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Is harassment training effective? Here’s the data.

During the last several decades, many steps have been taken toward stopping sexual harassment in the workplace.

In a little bit of encouraging progress, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that the number of claims filed decreased 1.2 percent in 2019 from the previous year.

However, when news reports such as this alleged harassment of and retaliation against a Juul employee emerge, questions arise as to whether progress is real or just an illusion.

Sexual harassment remains a complex issue in today’s workplace—more attention is given to it and more proactive steps have been taken to stop it, yet incidents still occur. The best organizations can do to overcome this paradox is create a culture of respect and train their employees to embrace that culture.

True Office Learning training data suggests that employees understand the seriousness of harassment and know the difference between right and wrong. But even with this positive trend, organizations should never be complacent. Here’s a closer look at our data, as well as what businesses can do to deliver impactful sexual harassment training to their employees.

Looking into the data on harassment training

Millions of people, across a wide range of industries, have taken True Office Learning anti-harassment courses over the years. As a result, we’ve accumulated an incredible amount of trend-identifying, game-changing data. The insight we’ve gained paints an optimistic picture of sexual harassment training, but there are still improvements for organizations to make.

For our sexual harassment module, the average industry performance is an impressive 94 percent. That means in the training scenarios employees interacted with, the correct response was made 94 percent of the time. That’s a great number, especially compared with some of our other training modules, but it also shows there are a few people out there who still aren’t getting it—and amid today’s emphasis on workplace respect and the organizational consequences when that respect is violated, that’s concerning.

The scenarios in our sexual harassment module fall into one of four categories; here are the scores for each, represented in a percentage of correct responses across all users:

  • How and where: 98 percent
  • Responding: 97 percent
  • Introduction: 92 percent
  • Types: 90 percent

The “introduction” category is simply general sexual harassment scenarios; “types” are the various kinds of harassment that can occur.

Like the overall score, these category results provide a measure of optimism that today’s workers understand the gravity and consequences of sexual harassment, as well as the importance of behaving appropriately and supporting and protecting affected employees.

The importance of training

Sexual harassment training is fast becoming the norm for businesses of all sizes and industries, and in many states, it is becoming the law for management and rank-and-file employees alike. However, some organizations believe that standard training is enough, and if they offer something—anything—they’ve done their part to meet legal requirements and curtail harassment.

This base approach often falls short because it doesn’t adequately engage employees in the learning and teach them important concepts. To truly resonate, training should not only satisfy requirements but also go above and beyond. Some characteristics of great training include:

  • Immersive, relevant scenarios: Training that shouts at employees to act good can feel too much like a lecture and be taken less seriously or simply ignored. If courses are designed to engage users with real-life, actionable scenarios, the learning becomes personal—and more effective.
  • Adaptivity: Employees’ ability to learn varies from person to person. The best online training platforms address this by adjusting training based on the user. For example, if someone is struggling with certain harassment concepts, the course will present additional scenarios or more focused learning so the user makes progress toward mastering those concepts.
  • Data, data, data: Every interaction an employee makes with a training course is a data point that measures effectiveness and informs strategy—and the platform you use should be able to efficiently and thoroughly deliver this data.
  • Active AI: Training that uses artificial intelligence learning paths can assess results down to the individual level and determine who needs more training (“learning nudges” in the form of micro courses) and what their subsequent courses should comprise in the future.

A comprehensive approach to stopping harassment

Training is a major component of an organization’s initiative to prevent sexual harassment—but it is only a component. To truly make a difference, companies must promote a culture of respect and safety, in which the charge to protect employees starts at the top and impacts every policy and procedure throughout the business.

When training is introduced or bolstered in an environment that already takes a strong stand against sexual harassment, the impact benefits all: Employees look out for each other, the fear of retaliation for reporting decreases, and risk is reduced. Micro courses and reinforcement tools instill learning all year long and remind employees that the organization’s greatest asset is, ultimately, each other.

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