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Introduction and Overview

In an era of unprecedented change and disruption, events in the U.S. and beyond highlight the gaps in fair treatment that continue to characterize human interactions in individual relationships, business settings, and in the greater context of societies worldwide. Discrimination still exists in many forms, and organizations remain challenged to effectively identify and eradicate it.

Where business enterprises are concerned, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that refers to illegal sexual conduct in the workplace. It may be experienced by employees of any gender. In fact it may extend beyond gender to encompass offensive conduct toward those of any sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and more.

When sexual harassment occurs at work, the harm done can reach far beyond the individuals immediately involved. Victims of sexual harassment may be left with lasting physical and emotional scars. They may suffer career and economic injuries, sustain harm to their personal and professional reputations, and experience other hardships. In organizations where sexual harassment is ignored or addressed ineffectually, brand reputation, productivity, employee morale and engagement, talent attraction and retention, profitability, and other critical performance capabilities may be irreparably damaged.

Sexual Harassment Affects....  
The Victim

Psychological/Emotional Impact (anxiety, depression, fear, low self-esteem); Physical Impact (muscle aches, headaches, high blood pressure, digestive problems); Financial Impact if employee leaves due to harassment (loss of income, negative impact on earning potential and career trajectory); Potential negative impact on reputation

The Organization

Low employee morale/productivity; Financial impact; Loss of reputation

Co-Workers

Low morale/productivity; Shame for not speaking up; Stress

The Accused Harasser

Loss of job/career; Loss of reputation; Financial Impact; Stress; Impact on Personal Relationships

 

With so much at risk, effective prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace is vital to the health and survival of organizations and their workforces.

Understanding Sexual Harassment

Definition of Sexual Harassment

 Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

…U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws pertaining to various types of discrimination, including that which is based on sex (including gender identify, transgender status, and sexual orientation). Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII, a federal law which specifies multiple kinds of illegal discrimination, pertains to organizations that employ 15 or more people, as well as federal, state, and local governments; employment agencies; and labor organizations. In addition, many states have sexual harassment prevention laws that pertain to the private sector, including organizations that employ fewer than 15 workers.

 

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances. According to the EEOC:

  • The victim and harasser may be male or female, and the victim and harasser may be the same or opposite sex.
  • The harasser may be the victim’s co-worker, supervisor, a supervisor in another area of the organization, an agent of the employer, or a non-employee.
  • The victim may be the person harassed, but could also be “anyone affected by the offensive conduct.”
  • Sexual harassment may or may not cause economic injury or the victim’s discharge by the employer.
  • The conduct by the harasser “must be unwelcome.”

Types of Sexual Harassment

Experts describe two types of sexual harassment:

1. Hostile Work Environment
  • Occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct based on sex unreasonably interfere with work performance or create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
  • Can be unwelcome and offensive written/visual, verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct.
  • Is a pattern that is so severe or pervasive that it interferes with the employee’s ability to do their job or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

       Can also be a one-time severe and egregious act.

• Third Party Hostile Work Environment
  • Occurs when a non-employee—customer, vendor, distributor, contractor, or other—creates an intimidating, hostile, and offensive work environment for an employee.
• Indirect Hostile Work Environment 
  • Occurs when an individual is negatively impacted by sexual conduct that does not happen directly to them (e.g., an employee experiences an offensive, hostile work environment based on sexual conduct that targets a co-worker).
2. Quid Pro Quo
  • Occurs when an individual in authority requests sex, sexual favors, or a sexual relationship.
  • Acceptance or rejection of the request can impact the victimized employee’s job, resulting in a tangible employment action (e.g., job perks, desirable work, promotion, undesirable work, demotion, termination, etc.).

      Can be either a direct or implied this-for-that (quid pro quo) element.

 

 

Why Sexual Harassment Prevention Is a Continuing Challenge

Despite such widespread efforts as the #MeToo movement, and media coverage of high-profile incidents of sexual harassment and accused perpetrators, attempts to eradicate the negative behaviors from workplaces have not achieved desired levels of success.

Why is it so difficult to prevent sexual harassment? Contributing factors are many. Despite the enhanced visibility of harassment cases in recent years, workplace discrimination experts question how seriously society regards it as a problem and point to often-protracted legal actions that fail to result in victims’ favor.

