A June 2018 report on sexual harassment was released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Two years in the making, it compiled all the available research on harassment prevention. Hawai‘i employers can benefit from the study’s findings.
The research found that men are more likely to harass in organizations where women believe (1) there is a risk if they report harassment, (2) they will not be taken seriously, and (3) offenders will not be punished. But the research also showed that an environment that does not tolerate harassment significantly reduces the likelihood of harassment, even by persons who are likely to harass otherwise.
How do you create an environment that is perceived to not tolerate harassment? First, don’t tolerate it. That means doing prompt, thorough investigations, taking appropriate disciplinary actions, and ensuring no retaliation against the persons who complain.
Second, provide effective training so employees know your organization is committed to a respectful workplace. The National Academies research showed that video and online training are not effective. Period. The most effective training, they found, was live training by experts.
The research showed that training should focus on behaviors. What specifically are employees not supposed to do? What should they do instead? Changing employees’ behavior, the research found, was more important than trying to increase their understanding of the law (boring!) or change their attitudes (which is virtually impossible).
The research found the optimal time for training to be effective was 4 hours! That’s because when you have that much time, you can have interaction, activities, and role plays. This enables employees to practice the behavior change you want. But it doesn’t have to be all at once. There are ways to blend training approaches to create an effective strategy.