The sudden move to remote work shifted priorities for many companies. Sexual harassment training probably didn’t rank high on most lists. And it’s still on the back burner for some now adapting to hybrid workplace models. But protecting your employees and creating a safe work environment is still a crucial part of a healthy hybrid workplace.
No matter your office situation, now’s the time to re-evaluate and revamp your approach to sexual harassment training for employees.
In this article, we’ll go over why harassment training matters now. We’ll also cover tips for adapting your training to your current working model.
Why sexual harassment training is important—even in a hybrid workplace
According to recent research by TalentLMS and The Purple Campaign, harassment training is much more than just a box to tick for compliance. It’s a key to company health and employee wellbeing. Here’s why.
- Harassment still happens in remote work situations. Some employers have the (false) perception that sexual harassment only occurs in in-person spaces or events. But according to the study, 29% of workers have experienced unwelcome behavior through online mediums since the pandemic outbreak. That includes things like text, video calls, and email. It’s important to clarify expectations for professional behavior in the new working situation to keep employees safe in all their interactions.
- Training increases employee wellbeing. Training shows employees you care about their wellbeing. When people know their employer values them, they’re happier and more confident in their jobs. And 71% of employees who receive training say they feel more valued as an individual in their company.
- Training boosts retention and productivity. Proactively creating a safe work environment leads to happier employees. Training shows employees that you have safety policies in place. And the benefits are clear: 71% of those who receive training report that they’re more likely to stay with their company. And 61% who receive training say they’re more productive in their roles.
Clearly, training employees to recognize and report inappropriate behavior should remain a priority. So let’s take a look at what you can do to refresh your sexual harassment training for employees in the new workplace.
Revamping sexual harassment training
Adapting your training for a remote or hybrid workplace is centered around three key components. You’ll need to consider content, delivery, and policies. Here are ways you can use each area to improve the employee training experience.
1. Update the content
Revise your material to reflect new work situations. Make sure your content is current and relevant. And bring your course up to speed with lessons on how to define and address online sexual harassment.
2. Adjust the delivery methods
Training looks a little different for hybrid work teams. You may need to make adjustments to your delivery methods to ensure everyone gets the same training experience.
Consider delivering the majority of training through online, self-paced courses. And perhaps using a blended learning approach that brings people together for occasional live sessions. Doing a bit of both creates a sense of unity while preserving the flexibility of online training for off-site employees.
3. Explain your policies and procedures
People who work remotely may be unsure about how to handle unwanted behavior or comments. And some might feel that being outside the physical office also excuses them from the same standards of professional behavior. Update your training to include clear descriptions of your policies on what’s unacceptable work behavior.
Also, provide step-by-step instructions on how to report incidents and what happens next. Assure employees you’re watching out for their best interests by showing them how you address concerns.
Tips for building a successful sexual harassment program
When it comes to creating effective content, use best practices around designing training for a hybrid workplace. Consider four “dos and don’ts” for building out your training program.
✔ Do address gray areas
Training tends to be black and white in talking about what’s appropriate and what’s not. But many employees feel hesitant to act because real-life incidents can be less clear-cut.
Address gray areas in your training, as well. Illustrate when and how employees might experience unwanted behavior. Use relevant cases and interactive scenarios, including examples of how they might see harassment virtually as well as in a physical workspace. Help them recognize violations and demonstrate the steps to take when one occurs.
✘ Don’t assume what employees need
Your course will have a greater impact if you do a little research on what your employees want and need to learn. Search for relevant examples in your industry. Poll employees to find out what they know already.
Make sure your course defines terms they may not be clear on. Do they know what you mean when you talk about “sexual harassment”, “consent”, and “unwanted behavior”? Ask them what types of things they’re seeing in the workplace and what questions they have about behavior or processes.
A little exploration will give you a good idea of what you should include in your upgraded training.
✔ Do tailor content to your workplace
Getting an off-the-shelf training course on sexual harassment at work is a good first step. Because ready-made courses are great resources for saving time and money while offering quality content—especially when it comes to topics that you need experts’ tips. But employees may need some additional content that speaks to their experience.
Spend some time finding a course that’s relevant to your organization. Take demographics and actual potential scenarios into consideration as you research.
Also, build in custom content that makes training more relevant. Once employees have taken the first courses and have understood the main concepts, have some follow-up training sessions. For example, create scenarios for them to role-play. Or, add videos and written examples related to their actual working experience.
✘ Don’t forget to focus on prevention
Your best bet in combating workplace harassment is to stop it before it starts. Use training strategies for getting ahead of incidents before they happen.
- Set clear expectations for professional behavior. Help employees monitor their own and others’ behavior from the start.
- Give learners things to think through before they make comments. Help them see how to gauge what’s appropriate.
- Remind people that company interactions are not private–even though they’re working outside the office.
- Clarify what’s out of bounds (for example, making jokes about what people are wearing in Zoom meetings or sharing inappropriate memes).
Some common behaviors may seem harmless to some, so it’s helpful to set workplace standards upfront.
Training for sexual harassment in any workplace
Whatever your workplace setup (in-person, remote, or hybrid), it’s important to be proactive with your training strategy. If you wait to react to incidents, you risk hurting employees and compromising workplace health.
Instead, train employees on how to recognize sexual harassment. Teach them what it means to be respectful. Give them the tools to set boundaries and recognize and report inappropriate behavior.
Remote work tools (like video calls, texting, and online communication) are here to stay.
You need to ensure employees are protected across all their interactions. And if you step up now and help employees understand what’s expected, your company will thrive in any working environment.