Other thought leaders blame businesses for choosing their own financial well-being over doing right by victimized employees. Still others say harassers target victims who are least likely to report incidents because they are desperate for continued paychecks or lack the self-esteem or support to fight for their rights. These are but a few of the variables affecting sexual harassment prevention outcomes.

 

Other Roadblocks to Preventing Sexual Harassment

In its ebook From Awareness to Action: How to Stop Sexual Harassment Once & For All, Media Partners describes six roadblocks it says are “getting in the way of solving the issue.”

1. Fear

For their part, victims of sexual harassment may choose not to report incidents out of fear that speaking up will cost them their jobs (and income). They may think they won’t be believed, that their reports won’t be acted upon, or that they’ll be blamed for harassment. Perhaps the ultimate fear is that of retaliation by the harasser.

Fear can paralyze witnesses to sexual harassment, too. Again, concerns about retaliation may play a big role in keeping bystanders silent. Witnesses also may fail to act because they don’t see others speaking out, leaving them to fear that taking action is not an appropriate response in the context or culture of their organization. 

2. Poor Organizational Policies

Because some states or other authorities choose to put responsibility for sexual harassment prevention policies in the hands of the very business organizations in which problems occur, formal and effective policies against harassment may be lacking. This can leave employees unsure about what constitutes sexual harassment and what to do about incidents when they occur. Ineffective policies also undercut victims’ abilities to take action and gain restitution.

3. Training Costs and Logistics

Faced with the prospect of lost work time and associated costs to productivity and bottom lines—coupled with additional expenses to build or buy training programs—company leaders may refuse to insist on quality sexual harassment prevention training for their workforces. The fallacy in that failure to act is that organizations may then be put at risk for millions of dollars in fines and legal judgments because of harassment-provoked litigation.

4. Prevention Training Fails to Drive Behavior Change

Whether content of sexual harassment prevention training programs fails to engage audiences, or doesn’t present material that is relevant or practical to apply, many learning and development professionals agree that prevention education has fallen short in positively shifting employee behaviors. Even professionals who express satisfaction with training products often report poor results because training isn’t followed-up and reinforced systematically.

5. Employees Resist Prevention Training

Research by Media Partners found that employee resistance is the leading challenge underlying sexual harassment prevention training (as reported by learning and HR professionals). Differing personal perspectives, discomfort in addressing sexual harassment, and other issues may cloud employees’ views about prevention training, ultimately making them resistant to educational efforts and requiring employers to take significant actions to change mindsets.

6. Confusion about Compliance

When sexual harassment prevention training is required by government entities, confusion is a frequent result. With an increasing number of states taking action to mandate training, business leaders may be challenged to understand their legal obligations to provide appropriate training for their workforces. Qualified training providers with knowledge of current compliance requirements across all U.S. locations are must-have resources for organizations to ensure effective training compliance.

The Business Case for Sexual Harassment Prevention

Making a business case for any organizational initiative relies on the ability to convince senior leaders that a genuine need exists—one that warrants the investment of people, time, and money. Metrics are the means by which such needs are demonstrated, and they may reflect conditions inside and outside an organization.

While there can be significant variation—by company size, industry, or other variables—some of the statistical information HR and learning and development (L&D) leaders may find helpful in making a business case for sexual harassment prevention training includes (but isn’t limited to) the following:

Internal Measures

Effective prevention of sexual harassment in organizations both contributes to and reflects the presence of a respectful workplace culture, so there is significant crossover in the internal metrics used to support the business case for both initiatives. When it comes to sexual harassment prevention specifically, these are some important internal metrics to consider:

  • Business results. Outcomes likely to be positively affected by successful sexual harassment prevention training (and negatively affected by lack of action to prevent sexual harassment) might include such key performance indicators (KPIs) as:
    • Company sales/revenues
    • Business costs
    • Productivity levels
    • Turnover and retention rates
    • Employee engagement levels
    • Sexual harassment complaints/legal actions filed
    • Talent acquisition measures
    • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion measures
    • Legal costs (defense of complaints/actions, awards, fines, etc.)
    • Changes in individual and/or team performance ratings
    • Changes in customer satisfaction levels
  • Employee behaviors and performance. The focus (and a key indicator) of effective sexual harassment prevention training is positive behavior change. Among the measures organizations might use to gauge those shifts:
    • Employee engagement levels
    • Changes in individual and/or team performance ratings
    • Employee well-being measures (such as burnout, stress, physical and mental health, etc.)
    • Absenteeism rates
    • Job satisfaction levels
    • 360-degree assessments
    • Net promoter scores
    • Employee experience measures
    • Supervisor/manager observations of learning applied on the job (e.g., individuals constructively addressing inappropriate conduct)

