Most Harassment-Prevention Training Doesn’t Work

And the EEOC Wants You to Do Something About It

At the height of the #MeToo movement, Elizabeth Tippett, a law professor and expert on harassment-prevention training, made a startling discovery: Not only was most sexual-harassment training ineffective, it could actually be making the problem worse.

Her research showed what even US government organizations like the EEOC have begun to understand: Most compulsory training aimed at educating managers and workers about what harassment is and how to avoid it fails miserably.

Rather than educating learners, the training has generally served as a legal fig leaf, shielding companies from liability should those learners cross the line. In a 2016 report, the EEOC wrote, “Much of the training done over the last 30 years has not worked as a prevention tool — it’s been too focused on simply avoiding legal liability.”

Avoiding people is not the answer

Man in a black suit hold his hand out in a "stop" gesture - OttoLearn Microlearning

The trainings fail to teach people what harassing behavior is — and is not. And interactions between men and women at work are under greater scrutiny. A response chosen by more and more male managers is simply avoiding contact with women at work.

That’s right: Harassment-prevention training could lead to more gender-based discrimination.

A study conducted by LeanIn.org in February found that 60% of male managers were “uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socializing together” — a 32% jump in just a year.

Why? #MeToo put interactions between men and women at work into a megawatt spotlight. A majority of those “uncomfortable” managers said that “they’ve avoided mentoring or socializing with a woman because they were nervous about how it would look,” the LeanIn study said, meaning that these managers are choosing discriminatory behavior over behavior that they worry could be seen as harassing.

Discrimination and harassment — two sides of the same coin

But they’re essentially discriminating against women to avoid discriminating against women.

The focus on avoiding liability shifted emphasis away from framing harassment as discriminatory and an abuse of power. Current trainings, Tippett wrote, “suggest that harassment is not bad because it is morally wrong or a form of discrimination, but because it’s bad for business.” These “trainings fail to emphasize that inclusion and equal employment opportunity are the driving force behind Title VII and its prohibition on harassment,” she wrote. Simply put: Harassment is a type of discrimination.

The business focus is often coupled with laughably bad training that uses exaggerated and obvious examples of harassing or inappropriate behavior, rather than using realistic, relatable examples that underscore the difference between, say, a manager and his female direct report sharing an Uber to a business meeting or a work dinner and that same manager inviting her for after-work drinks so they can get to know each other better.

The combination of bad training with a legalistic justification can lead employees to decide that it’s easier or safer to avoid informal contact with potential harassment victims — women, people of color, and others — than to figure out when behavior veers from respectful toward offensive or harassing.

The obvious problem with that response is that denying women or minorities opportunities that some male employees have, such as dinners or outings with executives and closed-door meetings, is discriminatory, even if the managers claim they’re just playing it safe.

The remedy? A holistic anti-harassment culture

A woman stands, gesturing as she talks to a room of her colleagues - OttoLearn Microlearning

The EEOC sees training as an essential element in preventing harassment, but only as part of a comprehensive effort: “The most important lesson we learned from our study is that employers must have a holistic approach for creating an organizational culture that will prevent harassment,” the report said. Among their recommendations:

  • Foster a culture, extending from top-level executives to all employees, promoting respect and communicating and demonstrating that harassment is not tolerated.
  • Devote sufficient resources to harassment prevention and mitigation efforts to both ensure the efforts are effective and reinforce the no-tolerance message.
  • Devise and publicize clear and unambiguous policies that explain prohibited conduct, provide examples, and spell out both the reporting and investigation processes.
  • Offer regular training “on a dynamic and repeated basis to all employees” that focuses on unacceptable behaviors and “conduct that, if left unchecked, might rise to the level of illegal harassment.”
  • Offer workplace civility training and/or bystander intervention training to all employees, “focused on the positive — what employees and managers should do, rather than on what they should not do.”

Relevant harassment-prevention training is part of the package

Training content needs to be specific and relatable to your learners. To that end, the EEOC recommends against “canned, ‘one-size-fits-all’ training." Instead training should:

  • Be tailored to the specific realities of different workplaces
  • Use examples and scenarios that involve realistic situations from the specific worksite, organization and/or industry
  • Be conducted in multiple languages or include cultural adaptations as appropriate
  • Clarify what is not harassment and explain what acceptable workplace behavior looks like
  • Educate workers about their rights and responsibilities
  • Describe the complaint process

Above all, the EEOC emphasizes that harassment-prevention training should be reinforced regularly using varied approaches and content, and that trainers should evaluate training “some time after” completion and by soliciting meaningful feedback from rank-and-file employees.

