Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Is Harassment Training Effective?
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is a timely reminder for employers to review their sexual harassment training.
Did you know that at least 50% of workers are harassed based on their gender? Yet, a majority of individuals who experience sexual harassment in the workplace do not report it due to fear of career impact.
And it makes sense since at the state level, only six states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, and New York—require sexual harassment training, as well as Chicago and New York City. However, other states like Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin have laws that encourage anti-harassment training. These laws also require training to occur on a regular basis, i.e. every two years.
More than 90% of companies that implement an anti-harassment training program do not measure the effectiveness of it. Additionally, the companies that do measure effectiveness find that traditional harassment training is not effective in prevention.
As a result, industry and HR professionals are encouraging employers to revamp harassment training, provide training more frequently, and incorporate it through a workplace culture that encompasses respect and professionalism.
How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Though it may be required by some states and legislation, it is critical for employers to be proactive in preventing and addressing workplace harassment.
1. Updating Code of Conduct
If you haven’t already, now is the time to review and update your organization’s Code of Conduct, especially on reporting procedures, inappropriate behavior, and general company culture policies. Clearly define important subjects like harassment, discrimination, and bias, as well as the required harassment training topics, frequency, and expectations of all employees.
2. Defining Sexual Misconduct and Discrimination
Though many have endured sexual misconduct and discrimination, most do not report it. This can stem from not fully understanding what is included within those definitions, as well as fear of retaliation or impact to careers if it is reported. The best way to define important harassment-related terms is through proper training that covers real-life experiences and scenarios.
3. Establishing and Communicating Reporting Procedures
According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of adults reported higher stress levels in the past year. Additionally, 26% of adults expected stress levels to increase in 2023. Implementing stress management methods, whether through subscriptions for meditation apps, yoga classes, or bringing in third-party vendors to educate and train employees on stress management techniques can provide workers the tools they need to manage their stress better. Another way employers can alleviate stress is managing workloads through increased touch points, as well as delegating projects and tasks more effectively and efficiently.
4. Cultivating Bystander Intervention
A bystander ultimately has the opportunity to either condone, intervene, or do nothing in a situation where misconduct is being observed. Unlike the bystander effect—where individuals are less likely to help or intervene due to ambiguity of the situation, redistributing responsibility due to multiple bystanders, and/or social influence of other bystanders’ inaction—bystander intervention is the ability for an individual to recognize misconduct and take action to intervene or challenge the situation.
5. Understanding State and Federal Laws
Navigating federal and state harassment laws can be exceptionally complex and time consuming. Investing in legal alerts to inform you of any changes to local, state, and federal harassment laws and regulations can help keep you in compliance, as well as provide sexual harassment training and best practices for your organization.
Implementing continuous feedback can help strengthen manager-employee relationships and create a positive culture where employees feel safe reporting inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Our new eBook on empowering women also provides tips and best practices to address and prevent sexual misconduct and discrimination.
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