External Measures

To provide broader context and perspective, internal measures relevant to sexual harassment occurrence and prevention can be supplemented with presentation of data collected and published by credible external sources.

As the government agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a key authority on sexual harassment. The organization tracks and publishes extensive data on charges, enforcement, and litigation.

Other federal government agencies sometimes have roles in enforcing EEOC requirements or other actions related to sexual harassment and may offer additional sources of data. The U.S. Government Accountability Office provides a comprehensive list in its 2020 publication on Workplace Sexual Harassment.

Along with federal authorities, many other sources conduct research and publish data related to sexual harassment in the workplace. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) offers information on sexual harassment and related training laws in the U.S. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research is another respected source of information. Non-profit organizations, professional associations, industry groups, and media outlets may publish data that examines sexual harassment through narrower or specialized lenses, such as industry, location, occupation, and the like.

The University of Maryland Global Campus Library offers a free online checklist to aid HR and learning professionals in identification of credible online information sources.

Data on Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

According to ATD ( Association for Talent Development), its most recent research on the topic found that 71% of organizations offered some type of sexual harassment prevention training. The poll of more than 950 learning, training, and HR professionals revealed that just over three-quarters of those who offered harassment prevention training required all employees to participate.

Additional research by XpertHR reported that more than half of organizations (57%) turn to their HR functions to take the lead in sexual harassment prevention training, making it vital for HR leaders and practitioners to have comprehensive knowledge on the topic and visibility into the training compliance requirements applicable to their organizations.

In the U.S., a handful of states currently require employers to provide training on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. Those states are:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • New York
  • Washington (for certain industries)

Some sources say that most states now recommend or encourage sexual harassment prevention training. However, situations differ, and legal status in many areas is in flux. It is important for organizations to confirm requirements for all of their business locations.

Training Measures

Some key metrics related to sexual harassment prevention training might include:

  • Return on investment in training
  • Number of training completions
  • Evaluation of training by participants
  • Feedback/observation by managers of training participants’ behaviors
  • Application of concepts learned
  • Participation in follow-up interventions to sustain learning
  • Impact on business and employee behavior metrics

Further information on sexual harassment data is available in these publications from Media Partners:

HR and L&D professionals seeking current information on sexual harassment training requirements may contact Media Partners' specialists at (800) 408-5657.

Sexual Harassment Prevention: Benefit and Risk Implications for Organizations

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.

…U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

 

When organizations deliver effective sexual harassment prevention training, they are actively leveraging a core element in what the EEOC calls “the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace” – prevention.    

Successful sexual harassment prevention training has the potential to drive far-reaching positive effects for organizations and their workforces, alike.

The ability of prevention training to get things out in the open heightens awareness of behaviors, calling attention to what is and isn’t appropriate in the workplace. Effective sexual harassment prevention training delivered to all employees in an organization helps ensure consistent understanding of the actions that constitute harassment, educates individuals about their legal rights, and emphasizes the kind of personal empowerment that equips bystanders to stand up for victimized co-workers.

Surfacing such potential benefits for an organization adds support to the business case for providing sexual harassment prevention training. Further, identifying the potential risks that individuals and organizations face when sexual harassment prevention fails or is ignored, helps to quantify and highlight the true costs that may arise when workplaces lack commitments to respect and personal safety.

Benefits and Risks Explained

Some of the most commonly cited benefits of sexual harassment prevention training and the risks/costs of prevention failure have been highlighted in various research studies. Figures that follow are from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and a landmark study on sexual harassment in federal workplaces by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB):

1. Stronger organizational culture. Harassment prevention training, whether live or virtual, offers opportunities to talk about and reinforce company values and culture. Research has found that purpose-centered cultures, such as those focused on respect, bring people together to work toward common goals.
Risk/cost avoided: In looking at costs of harassment, the MSPB found that only about a third of employees who’d experienced—or even observed—more than one instance of sexual harassment in their workplaces said they were satisfied with or approved of their organizations’ cultures. Almost twice as many workers expressed satisfaction with cultures in organizations where no sexual harassment had been experienced or observed.