Make OttoLearn part of your solution

OttoLearn’s adaptive agile microlearning platform provides relevant, continuous training. Adaptive training algorithms target appropriate and individualized content to managers, executives and employees at all levels.

Variable reinforcement schedules make it easy to ensure that workers learn and remember key content throughout the year, underscoring the importance of the anti-harassment content to management far more effectively than scant attention once a year would.

Best of all, it’s easy to build content for Otto that is relevant and necessary for your workers and your organization. Your training Modules can include specific examples of actions to avoid, media resources including short videos that illustrate appropriate and inappropriate behavior or feature managers talking about how to handle common situations, and content that encourages inclusive and appropriate behavior.

Add content on reporting processes and explain disciplinary measures and other consequences of inappropriate behavior for a well-rounded training package.

OttoLearn is an easy way to add anti-harassment training to new employee onboarding and to ensure that all employees learn and retain best practices for appropriate, respectful and inclusive behavior.

  1. Is the corporation’s compliance training program well designed?

    Prosecutors will look at whether the training is designed to prevent and detect wrongdoing and whether management is enforcing the program by means of training, incentives and discipline.

  2. Is the program being applied earnestly and in good faith? In other words, is the program being implemented effectively?

    Prosecutors are expected to directly investigate whether a program is merely a “paper program” or a sincere effort. Evidence of a company-wide commitment to ethics and compliance, promoted by senior and middle management, is needed.

  3. Does the corporation’s compliance training program work in practice?

    Good intentions and training don’t count if they don’t work; in assessing whether the program “works in practice,” prosecutors will look at how the suspected misconduct was detected, what the company’s investigation process is and how the company is trying to correct the problem.

Microlearning delivers small, narrowly focused bits of information.

Adaptive microlearning tailors that content to each learner’s knowledge gaps and learning goals, ensuring the training is relevant.

Continuous adaptive microlearning conditions each learner to engage with relevant training every day — for just a few minutes.

Current Rank

Previous Rank

Technology

1

1

Personalization/adaptive delivery

2

3

Artificial intelligence

3

new

Learning analytics

4

2

Collaborative/social learning

5

5

Micro learning

6

new

Learning experience platforms

7

7

Virtual and augmented reality

8

10

Mobile delivery

9

4

Consulting more deeply with the business

10

6

Showing value

11

new

Performance support

12

11

Neuroscience/cognitive science

13

13

Video

14

9

Curation

15

12

Developing the L&D function

No items found.
No items found.

When people have a question or don’t know how to do something, what do they do?

Whip out a smartphone and look for information. What they don’t do is sign up for a 1-hour seminar.

Microlearning brings corporate eLearning into the modern paradigm. Microlearning describes eLearning content that is:

  • Narrowly focused
  • Short
  • Available on demand
  • Mobile-first or mobile-friendly

It must answer a question, meet an immediate need, or help the learner solve a problem.

In the City of BigTown, there was held a conference,
One of training professionals — those making a difference.
A difference to company ROI by delivering training,
From many perspectives — like Manufacturing.
And, too, there were call centers, colleges, corporate sectors,
Each chiming in about outcomes and metrics.
All shipped their training through an LMS platform,
But were desperately seeking true training reform.

Antonio

One was Antonio, who hated the manuals —
For his product revisions and updates, they were annual.
Plus his printing costs? Oh, they were crazy!
And he truly believed that franchisors were hazy.

None knew how to train in an effective way,
"There’s too much to read, to do!” they’d all say.
For there were many levels of training to assign,
From the top at head office, down to those on the front-line.

Trainers Helen and Abinash nodded, “We agree!”
Said Feng, "Paper and handbooks? Just another dead tree.
On the job, not everyone will have the info they need,
Because the content changes and updates they never did read.
They never learned the content added along the way
That may apply to their region or division today.
Plus, in the field with team members in many locations,
Mobile-first training would make a stronger foundation!

Said Sales trainer Jane of her PDFs stored online,
“They’re rarely revisited after onboarding time.
I need content delivered in snack-sized bites,
And the ability to test them until they get it right.”
Ursula
chimed in, "Onboarding’s a pain for new hires,
With most feeling like their hair is on fire!
Plus, promoted reps must refresh what they know
To be properly prepared to perform their new role."

"I deal with compliance," sighed Manal the Banker.
Abinash nodded, Frank turned to thank her,
For she’d raised the ugliest concern of them all —
That certifications aren’t based on year-long recall.
“To maintain the standards and follow each rule,
We need more than one test that comes out of the blue.
When it comes to things like health & safety, it's a game-changer
Because if their training is lacking, they could be in danger.”

