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Multi-State Anti-Harassment Training: A Survival Guide

by Andrea Falcione, JD, CCEP, and Ann Allsopp

The #metoo and #timesup movements have sparked some much-needed conversations around workplace disrespect. In response, some states and localities have reacted as best they know how: by passing anti-harassment training laws aimed at employers.

This is an important issue, and one that feels close to home for us as a women-owned company.

Like many of you, though, we have mixed feelings about the mandates themselves. We know that forcing someone to spend more time on a course doesn’t necessarily make it more effective. And yet it’s hard to enforce things like “effectiveness,” so the laws focus on legal definitions and time requirements. The result is that some employees are now required to sit through as much as two hours of anti-harassment training.

You don’t want that. Your employees don’t want that.

Yet the laws set out to address an important problem that deserves our attention. Companies should be doing more to address issues with respect in the workplace. And while we’d typically recommend breaking up that amount of training into shorter touchpoints, we recognized an opportunity to tackle some of the deeper cultural issues at the root of harassment.

So we commissioned a 50-state legal survey and worked closely with lawyers in California and New York to make sure we understood the requirements. We gathered a team of creatives to create a course from scratch — one that not only checks the boxes but also provides the best possible experience for learners.

We’re super proud to announce that Standing Up to Harassment in the Modern Workplace, Rethink's multi-state, anti-harassment solution, is now available in our library. (And we’d be happy to show it to you. Email us at hello@rethinkcomplianceco.com if you’d like to take a look.)

Developing this course took a lot of planning and plenty of trial and error, so we thought we’d share some of the insights we learned along the way.

1. A single course with branching means the right training for your learners without the roll-out headaches for you.

In the course of our legal survey, we refreshed ourselves on the complex grid of requirements among the various states. Some of the requirements are unique to individual states, while others overlap.

 

If you’ve ever tried to roll out multiple versions of the same course to different employee groups, you know what a nightmare it can be to keep it all straight and track completions. So we decided to create a single course with three modules — all in one asset, so it’s easier to manage.

 

All learners begin the course by answering two questions:

1. Where are they located?

2. Does their role include managing or supervising other employees?

Based on the user’s answers, they’re assigned one, two, or all three of the course modules.

2. Nuanced scenarios serve you best.

We’ve all seen the harassment videos featuring the World’s Worst Human making wildly inappropriate comments or groping a coworker in a disgusting way. Yikes.

Over-the-top training scenarios don’t help anyone, and they make many learners tune out. Worse, these scenarios can actually retraumatize employees who have experienced similar situations themselves. Your employees already know those behaviors are bad, so there’s no value in putting learners through those cringey scenes.

Where harassment is more likely to come up at work is in more nuanced scenarios where employees may not realize they’re doing anything wrong, and training on those scenarios can have a big impact. The information is more useful to employees, so they stay engaged. Plus, by encouraging employees to think critically about every-day interactions, you can drive real behavioral change.

3. Go big with interactivity and media.

Interactivity is important in any length course, but it becomes a necessity when you’re trying to keep an employee’s attention for two hours. Variety is key here: just like a learner will get tired of reading text on a screen for two hours, they’ll get tired of going through the same types of media and interactivities.

One of our big realizations here was that we had to build this course from scratch to give learners the best experience. We know it’s tempting to try to meet all the state requirements by slapping together existing training, but that’s basically creating the Frankenstein’s Monster of anti-harassment courses, and we all know how that story ends.

4. Branding and customization are key.

A longer seat time means you’re having to work harder to keep employees’ attention. The last thing you want is to turn employees off with scenarios that feel irrelevant to your business or out of touch with your company culture.

Here at Rethink, we built customization in from the get-go. Branding and logos are a given, but you can also swap out scenarios or tweak any of the text in the course to better fit your brand.

We’re proud of our multi-state harassment solution and excited to share it with you. Want to see it for yourself? Reach out to us at hello@rethinkcomplianceco.com. We’d love to hear what you think!

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