 

2. Improved talent retention and lower turnover are far more likely to occur in organizations where employees don’t feel at risk simply by being in the workplace.
Risk/cost avoided: The IWPR reports that victims of sexual harassment are more than six times more likely to change jobs, and calls employee turnover “the largest economic cost of sexual harassment.” Estimates put the average cost of turnover at 16 – 20% of annual salary for employees, and as much as 213% of salary for professional staff and managers.

 

3. Reduced absenteeism. Eradicating sexual harassment in workplaces (and the attendant mental and physical health issues harassment causes) can help organizations improve attendance.
Risk/cost avoided: According to the MSPB, 17% of sexual harassment victims took sick leave following an instance of harassment. Another 17% took annual leave. The IWPR points to research that confirmed victims of workplace harassment or bullying were nearly twice as likely (versus non-victims) to report taking off at least two weeks of work during the year.

 

4. Enhanced productivity and performance. Loss of individual productivity, which contributes directly to loss of overall organizational output and performance, is a leading result of sexual harassment in the workplace. Consequently, successful prevention of that harassment is seen as a top strategy for improving both employee and enterprise performance.
Risk/cost avoided: Confirming decreased productivity as the single most likely result of sexual harassment at work, the MSPB reported that more than one in five victims (22%) said their productivity declined in the aftermath of a harassment incident. 

 

5. Higher employee engagement and job satisfaction levels. When employees are free from worry about their personal safety at work, including having the belief that that they are protected from being sexually harassed, they report significantly greater satisfaction with their work and higher levels of engagement on the job.
Risk/cost avoided: The MSPB found that only about half of employees reported feeling inspired to do their best work when they had either witnessed or been victims of sexual harassment (compared with more than seven in 10 of those who had not).

The IWPR says that “sexual harassment is associated with reduced motivation and commitment, as well as lower job satisfaction and withdrawal.” For employees working on teams, that translated to an average estimated cost of $22,500 per person in lost productivity.

 

6. Higher levels of well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased organizations’ focus on and commitment to employee well-being, especially mental well-being. Ensuring that workplaces are free from sexual harassment is an important contributor to both physical and mental/emotional health. In turn, greater levels of employee well-being drive better organizational performance.
Risk/cost avoided: The IWPR notes that sexual harassment incidents can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health issues in addition to higher risks of long-term physical health problems. 

                    

7. Legal compliance and protection from litigation are enormous benefits organizations can realize from comparatively minimal investments in sexual harassment prevention training. Financial and time savings can be enormous when companies avoid investigations, fines, legal fees, expensive settlements, and awards for victims.
Risk/cost avoided: In 2019, alone, the EEOC collected $68.2 million from employers for sexual harassment claims. Because the organization litigates only a small number of the harassment charges it receives, that figure represents only a small portion of potential employer cost risk.

Often, court settlements in sexual harassment cases are not made public. However, one sobering example reported by USA Today noted that two high-profile sexual harassment cases in recent years resulted in a major television news network’s liability for settlements of $32 million and $20 million, respectively.

 

More information on benefits of sexual harassment prevention training (and the costs of not training) is available in Media Partners’ ebook, From Awareness to Action: How to Stop Sexual Harassment Once & For All, and infographic.

Achieving Lasting Sexual Harassment Prevention: Impacting Culture, Changing Behavior and More

Compliance with state and other mandates for sexual harassment prevention training is necessary, but training done only to meet legal requirements is unlikely to achieve meaningful behavior change and reinforce the kind of organizational culture in which sexual harassment is not tolerated. Achieving lasting success in sexual harassment prevention demands more.

Remarks by past EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic underscore the effectiveness of the approach designed by Media Partners that integrates sexual harassment prevention training for employees and managers into the broader idea of a respectful workplace:

Training needs to explore civility in general and how to have a respectful workplace. It shouldn't just focus on workers who experience harassment themselves. It needs to empower bystanders to speak up when they witness harassment and teach them how to intervene.

