In a world filled with uncertainty, there’s one thing you can always count on.
Harassment Prevention training videos are invariably boring.
The combination of soap-operatic writing, rookie actors and third-rate talking heads is only part of the problem. The greater problem is that these videos are primarily produced and marketed for HR leaders more interested in a cheap, reusable form of CYA instead of stimulating the minds and hearts of the audience. Some even stick these dreadful little films into their onboarding schedule, not giving a hoot about the need to engage new people in mission and values, but very concerned with getting the new employee’s signature on a legally valid document.
Only recently have people become aware that the concept of harassment applies to more than sexual behavior. People can be illegally harassed on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, gender identity—in other words, any human demographic identified as a protected class under federal, state or local law. This dawning awareness gives us the opportunity to rethink harassment prevention training by looking for common threads that link all forms of harassment and building training programs around fundamental principles that govern human relationships. Learning based on this approach is much more likely to stick with learners . . . and hopefully prevent the video companies from producing more unwatchable cinema.
The other weakness inherent in the video-only approach (which also applies to web-based programs) to compliance is that is devoid of interaction. Harassment is a controversial and often emotional topic and people need to talk about it! Creating a learning environment where people feel safe to express thoughts and feelings that may be politically incorrect is necessary to get people to face what’s lurking under the surface. Allowing people to discuss uncomfortable subjects helps them work through their thoughts and feelings, transforming resentment about “having to go to school” into a productive and meaningful use of one’s time. The truth is you can’t get people to respect each other’s differences by showing them a video or having them read a policy. You can only achieve that in the real world of human interaction, because that’s where differences are experienced.
Such an approach requires competent facilitators who can demonstrate openness and curiosity while consistently upholding the core values behind harassment prevention without getting preachy. Those values have to do with respecting differences, acknowledging and accepting boundaries and appreciating diversity as a gift. It’s all about The Golden Rule and its modern variation: treat people as they would want to be treated.
But it’s also important that the facilitators have a sense of humor and know how to have fun with the topic. After all, we are talking about the law, and as we all know, the law is filled with stories of human missteps, both comic and tragic. If you want to get through to any audience in our stimuli-obsessed culture, you’re going to have to be entertaining, and great trainers realize that theatre is just as important as content in keeping the audience awake and engaged. This is even more important in training that people are forced to attend, because they enter the classroom expecting the worst. When you give them an experience that respects them as adults, respects their time, and makes them think, feel, laugh and learn, you can make much more of an impact on risk reduction than you can by boring them to tears.
The HR Difference offers Respectful Relationships, a fully-customizable harassment prevention program taught by experienced facilitators with years of real-world experience investigating harassment and discrimination complaints. Our facilitators have been delivering harassment prevention and diversity programs for over fifteen years in organizations large and small throughout the United States, and have HR executive experience in the great state of California.