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Where Small Businesses Should Focus with Harassment Training



Any good HR manager is looking ahead and thinking in terms of prevention for their company, no matter the size. But this is especially the case with small companies, where every dollar counts – and wasting thousands on a sexual harassment lawsuit could tank the whole operation.


Moreover, thinking beyond numbers, each person’s day-to-day experience in a small company contributes a larger proportion to the overall “company culture,” whether it’s poor, thriving, or somewhere in between. For these reasons and others, harassment training for small businesses is incredibly important.

For Small Businesses, It’s Not the ‘Why?’ But the ‘How?’

You might be saying, “I don’t need to be convinced of the value. But I’m only one person with a small HR team (or no HR team). How do I even begin to enact effective training?”

It can be hard to know where to start when your company isn’t pouring resources into creating individualized training courses and company retreats. You need a way to run lean HR harassment training without pulling out all your hair.

How do you do this? By focusing on these essentials.

Make Training Interactive

The most consistent refrain we hear about harassment training is to make it engaging! It’s easy to check out when you’re asked to sit in front of a screen. And if your company is remote, it’s hard to know whether it’s actually an employee or just their dog parked in front of that 12 minute video at home.

Luckily, there are some tried-and-true methods to get your “students” involved:

  • Questions and answers in the form of assessments or quizzes

  • Periodic check-ins to voice how folks are taking in the subject

  • Discussions – asking people to weigh in and explain how they would handle a scenario

  • When appropriate, you can gamify some less personal, more informational subject matter

  • Have participants create materials themselves – their own videos, writings, workflows, and hypothetical scenarios detailing how things could be improved

Help Leaders Develop Empathy

Often, the biggest challenge in harassment training is helping those with privilege and power in the company – who might rarely feel discomfort in a culture made for them – learn what it means to feel uncomfortable, especially in ways that are subtle or hard to verbalize.

Technology can be a real boon in this regard. VR enables people to sit and watch situations play out, with the ability to pause, discuss, and even pick different actions to change the outcome.

While this goes for all HR harassment training materials, you’ll want to especially practice sensitivity with VR simulations. Make sure they’re trauma-informed. The biggest way to minimize this? Use third person simulations, not first person.

Going through a first-person harassment situation could be triggering to someone who has experienced trauma. They won’t want to experience that vulnerability at work – and you likely don’t have the resources there to support them. So keep a level of detachment in any hypothetical training situation.

This is another reason to include breaks and check-ins during training: it gives people time to process personal reactions to potentially upsetting material.

Give Specific Examples & Guidance

Did your dad ever tell you to “Clean your room,” so you did… And then he still wasn’t satisfied when he checked it?

He probably wasn’t being specific about what he wanted from you. To him, “clean” might have meant: nothing out of place, bed made. To you, “clean” might be more functional – you’re in the middle of a book, so you like to keep it on the nightstand. And you don’t mind if your bed is half-made.

This highlights how specifics about desirable and undesirable actions can make a huge difference in a person’s ability to fulfill them. Make your harassment training effective with specific examples of behavior.

For instance, you could start a list of behaviors that fall somewhere on the unprofessional → harassment scale and ask participants to rank them:

  • Asking a coworker for their personal number

  • Shouting at an employee for doing a bad job

  • Mandating that a subordinate work on a project with you at a bar after-hours

  • Using curse words in the office

  • Putting down a particular religious view in office conversation

  • Groping a co-worker in the bathroom

Make sure to counterbalance negative “what not to do” examples with specific guidance on what to do.

Managers may inadvertently avoid tense people or dynamics, letting situations fall into disrepair. They might know there’s a problem, but they’re at a loss regarding what action to take. This is where effective HR training can really help.

Establish the Seriousness

You might struggle to get employees and even managers to show up to HR training with their full attention and care. Some people need to hear the logistical consequences of neglecting HR skills in order to take training sessions seriously.

Take some time prior to training to highlight the high financial, commercial, career, and even personal costs of poorly managed human resources. From high turnover affecting quality products to draining and lengthy litigation, it’s no joke.

But,Yes, It’s OK to Sprinkle in a Little Humor

HR managers are often the butt of jokes about not having a sense of humor, because the material in harassment training is necessarily heavy.

This doesn’t mean you can’t lighten the mood, though – just be nice about it! Pick and choose when you’re going to throw in a joke and what you choose to laugh at.

We don’t want to be joking about a woman’s discomfort in a situation when her boss makes a move on her, but we can poke fun at his douchey athleisure wear.

Get Feedback

One of the most valuable upsides of being at a small business: you can easily talk to the people on your team.

After harassment training, gather feedback to see how it went. What made an impact on somebody’s perceptions? What was hard to take in? What was straight-up boring?

This is invaluable information that will help the rubber hit the road in your next training session.

Get Help That You Can Afford

It’s true that most small businesses can’t afford tailor-made HR training for their specific industry and workforce. But you want something more than off-the-shelf generic videos.

Lynch Learning gives you something in between: our training packages won’t break your budget, and we’ll help customize them to your business, with options for annual updates. Contact us today – we’re here to support you!

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