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Why is Harassment Training Missing the Mark?

Why is Harassment Training Missing the Mark?

Many organizations believe that because they have a policy in place, offensive behavior leading to claims of harassment will diminish.

It is no secret that many employees have a natural disdain for corporate education, and an even bigger dislike for mandatory sexual harassment training. Even though the EEOC and other agencies have discussed at length the value of education as a means of harassment prevention, it is difficult for organizations to overcome the stigma among their workforce that the training provided is for the liability benefit of the employer, rather than for the betterment of the workforce. A recent article in Business Insurance magazine provided some expert-driven reasons why many forms of harassment training are failing employees across the globe. It is important to consider the reasoning given by the experts in an effort to continue doing a better job of adapting to these concerns, so as to ensure the message resonates better with the employees.

Training has Become a Check-the-Box Exercise for Employers

When harassment training laws were first enacted in the early 1990’s through the mid 2000’s, the statutes were written in a way that required detailed discussion of advanced legal concepts. Many (if not all) of the mandatory training statutes require definitions containing legalese that skews the purpose perception of training courses toward the avoidance of liability, rather than the avoidance of offensive behavior in the workplace.

For years, Syntrio has worked to improve its training courses to center on the concepts of civility, respect, and tolerance in workplace culture, while retaining the required concepts of mandatory harassment training laws. While well intended, mandatory training laws often leave little room for creative freedom in developing material that will prevent the behavior underlying harassment, as opposed to employer liability. Therefore, when choosing harassment training, it is important that organizations be mindful of how the training they purchase will be received by the learners, as this is reflective on the organization (and its priorities) as a whole.

“Organizations Never Believe in Training Because they do not Believe in the Gravity of the Situation”

Many organizations believe that because they have a policy in place, offensive behavior leading to claims of harassment will diminish. As Renee Noy, the expert Business Insurance interviewed stated, this is simply not the case.  Ms. Noy was quoted correctly as stating “you would think with all the new rules and zero tolerance policies that so many companies now have to have, or internally decide to have, that it would diminish a little bit, but it really hasn’t. It’s just gotten really, really bad.”

Syntrio works with organizations of all sizes in a variety of industries, and we can echo Ms. Noy’s sentiment. Too often, organizations come to the table to discuss harassment training thinking they do not need it because they have all mandatory policies and handbooks in place. They also often mention they are not in a state that requires training, and therefore are looking to do the bare minimum. Unfortunately, unless they can be persuaded that all employers have a duty to provide education on these important topics (but do so in the right way) the employer who fails to move forward on providing training often finds itself investigated by a fair employment agency (who remedially requires the training as part of a conciliation agreement), or in private litigation with an aggrieved employee. The bottom line is having a policy simply is not good enough. You must not only select training for your workforce, but quality training that will resonate.

“Training Materials Don’t Relate to Job Sites Where they are Used”

Detroit-based safety director at Alberici Constructors, Inc. Kathleen Dobson stated that many training courses do not relate to the industry her company performs work in. Dobson went on to state that people “don’t respond that way. They don’t interact that way. And, so, that just becomes 20 minutes where people can snooze off because it’s not relevant to them.”

Learners need to feel confident that the material they are subjected to participate in is familiar to and tailored toward them. When construction employees are shown routine stock video of people interacting in an office setting it has been proven not to resonate with them. For this reason, Syntrio has created a wide variety of industry verticals in response to this very real and important issue. In our 20+ years of experience, we have found that our learners respond better to training that they can relate to, and Ms. Dobson’s insight is correct when she states “where people don’t look, act, or talk the way they do, the learner tends to shut out the material altogether.”

Syntrio Understands the Limitations of E-Learning and Fights to Change the Perception of What E-Learning can be

Syntrio listens carefully to its customer base and the marketplace when annually updating its harassment courseware. We feel that training that makes a difference is more valuable to an organization than anything else. For this reason, it is our mission to constantly evolve our products to respond to the needs of learners in all industries. The points raised by the Business Insurance article are all valid, and must be acknowledged. But given e-learning will be a necessary means of complying with mandatory training laws and facilitating training across the country (regardless of a legal requirement) it is important that we do our part to ensure that the training selected makes a difference. Syntrio welcomes the opportunity to discuss how our training can meet your organization’s needs. Contact us to see how Syntrio’s training differs, and how it can benefit your organizational culture by helping prevent incidents that may lead to allegations of harassment.

Syntrio can be your partner in making your workplace a better place Let’s connect. 

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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