Additionally, managers need to have the tools to respond to situations when they arise. If the front-line supervisors don't know how to respond when a worker complains about something another employee said or did, ‘things can go off the rails pretty quickly.’

The idea of organizational culture as the basis for a commitment to prevention of sexual harassment is particularly important in the wake of the dramatic shifts in employee work locations driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some industries and jobs can’t operate remotely, so many workers never left enterprise facilities. Others migrated to home offices. Further, many companies are returning to workplaces and considering, or are already moving toward, hybrid work models in which employees split time between remote and on-site work settings.

Regardless of employees’ work locations, culture is a constant, and its health—and focus on respect—must be maintained. That means that the need for training that emphasizes a culture of respect, including sexual harassment prevention training, remains just as strong going forward as it was in the pre-pandemic business world.

Effective Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Has Been Elusive

For many organizations, implementation of prevention training hasn’t solved the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Writing in Harvard Business Review (HBR), sociology professors and researchers Frank Dobbin of Harvard and Alexandra Kalev of Tel Aviv University confirm that, in 2020, 40% of women and 16% of men still said they’d been sexually harassed at work. In the wake of #MeToo and despite “widespread grievance procedures and forbidden-behavior training,” harassment continues.

In fact, harassment research by Dobbin and Kalev found that many existing training approaches, along with organizational grievance procedures, were compounding the problem and increasing employee dissatisfaction and attrition. Further, they say that training that centers on forbidden behaviors in the workplace negatively affects the numbers of women in management and actually creates a backlash that results in men being “more likely to blame the victims and to think that women who report harassment are making it up or overreacting.”

The American Psychological Association (APA) agrees that ineffective training can exacerbate harassment problems, noting that many organizations resist training or just do so to satisfy mandates: “Conducting a one-time training for new employees is ineffective and is usually just window dressing by companies seeking protection from lawsuits.”

Prevention Training That Does Work

Although many past efforts at sexual harassment prevention training haven’t produced the desired results, experts, including Dobbin, Kalev, and other experts cited by the APA, point to several best practices that characterize effective prevention training.

  • Turn Bystanders into Upstanders. Bystander intervention training “may help increase a sense of accountability, where employees are expected to speak up and even file their own complaints when they witness sexual harassment involving another employee,” observes the APA.

Dobbin and Kalev call bystander training “the most promising alternative we’ve come across,” and report its use by the U.S. Air Force.  In addition, inclusion of bystander training has been mandated by the city of New York for its employee harassment training.

  • Provide Manager-Specific Training. “Companies that adopted distinct manager-training programs saw significant gains in the percentage of women in their managerial ranks,” say Dobbin and Kalev, adding that the approach is particularly effective because it emphasizes the fact that sexual harassment is a problem that every manager must handle.

Targeted training teaches managers to recognize the early signs of harassment and how to quickly and constructively intervene so the problem doesn’t escalate. Dobbin and Kalev’s research found men more likely to respond to manager-specific training, in part, because male participants feel “they’re being given new tools that will help them solve problems they haven’t known how to handle in the past—and in part because they’re assumed to be potential heroes rather than villains.”

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, also urges HR and L&D leaders to train managers separately, even though organizations may lean toward a unified approach. Why? “Managers have special responsibilities and need to be educated on these responsibilities in addition to the information provided to all employees.”

  • Deliver Comprehensive and Engaging Training. Comprehensive encompasses “pre-training, training and post-training components at the individual and group levels,” according to the APA. Further, it recommends that training be interactive, and utilize multiple methodologies to engage employees through “lectures, videos, and role-playing.”
33%

Studies show that 1 out of every 3 employees say uninspiring content is a barrier to their learning. 

 

  • Follow Through. An especially important key to success in sexual harassment prevention training  involves avoiding the trap of a one-and-done attitude. The APA goes so far as to recommend that follow-up after initial training be reinforced through the use of knowledge assessments and refresher training on an annual basis.

A Deeper Dive Into Harassment Prevention

For L&D and HR professionals seeking additional resources on topics that figure into sexual harassment prevention training outcomes, Media Partners suggests these assets:

  • Overcoming employee resistance helps address a major impediment to effectiveness in sexual harassment prevention training. Among the tactics HR and L&D professionals apply are: attention to training design, ensuring engaging content and presentation, addressing learners’ specific objections, and more.

