There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many businesses in the energy industry, causing delays and uncertainties. That said, the slowdown has created an opportunity for companies to roll out compliance training and other initiatives to help strengthen workplace culture, retain qualified employees and attract new ones when business activity picks up.
Since the #MeToo movement put workplace harassment in the spotlight, laws have been passed across the United States requiring employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training. The current list includes New York, New York City, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine and Delaware, with other states expected to follow.
Regardless of whether training is mandatory — or if employees are working on-site, from home or in different locations — sexual harassment training for all employees sends a strong message about the organization’s commitment to fostering a respectful, diverse and inclusive workplace.
New approaches to online harassment training are transforming the boring, slideshow model into a modern, interactive learning experience in which employees gain a deeper understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, the consequences of misconduct and their role in creating a respectful, inclusive workplace culture. For a more engaging, relevant and effective harassment training program, consider the following six tips:
1. Tailor Content to the Industry
Regular, interactive training that is focused on changing behaviors and tailored to the organization and its workforce is one of the core principles that have proven effective in preventing and addressing harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) task force on workplace harassment.
With a variety of e-Learning and video tools available, online compliance training can engage employees with realistic video scenarios, images and examples that are relevant to their work experiences. Including a chief executive officer’s video message can further reinforce the importance of participating in training and the organization’s expectations for conduct.
2. Offer Mobile-Optimized Training for 24/7 Access
With unpredictable schedules now the norm, mobile-optimized training makes it convenient for employees to access and complete courses on any device. Mobile technology also enables human resource (HR) managers to easily assign new courses, monitor employees’ progress and send out reminders, updates and bite-size videos on timely topics throughout the year.
3. Raise Awareness of Different Forms of Harassment
Sexual harassment — whether it occurs in the office, on the jobsite, at a trade show, online or through social media—goes beyond unwanted physical contact. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other conduct of a sexual nature that directly or indirectly interferes with an individual’s work, creates a hostile work environment or is made a term or condition of employment.
Offensive comments about a person’s sex or about women in general can also constitute illegal harassment. A person of any gender can be a harasser or a target of harassment, including customers, inspectors, contractors, and vendors.
4. Teach Bystander Intervention Tactics
Bystander intervention training has its roots in the military and on college campuses as a tactic to prevent sexual assault. Today, workplace experts consider bystander intervention to be one of the most effective ways to stop misconduct before it rises to the level of illegal harassment and discrimination.
Teaching employees different ways to safely step in and speak up while or after witnessing incidents of harassment can help defuse potentially harmful situations and prevent future incidents. Being an active bystander has another benefit, too: coworkers can be allies for targets of harassment and show their support and empathy.
5. Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Training employees and managers on what they can do to support a more diverse and inclusive workplace can also help prevent harassment and discrimination, raise awareness of unconscious bias and microaggressions and foster civility and respect. Diversity and inclusion goes beyond gender and race, encompassing different backgrounds, experiences, sexual orientation and ideas.
6. Encourage Reporting
An important part of stopping sexual harassment is implementing and communicating procedures for reporting incidents and reassuring employees that their complaints will be taken seriously and they won’t be retaliated against. Managers who may handle reports of harassment can benefit from additional training on how to promptly address and investigate complaints and avoid retaliatory behavior.
With the support of business owners and managers who lead by example, a modern, engaging training program is an important step in preventing harassment and other misconduct and creating a respectful workplace culture in which all employees feel they belong.