti-sexual harassment programs effective:

Exploring gray areas can help employees gain a deeper understanding of the issues being addressed. For example, a scenario-based course titled “Trust & Respect in the Workplace” from LRN shows the perspectives of five different employees with contradictory points of view on incidences of misconduct. The course delves into the ways in which different perspectives can cloud the truth in instances of harassment; how anyone, regardless of job position, gender, or ethnicity is capable of harassment; and how harassment can take many different forms—some less obvious than others. In doing so, the course paints a realistic portrait of harassment, leaving employees better able to identify and respond to it.

Telling an evocative story in a creative way can convey the importance of this urgent topic, making the material more memorable, as well as helping employees retain the message. Another LRN course depicts a workplace bully literally transforming into a monster as his behavior gets worse and worse, and the target of his bullying develops physical injuries as the verbally abusive behavior becomes more and more hurtful. This course’s visual storytelling brings to life the emotional cost of workplace bullying in a way that a simple expository video or course on bullying may not.

Using interactive elements in training, such as guided questioning, drag and drop activities, infographics, and short quizzes ensures that employees are retaining the content presented in these programs. While employees may absorb some of what they’ve learned by simply watching a video or listening to someone speak about harassment or misconduct, it’s difficult to measure whether the content is sticking. Make learning “sticky” by creating an environment where the learner must do something with the information—assess, evaluate, and apply knowledge—as a means of reinforcing the material so it may be recalled in real-world situations.

“Still, training alone will not change behavior or prevent misconduct,” Farthing says. “It depends on whether affirmative values permeate the organization. The overall goal should be a respectful workplace where difficult conversations can be had and where disrespectful behavior won’t be tolerated. There is no substitute for a culture of trust and respect, where employees feel comfortable speaking up and raising issues.”

A data point underlining the need for more sexual harassment prevention initiatives: Usage of LRN’s harassment courses has increased 39% from 2016 to 2017, in the wake of the #MeToo movement and continues to climb in 2018.

LRN’s corporate ethics and compliance platform includes curricula, video vignettes, live workshops, blended learning, and online courses on harassment, discrimination, and bullying.

Click here to learn more about LRN’s sexual harassment awareness training.