Ben DiPietro, May 22, 2017
As workplace harassment issues continue to evolve, it’s imperative for organizations to make sure their sexual harassment training is keeping pace with the changes that are occurring. Issues including religious accommodation, gender identity, politics and bullying are getting more attention—and the advent of social media allows for near-instant distribution to a global audience of any issues that might arise in your group, said Ingrid Fredeen, a vice president of online learning content at compliance software and services firm Navex Global. “Today’s harassment course is not the same course from three, five or 10 years ago,” she said Friday during a webinar. “If you are in a position where you haven’t been trained, or you have something stale in place, it really needs to be updated because that content is no longer serving your employees. It is a dramatically different workplace.”
Ms. Fredeen, an attorney who has specialized in legal compliance training for more than 10 years, said despite the progress taking place there will be harassment in the workplace “at least for the foreseeable future.” That’s because, among other reasons, new people are always coming into the organization and they may be coming from a place where harassment was tolerated or encouraged. “That is why you need a program that is consistently and persistently training and educating,” said Ms. Fredeen. Rather than look at such training as a check-the-box exercise, Ms. Fredeen said she encourages clients to look at harassment training not as a chance to talk about what is legal and illegal but “to teach values and behaviors” and to “teach respect” in the workplace.
For organizations just starting to consider harassment training, Ms. Fredeen said they need to make sure they are meeting all training obligations under state and federal laws; she suggests as a general rule offering two hours of training every two years. “This may not be the driver of your program but it is important,” she said. Beyond that, it’s important when starting out to make sure the right people are part of the team tasked to work on this. That means making sure there are senior executives supporting the effort, having people with responsibility for budget on the team, as well as IT people. Also, invite key stakeholders from the company; in the case of harassment training, that means having human resources involved. Finally? “Give yourself time,” said Ms. Fredeen. “It does take time to have a team evaluate your product, and the lawyers like to get involved.”
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