Find practical solutions in: 7 Tips for Overcoming Resistance to Sexual Harassment Training

  • Providing support for managers ensures that leaders on organizational frontlines are equipped with the skills they need to handle conversations about sexual harassment (and prevention training) constructively and to take fast, effective action when harassment incidents occur or complaints are made.

For ideas to strengthen manager support, see: Speaking From Experience: Why Managers Need Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

  • Choosing effective training designs, that meet recommendations by the Society for Human Resource Management, involves considerations about internal branding and marketing of sexual harassment prevention training, encouraging interactivity, involving senior leaders, and other strategies.

To learn more about SHRM suggestions, read: Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Should Involve Real Conversations .

Manager Actions

 

In its From Awareness to Action eBook, Media Partners offers  additional tips to heighten prevention training success.

 

Organizational Actions

  • Train everyone – deploying company-wide training has the potential to strengthen available defenses if the organization is subjected to legal action, helps ensure compliance, and supports stronger business and talent outcomes.
  • Include training that targets both current and next-generation managers to ensure that prevention is a mindset established early in leadership careers.
  • Lead by example should be a mandate not only for managers, but for leaders at all organizational levels. Role modeling is an especially effective reinforcer of learning for employees and encourages active and ongoing participation by leaders.
  • Inspire bystanders to be upstanders by ensuring that employees are comfortable speaking up about harassment. Managers are ideally positioned to openly talk about harassment during meetings and work to destigmatize conversations about harassment.
  • Take all reports of harassment seriously … and take action. Managers must listen attentively, avoid making judgements about employees, and take swift action to handle complaints according to prescribed procedures.


Employee Actions

  • Be open to sexual harassment prevention training. Employees can strengthen training success by embracing the idea that prevention training is an opportunity to become part of a positive organizational movement for change.
  • Become self-aware. Workers can use sexual harassment prevention training to better understand the behaviors that constitute harassment, then apply their learning by intentionally monitoring and governing their own actions.
  • Resolve to be an upstander. Applying the concepts learned in sexual harassment prevention training culminates in bystanders becoming upstanders. Employees who make it clear that they are committed to speaking up when they see harassment are critical contributors to effective prevention.

The Future of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Laws are a good start…

Increasing legislation offers a key strategy to address workplace sexual harassment.  And, the good news is that more and more states have followed (or will soon follow) in the trailblazing footsteps of California by passing laws to strengthen support for victims and to require sexual harassment prevention training in organizations.

But multiple sources affirm that compliance as the core driver of sexual harassment prevention training doesn’t produce effective results, and often worsens the problem. Consequently, it’s clear that laws are only part of the solution to achieving a future free of workplace sexual harassment.

But, there's a lot more to the equation.

Lasting Change will Only Come with a Shift in Culture

Achieving true and lasting behavior change organization-wide will require a seismic shift in corporate culture—in essence, a holistic approach that includes sexual harassment prevention, along with other critical elements, to create a workplace atmosphere where safety, inclusion, and regard for others are paramount.

In short, the foundation for a workplace free of sexual harassment, bullying, incivility and other negative behaviors is an unshakable culture of respect.

 

Establishing and growing a culture of respect calls for broader educational initiatives—including comprehensive training in such topics as:

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Minimizing the impact of bias, and eliminating bullying and harassment
  • Workplace violence prevention and conflict resolution
  • Leadership and management skills that build and sustain positive culture change
  • Communication skills, accountability, and other behaviors that characterize safe, respectful workplaces

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Can’t be “One and Done”

In addition to establishing and growing cultures of respect, organizations can add the final, crucial element in eliminating sexual harassment in its workplaces—effective sexual harassment prevention training.

Experts on sexual harassment agree that the most effectual training:

  • turns bystanders into upstanders who watch out for and support their co-workers
  • is engaging and includes separate programming that specifically targets managers
  • is ongoing—with regular updates and opportunities to refresh the initial learning
  • includes follow up to ensure harassment prevention skills and knowledge are applied

These two driving factors make it clear that the expertise and ownership of HR and L&D are critical to achieving lasting effectiveness in sexual harassment prevention training, now and going forward.  See more on the Future of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training.