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The Problem with Sexual Harassment Training

You’ve been through it at least one, probably on an annual basis to comply with your state or country laws: harassment training. Vox had a great article outlining results from a recent EEOC study about sexual harassment. Number four relates to the L&D profession: it punctuates the lack of efficacy of training.

We think comprehensive harassment training is critically important, but don’t typically seeing companies approaching as such. At worst we see companies deploying training with four common shortcomings which make the training ineffective:

  1. Harassment training focuses on legal liability. The article linked about notes this as well. By focusing on this aspect only you miss what is really important: the impact of harassment on individuals, teams and companies.

  2. Educates on obvious harassment, not ambiguous harassment. There are many things that clearly fit the legal definition of harassment. What about the things that don’t clearly fit the legal definition, but are still unacceptable for an inclusive workforce?

  3. Fails to address the importance of allies and bystanders. Most training we have seen doesn’t explore the role that bystanders have, especially in becoming allies.

  4. Doesn’t equip managers for team conversations. I remember the first time sexual harassment was reported to me; I had recently done my company’s required training and it didn’t equip me at all. Managers, especially new managers, should be enabled so address instances where they see harassment or discrimination, when it is reported to them by a bystander, and when it is reported to them by the victim.

Training should have a big part in eliminating harassment and discrimination and building inclusive and diverse teams.

What are your thoughts? What do you want to change about your company’s harassment training?

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