Workplace harassment is a major issue today. Harassment creates a toxic environment for a business and can harm your reputation. It can also be costly when employees launch lawsuits. Dealing with issues such as workplace bullying, sexual harassment, and other types of harassment is always challenging. It’s far preferable to prevent these incidents than to deal with them after the fact. One of the most effective strategies for curbing this problem is by introducing an online anti-harassment training program.
Why You Need to Take Workplace Harassment Seriously
The recent allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have brought workplace sexual harassment into the headlines. However, the problem goes far beyond the movie industry. According to a report by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, almost 40% of women have experienced some type of workplace sexual harassment. While sexual harassment is usually directed against women, men are affected as well. There’s also the related issue of workplace bullying, which includes verbal abuse, manipulation, and spreading false information about co-workers. Organizations that study this problem, such as the Workplace Bullying Institute, find that almost half of all workers experience bullying at some time or another.
Unfortunately, even these sobering numbers probably don’t reveal the true extent of the problem as many incidents are never reported. According to a study from the University of Michigan, only one-quarter one-third of sexual harassment victims report these incidents to supervisors and even fewer ever result in formal complaints. While such cases don’t superficially affect businesses as much as reported ones, they certainly lower workplace morale and disrupt teamwork and motivation. That’s why it’s essential for every business to take this issue seriously and come up with effective preventive measures.
Creating an Online Anti-Harassment Course
Preventing workplace harassment requires a multifaceted approach. You need to create clearcut policies on conduct and an efficient process for investigating claims. It’s important to foster an atmosphere where victims feel comfortable coming forward about any incidents. An online anti-harassment course is a valuable addition to your overall strategy for curbing this problem. Let’s look at some of the crucial components to include in such a course.
- Defining Harassment - One of the course’s purposes is to inform or remind everyone how common harassment is and the many forms it takes. It’s important that both potential victims and potential violators are aware of your company’s policies. Your course might show examples of harassment, either described or acted out.
- Inclusiveness - When employees feel accepted and part of the team, they’re less vulnerable to harassment. It’s often a struggle for new employees, especially those who are introverted or less aggressive, to fit in. A good place to start with an anti-harassment course is on the topic of inclusiveness. It’s important to include new employees in both workplace and extracurricular activities. Very often, people exclude new hires not out of maliciousness but simply due to oversight. Since they’re not yet part of people’s usual circle of friends/teammates, no one thinks to invite them. An online course can address these issues and remind long-term employees to include their newer co-workers in all activities.
- Diversity - Teaching employees about diversity goes a long way in preventing discrimination, whether it’s based on gender, sexual preference, race, or religion. Today’s workplaces are more diverse than ever and teams are often composed of people from many backgrounds. Diversity training fosters the appreciation of differences and to recognize the contribution that people from different backgrounds can make. Aside from helping to prevent harassment, diversity training helps make your business more creative and innovative.
- Team Dynamics - Another essential module of your anti-harassment course deals with effective team-building and team dynamics. Some people are natural leaders while others tend to hang back and not speak up as much. Nevertheless, it’s important that everyone’s voice is heard. Shy and less aggressive people also have valuable ideas. Sometimes, more assertive people will discourage their quieter teammates from speaking up by interrupting or dismissing their thoughts. This is a type of bullying that actually harms the business in a couple of ways. It makes the bullied workers feel that their voices aren’t heard and it deprives the team of hearing their contributions.
These are a few components that can help to clarify your company’s policies about harassment and to help reduce such incidents. The course should be tailored to your own particular needs based on your industry and company culture.
How to Increase the Course’s Effectiveness
Your online anti-harassment course should cover as many elements as possible to educate employees and get them on board to help you prevent harassment. You can’t, however, simply deliver the online course and expect it to work miracles on its own. You also need follow-up procedures.
- Updates and reviews. It’s a good idea to make frequent updates to the course to reflect and new issues or policies. Even if you haven’t made any significant changes, it’s still worthwhile to provide at least a short review so the material remains fresh in people’s minds.
- Survey employees. Surveys help you measure the content and make improvements in the future. Anonymous surveys are useful for asking employees about their experiences with harassment as well as their reactions to your online course.
- Discussions. Live discussions help to clarify and reinforce the course material. They also give employees a chance to talk about these issues face-to-face, which can build rapport and prevent harassment issues.
- Measuring results. Over time, you’ll want to measure the effectiveness of the course. Has it reduced reported incidents? You may observe that it has helped in certain ways but not others. Studying results helps you refine the course and make it more effective.
Workplace harassment is a serious and costly problem for businesses of all types and sizes. You want to do everything possible to prevent such incidents from occurring. An online anti-harassment course is an effective measure to help you achieve this goal. Making sure all employees are clear about your policies on harassment is an essential part of your compliance training. One challenge that all businesses face is getting employees to take compliance training seriously. Read Creative Ways to Energize Employees About Compliance Training for suggestions.
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