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- US companies spend $10 billion a year on compliance training to combat issues like harassment.
- But new survey data of more than 30,000 employees from Emtrain (which provides sexual harassment, bias, and code-of-conduct training for companies like Netflix, Yelp, and Pinterest) found that just 13% of employees would report workplace harassment if they saw it.
- There are a few ways companies can improve their existing training programs in 2020, including analyzing data, identifying problematic events, and using common language to discuss inappropriate behaviors.
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US companies spend $10 billion a year on compliance training to combat issues like workplace harassment — but it may not be doing much good, one workplace training provider said.
A new survey of more than 30,000 workers from Emtrain — which provides sexual harassment, bias, and code-of-conduct training for companies including Netflix, Yelp, and Pinterest — found that just 13% of employees would report workplace harassment if they saw it. Less than half of workers would even be able to recognize harassment, which ranges in severity from sexual harassment to bullying to disrespectful behavior, the survey found.
Workplace harassment has become front and center since the start of the #MeToo movement. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 13,055 charges of sex-based harassment in 2018 alone, up from 12,428 in 2017.
The survey, which was previewed at the From Day One conference in Los Angeles, includes data from more than 90 companies from the tech, professional services, retail, financial services, and food service industries.
Robert Todd, chief product officer at Emtrain, said most harassment is nuanced, and many training programs focus on extreme examples that most people would be able to recognize with little to no education on the subject. Even if they are trained, employees may be afraid to report harassment for fear of getting a colleague fired.
“People see something that’s inappropriate, they don’t want to step in and cause a larger problem,” he told Business Insider. “In some cases somebody does something inappropriate and they don’t want that person to get fired.”
But despite these statistics, there are several steps companies should take to improve harassment training in 2020.
Gather the data
You can’t tackle bad behavior in the workplace unless you know what the core issues are. The first step to understanding is gathering as much information as possible, Todd said.
Asking employees questions like “Do you feel comfortable speaking up?” and “Do you feel your complaint will be taken seriously?” can help get to the root of the reason why employees may shy away from reporting harassment at work.
“Look at the data: Where in the organization do you need to focus on your culture?” he said.
Identify problematic events
Surveying employees can help you to identify any company events that may be particularly problematic. For example, after surveying employees, one Emtrain client discovered upticks of workplace conflict and harassment during offsite sales trainings, Todd said.
Using this information, the company launched a broad campaign that was focused specifically on behavior at offsite events. The next time they had a training, there were zero complaints, Todd said.
“They wouldn’t have been able to do that if they didn’t track to get data to see where they were,” he added.
Take time to train your team
Some states, like New York, California, and Delaware, mandate harassment training for employers.
While some employers are legally obligated to provide training, they shouldn’t look at sexual harassment training as simply checking another box, said Sonja Lutz, vice president of marketing at Emtrain. Instead, harassment training should target company-specific issues and explain the nuance surrounding bad behavior.
“US employees and businesses are spending a lot of time and money on harassment training and frankly, no one seems to expect these programs to solve problems,” she said. “HR and business leaders expect these programs to meet legal needs, and that’s about it.”
Use clear language to describe harassment
Having a clear set of guidelines for how to discuss harassment in the workplace is key to jump-starting conversations, Todd said.
Emtrain uses a color spectrum to describe different workplace behaviors. Green, for example, indicates a behavior is “respectful” or “productive,” while yellow actions are “frustrating” or “demotivating.”
Orange and red are the most serious: Orange behaviors are “demoralizing” and red, the most severe, indicates acts that are “toxic” or “unlawful,” Emtrain said.
“We used the approach where we show people these videos of teams where there’s a range of behaviors,” he said. “How would you rate this workplace color spectrum that classifies behavior in green, yellow, orange, and red?”
Overall, using common language to describe harassment can help employees better communicate what they are experiencing, Todd said.