This post was updated in March 2019.

Hearing the words, “anti-harassment training,” can earn a collective eye roll from employees. While these trainings are more necessary than ever given the increased transparency into the pervasive problem of harassment in the workplace, it’s not surprising that few employees are excited to sit through mandatory sessions. But for some companies, there’s little choice: In September 2018 California mandated that employers with at least five workers provide sexual-harassment-prevention training for all employees.

Not convinced it’s an issue?

  • 88 percent of women in construction have been sexually harassed. LeanIn

  • One in three Americans believe their workplace fosters sexual harassment. SHRM

  • The EEOC filed 50 more suits challenging sexual harassment in 2018 and recovered nearly $70 million for victims. EEOC

So, you need content that sticks. Engaging and on-point trainings will promote and normalize a culture of respect and inclusion. Afterall, employees in these sessions have short attention spans (some studies say less than a goldfish), so keeping them engaged and participating can be a challenge. It’s time to rethink how these trainings are done in order to maximize employee understanding and retention of important information.

Take a look at a few tips and tricks to make a serious topic a relatively painless experience for employees and managers alike.

Get Creative 

When trying to decide on a format for the classroom portion of required learning, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Like we said before, the employee attention span is short and keeps getting shorter, so it’s likely a lecture-style session will not be effective and result in a drowsy, uninterested audience.

One of the best ways to engage and retain information is through video. You might have a learning management system that has a library of great training videos, but consider complementing the session with a video of an engaging speaker or story, like these popular TED Talks:

Read: How to Add Value to Your Employee Training with Video.

Make It Conversational 

Think about ways to start a conversation with employees, rather than talk at them. This might look like breaking heavily attended sessions into small groups so they can discuss important topics like reporting, bystander intervention and forms harassment could take. Discussions allow employees to engage with materials in a way that lectures don’t, prompting a higher level of information retention.

Offer Incentives 

Do employees wait until the last minute to complete their harassment training?

This is the time for incentives to come into play.

Rather than have employees completing their online modules at the last possible second and signing up for the last available classroom session, offer appropriate incentives for completing training early. Some companies offer gift cards, others opt for allowing employees to leave early on a Friday. Each company is different, so it’s important to find what works for each workforce. Nobody knows employees like they know themselves, so a quick poll about incentives could be a great way to make sure managers are incentivizing employees in a way that actually works.


Think Ahead 

Are there mandatory papers and online sessions that employees need to complete in addition to a classroom session? If so, have employees complete those ahead of time. A learning management system is key to managing all the paperwork and learning sessions that need to be tracked for compliance purposes. Minimize the paper mountain that HR has to climb during each training season by opting for an automated system that allows for easy recall in the case of an audit. Encourage employees to block time to complete online sessions before they are in a classroom setting in order to get the most out of the information they are given.

Read: How Workflow Management Could Impact Your Company

Workplace harassment is a serious and unacceptable thing to encounter in the workplace. It’s critical that leaders in the workforce take on the issue with effective education that is not only accurate, but also engaging. Some employers may think of these trainings as a necessary burden, but in fact, companies who promote acceptance, security and diversity in the workplace have a leg up on competitors that don’t.

The BirdDogHR Learning Management System allows organizations to create, manage and share knowledge to accelerate important business processes, support compliance and power organization performance, all while making the administration of learning and collaboration both effective and efficient.