2017 brought the #MeToo and the Time’s Up movements to prominence. It saw the “Silence Breakers” celebrated on the cover of Time magazine.
It’s been a year for taking steps toward justice, but there’s still progress to be made. While most of the revelations have come from within the ranks of Hollywood, sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t limited to film, entertainment, or political spheres.
According to a CNBC study, one-fifth of all American adults have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and that number goes up to over one-in-four for women. 75% of those victims experienced retaliation when they tried to let co-workers or employers know about the harassment. What’s worse is that most sexual harassment incidents go unreported for that very reason.
Harassment is a traumatic experience, and any employee who experiences it could be subject to anxiety, depression, distrust, fear, or all of the above. This will impact their job performance, as well as their quality of life and happiness in general. No one deserves to feel dehumanized at work.
The problem goes much deeper than one or two or even three industries. It’s an all-encompassing reflection of our society.
Corporate learning has included anti-harassment training for a while now, so why is that training seemingly having no effect? Would better training change anything?
Not Treating the Training Seriously Enough
Anti-harassment training in the workplace has been avoided by employees and employers alike. Employees don’t see the relevance to their job and don’t think they “need” the training, and employers tend to only see anti-harassment training as protection from harassment lawsuits, rather than a key part of developing workplace equality. But this isn’t even the core of the anti-harassment training problem. The key problem is that the training doesn’t change behavior.
It’s hard to back up this sentiment with data, apparently because the data mostly isn’t there. Only 15% of companies even do follow-up studies on the success of their anti-harassment programs. Companies so much lack confidence in their anti-harassment training that they are afraid to check how badly the training is working. One problem that has been studied, though, is that employees are more likely to take anti-harassment training seriously if they think their company is also taking the training seriously, and if they think their workplace is a moral workplace to begin with. Part of the reason for this cynicism is that anti-harassment training has been shown to protect employers from legal complications more than it protects victims from harassment.
In short, employers need to take this training just as seriously as employees. Even if you think your company is clean, the numbers clearly say otherwise. Harassment is everywhere.
Better Training Changes Behavior
If training doesn’t change an employee’s behavior, then it’s worthless; and this applies to all areas of training, not only sexual harassment.
If the goal of corporate training is to help employees improve efficiency and avoid mistakes, but the employee doesn’t change their behavior, then the training doesn’t actually work.
Clearly, most anti-harassment training isn’t changing actual behavior.
This is a difficult topic. It’s one that Area9 doesn’t have the answer to (no one at the moment does) but it’s an important conversation to have, regardless. As a business that puts an emphasis on effective training, we have to wonder how compliance training is failing in this regard. We hope that compliance training which impacts behavior is the answer, and we know Adaptive Learning can do that better than other forms of corporate e-learning. But we doubt that better training alone is the answer. What’s needed more than anything is open discussion, and to listen to what victims have to say, and to recognize some embarrassing, unpleasant, and downright ugly realities within our own workplaces.