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The Rough Notes Company Inc.



May 28
08:22 2019

The Innovative Workplace

By Larry Dunivan


A new opportunity for agents and brokers to provide assessment and advice to clients

Meeting—and exceeding—anti-harassment training mandates is harder than ever for employers all across the country. Thanks to increased public pressure from the #MeToo movement, along with legislation like SB 1343 in California and the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, employers are finding it challenging both to meet regional training mandates and to address underlying issues related to conduct, culture, and people risk management.

While it’s essential for agency owners to comply with the new laws by training their own employees, it’s also important that agents realize the impact that these new laws have on their clients—and the opportunity that exists for agents and brokers to ease the burden.

If a client company suggests that these new training laws do not apply to it because it’s not domiciled in a state where legislation has been enacted, explain that every employer (even in states without such laws) should be proactive in training employees because doing so reduces the risk of workplace harassment and the cascade of consequences that can arise from even a single harassment claim.

More than ever, employers need help tracking changes and implementing programs, policies, and technology to stay in compliance.

Who, when, and how exactly to train employees on sexual harassment prevention may be unique to each organization, but the framework to arrive at those answers should be grounded in compliance and prevention best practices.

Step one: Compliance

Keeping up with new anti-harassment compliance mandates and updates to legislation shouldn’t be an HR director’s full-time job—but with so many changes in 2018 and even more expected in 2019, it very well could be.

As of March 2019, California, New York, the District of Columbia, and Delaware all have new training mandates in effect, and legislation is pending in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas.

Employers outside of these states also must take issues of sexual harassment and discrimination more seriously, and this often means implementing training programs and other prevention best practices.

More than ever, employers need help tracking changes and implementing programs, policies, and technology to stay in compliance. There’s more than one way to do this, but having a go-to compliance resource is a must for employers in 2019.

Step two: Data

What exactly does it mean to go beyond compliance?

It starts with data. Anti-harassment training is a one-way mechanism for employers to educate their workforce on topics like bystander intervention and how to report an incident. What it’s not is a mechanism for employers to listen to their employees about issues related to harassment and discrimination. There’s typically no feedback loop in training.

An article in the January 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review introduced a simple way for employers to understand how employees feel about harassment and discrimination in the workplace: Ask them!

Referred to by the EEOC as climate surveys, these questions can help employers identify blind spots related to harassment and discrimination, as well as measure the efficacy of existing prevention programs.

Here are five ways your clients can benefit from conducting a workplace climate survey:

  • Better understand their training investment—Mandatory sexual harassment prevention training may be your client’s only company-wide training initiative. If so, defending an annual training strategy and budget will be an ongoing challenge. Does the client need to retain a more sophisticated training vendor? Does it need approval for booster training? Climate survey data will help demonstrate ROI and obtain buy-in from key executives.
  • Identify gaps in knowledge—What constitutes harassment? Where does you client report? How does it report? Your client should ensure that employees are retaining key information in training and that it can identify gaps where booster training or other educational programs can be implemented.
  • Identify risks and opportunities—Undoubtedly your client’s survey will identify areas for improvement, and in some instances the data will point to specific risks. Assist your client in uncovering these risks before they become front-page news.
  • Demonstrate commitment—Sexual harassment and discrimination training is often viewed as a check-the-box initiative. By conducting a workplace climate survey, your client is signaling to employees that it wants to identify opportunities to improve and go beyond “checking the box.”
  • Benchmark—Measuring year-over-year improvement is important. But to truly understand what “good” looks like, your client needs to compare its workplace climate survey data against that of industry peers. This also will help obtain executive and board level support for future prevention initiatives.

Step three: Content

Let’s not forget content!

Compliance drives the rules we must follow. Data guides our focus. What remains is the content we deploy to both meet the mandates and address gaps/issues revealed in employee surveys.

While online training is the most commonly adopted approach in 2019, other options and considerations exist. With all options, making sure that the learning objectives and format address issues identified in the climate survey will help ensure a more effective outcome.

For in-person training, positive attributes include delivering a highly interactive experience and a group dynamic that fosters meaningful dialogue among employees about sensitive topics. If your client is using an outside law firm, it will do all the work of preparing and delivering the training, as well as ensuring that it’s compliant.

Cons of in-person training include:

  • For multi-state employers or employers with a remote workforce, in-person training may prove to be logistically difficult and cost prohibitive.
  • If your client is in New York or California and it hires on a regular basis, the frequency with which it will need to train new hires might make in-person training logistically and financially prohibitive.
  • In-person training can be difficult to coordinate and less flexible. If the goal is 100% participation, getting the entire team in the same place for a live event can be challenging.
  • There may be less consistency and continuity because the training experience will vary from session to session, even if your client has the same trainer.

Major labor and employment law firms offer virtual webinar-style training. These events are typically live and allow for some real-time interaction and Q&A.

If your client has an existing, trusted relationship with an in-person trainer but needs to scale that up to a larger or more distributed population, virtual can be a great approach. It also can be cost effective. Firms often charge similar rates for virtual training as they do for in person training, and virtual can reach a much larger, more distributed population.

Virtual learning sessions, however, are not typically set up to provide participation tracking or certificates of completion at the employee level. While there may be poll questions or encouragement for employees to submit questions, no forced engagement is built into the learning experience; workshop-style engagement is difficult to replicate virtually.

Self-paced online training can be powered by vendors like ThinkHR, EVERFI, and Emtrain. It’s also possible for your client to deliver its own internally built courses (via SCORM, AICC, or other vendors) through a learning management system like Cornerstone or Workday.

Self-paced online harassment prevention training can be delivered at scale, integrate tracking requirements, and provide proof of completion and maintain records. It also can be a predictable and cost-effective approach, as many vendors sell flat-fee annual licenses to use their courses and also provide updates at no additional charge.

Like virtual training, self-paced online training does not allow for live engagement. When training on topics that relate to conduct, it can be effective to teach through team scenarios and workshops. Self-paced online training can be extremely challenging and expensive if your client chooses to build its own system and keep it updated. When self-paced content is licensed from a vendor, few opportunities exist for customization.

Everyone needs to be engaged

Harassment prevention training does not affect employers only in states where laws have been enacted. The best practice is to ensure that every employee in every state is trained.

Agents and brokers have an opportunity to raise awareness with employers about the risks related to harassment in the workplace, offer solutions to educate employees, and build programs to report and investigate harassment reports if and when they arise.

The author

Larry Dunivan is chief executive officer of ThinkHR. ThinkHR delivers HR solutions that combine human expertise and innovative technology. The firm’s cloud-based services help employers reduce risk, drive efficiencies, and resolve people-related issues quickly and efficiently.


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