Survey Reports Progress on #MeToo Training, Though Gaps Remain
More organizations are expanding the scope of their anti-harassment training, but gaps remain in some of the subjects being reviewed, according to a survey of executives responsible for employment issues.
The survey from law firm Proskauer found respondents reported increases in the number of harassment complaints, discrimination complaints, and complaints for other issues, including retaliation.
Education and training were cited by respondents as the best way to bring positive impact to workplace culture, and every executive reported their organization has training on anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and retaliation.
Forty percent said they are offering more frequent training, 37% have updated and refreshed training, while 31% are training more employees than previously.
That’s the good news.
On the flip side, 51% didn’t offer training on bystander issues, while 47% failed to offer training on LGBTQ workplace behaviors. Nearly half didn’t offer managers training on best practices to terminate employees, while 42% didn’t offer training on how to conduct an internal investigation.
Another challenge facing organizations is the different laws at the state and local level, all of which have unique requirements. Staying compliant with, and keeping employees aware of, all these requirements, was the top challenge reported by respondents.
As the number of complaints increases, more time and money must be spent investigating and trying to resolve them, and this is putting strains on departments that are under a higher level of scrutiny because of all the attention given to #MeToo issues.
“There is no question that companies are feeling pressure to be able to respond both quickly, but also effectively and that all steps taken when investigating misconduct will potentially be scrutinized,” said Elise M. Bloom, a partner in Proskauer’s labor and employment department.
Setting a respectful workplace culture means being proactive, not reactive, said LRN’s Jen Farthing. Waiting until there is an incident or trying to respond to a shift in awareness such as the #MeToo movement can feel like playing catch-up to the issue, she said, and may come across as less authentic than if the organization has always had a climate of openness and sensitivity toward others.
Walk the talk
“The best approach to anti-harassment is to walk the talk–a zero-tolerance for disrespectful behavior of any sort,” said Farthing. “What you do before and after learning could mean the difference between treating ‘training as an isolated, one-off event and ‘learning’ throughout the year to reinforce desired behaviors and a positive workplace culture.”
In addition to offering specific courses for organizations operating in jurisdictions with their own anti-harassment laws, LRN offers a series of short, topical microlearning episodes to start working education into the everyday work experience, and has a variety of short videos to introduce concepts.
Stringing together brief educational videos on several integral and related topics can help them to resonate with employees, said Farthing. Scenarios that show a variety of genders, preferences, races, ages, sizes, and workplace locations and situations help to keep the learning relevant.
For example, general anti-harassment training naturally leads into sexual harassment prevention, and both of these topics are bolstered by training about what to do if an incident needs reporting and how to combat fear of retaliation when speaking up.
“Becoming more aware of unconscious bias and what to do as a bystander when you observe bullying or harassing behavior is also essential for education to take hold so that your employees know how to do the right thing in the moment,” said Farthing.
Managers need to be educated to facilitate difficult conversations, and taught how to respond if they see something or someone reports a potential issue. Beyond learning, managers can follow up on training by having in-person contacts and starting staff meetings with talk about subjects being covered in training materials, she said.
“This shows a willingness for managers and supervisors to share their commitment to an inclusive workplace culture,” said Farthing. “If you surround your main training with microlearnings and dialogue about why it’s important, you will get buy-in and commitment.”