Five Tips for Effective Sexual Harassment Training

You’ve probably held sexual harassment training at your company. What was the outcome? Did it reduce improper behavior in your workplace? Did it change your company’s culture? Did it even hold your employees’ attention?

Far too often, the answer is no. Many sexual harassment trainings seem to exist merely to meet a legal compliance goal. They offer up obvious examples. They’re boring.

With the #MeToo movement making waves, now is a good time to completely gut and start anew with your sexual harassment training. Here are five tips on how to make it more engaging for your employees and more effective for your organization:

1. Begin with concrete goals. Is your intention to communicate generally your desire for a workplace culture that is free of discrimination and harassment? Or are you seeking concrete results? Would you like people to report potential issues right away so HR can intervene early? Not all sexual harassment training sessions look alike. Be specific with your goals and carefully cater your training to meet those precise objectives.

2. Choose the best format. The training can be live, online, or a combination of both. Live training may be more engaging, but it might not be practical for large companies or those with multiple locations. Regardless of the format, the training should be both practical and interesting, relevant and interactive.

3. Customize it to your company. Talk about your workplace, the culture, and the culture you want to create. Discuss your goals for a positive workplace and why you believe it’s important. While you want to be as concrete as possible, avoid actual examples as they could violate employee privacy or even settlement agreements. Finally, provide the name of at least two HR representatives who are specifically designated to receive confidential reports or complaints of harassment.

4. Use more nuanced examples. The average worker already understands that aggressive sexual advances and quid pro quo requests for sexual favors are illegal. Providing obvious or extreme examples is not only boring, it can be counterproductive as they won’t engender a lively and thoughtful discourse. Although these serious forms of sexual harassment still happen, it may be more useful to discuss scenarios that are more ambiguous. Spell out behavior that is considered unacceptable and what employees should do when they encounter such behavior, either as a witness or a victim.

5. Make the training ongoing. Sometimes, the best discussions and the most important questions arise in the ten minutes after the training is over. Good questions may also arise as people have time to think about the training in relation to their daily work lives. Make your sexual harassment training part of an ongoing set of workplace culture events, and make people feel welcome discussing issues arising from previous modules.

Matt Lockaby has conducted numerous sexual harassment training sessions for employer in multiple industries, he’s conducted sexual harassment investigations, and defended employers and management against claims for sexual harassment in state and federal court. Let us plan and implement your organization’s next sexual harassment training session. Give us a call to discuss how we can help.


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