Antonio

Continuing he asked, “Could training be location-specific?
As learners move through the plant, alerts would be terrific!”
Helen asked who used traditional classroom training
Combined with online to keep interest from waning.
Did they have workshops, seminars, or events,
The kind that take workers away from their desk?
"They learn at that moment, then likely forget —
is there a way to get long-term retainment?”

Rachel had been quiet, she’d said not a word,
When suddenly she leaned in so her voice would be heard.
"We solved these concerns after ditching binders and books —
We use daily drip training and our learners are hooked!
When we update our content, it gets to them faster,
And metrics and KPIs reveal the content 'masters.'
We use OttoLearn for microlearning and we’ve been thrilled,
for all of our training needs — and more — are fulfilled."

So ends our tale of the nine trainers complaining
about the problems they had delivering training.
Training that mattered, with metrics and firm ROI,
Based on data analysis of prime KPIs.
Many problems they shared, with no clear resolution,
Found Agile Microlearning with Otto was the solution!
Microlearning both adaptive and agile saved them from disaster,
Making trainers and trainees learn happily ever after!

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Content Studio

  • Combining the question and activity tabs
  • New WYSIWYG editor which is “inline” with the text
  • Ability to include media (images, video, audio) within activities (question, answers and feedback)
  • Icons to indicate correct answer, position locking, whether or not the answer is visible to learners (active), and override feedback

Recently Released

  • Learner password reset
  • Streamlined data entry into the content studio, by being able to quickly add
  • Numerous small updates and bug fixes
  • Check out our most recent updates and add yourself to be automatically notified when we push updates

Option

Pros

Cons

Seats

  • Super easy to understand
  • Very predictable cost, if you have a specific number of users (eg: employees)
  • Doesn’t differentiate between users that have different volumes.
  • Have to purchase seats for your maximum number of users.‍

Active Users
(Typically the number of users that log in during a month)

  • You don’t need a license for every specific user, you can often only license half of your users (since perhaps only half ever log in during a month)
  • Typically there is a large cost for going over your licensed number of users, which can be incredibly expensive (eg: 5-10x more than your licensed cost)
  • You often have to “play games” as an administrator, not wanting to do a mass course enrollment if you have only have your users licensed in a month

Trend

What It Means

Why It Matters

Adaptive Learning

An algorithm determines each learner’s knowledge gaps and feeds them practice activities to close those gaps.

Efficiency. Learners learn the material faster because they spend less time on what they already know.

Personalized Learning

Learners can follow a scaffolded learner path or self-direct their learning.

Learners are inquisitive. We all Google for information when we need it, so why lock learners into a particular learning path?

Learners engage the most when they are allowed to deviate from a set path and explore available content.

At the end of the day, as long as each learner reaches their mastery goal, the particular path they took to reach there is unimportant.

Microlearning

Delivering content to the learner in smaller chunks.

Chunking content is important only if it is paired with the ability to search for and find specific content chunks “on demand” and the ability to consume just the chunks a learner needs. With these features, training doubles as a performance support.

Learning Experience (LX) Design

Using science and art to create experiences that help learners fulfill the learning outcomes they desire, in a user-centered and goal-directed way.1

Have you used Google? If so, then you have benefitted from Experience Design (XD): When you search for something, you rarely have to go past the first result.

With good XD, you don’t think about the design;  it “just works.”

With poor XD, your learners will disengage. They’ll say they “don’t have time.” What they are really saying is that they “don’t have time for the poor experience.”

Artificial Intelligence

Typically, when used in relation to L&D, AI actually means “machine learning.”

Machine learning algorithms learn from data and “get smarter” over time.

Have you used Netflix or Amazon recommendations? They are based on machine learning.

The algorithms look at a ton of data, including your past choices and choices made by others who are similar to you, to make predictions as to what you will want to watch or buy.

In L&D, machine learning principles are being integrated in much the same way: to provide recommended content for a learner to consume.

This reduces the burden on training administrators to try to predict or guess what is relevant for each learner. It also provides a more personalized experience for each learner.

Imagine that you are a salesperson, and your training mix subtly and automatically shifts, based on the nature of opportunities in your sales pipeline. You are offered training only on available products that you have not already mastered. That would be a training program that is driven by machine learning.

Learning Analytics

An algorithm determines each learner’s knowledge gaps and feeds them practice activities to close those gaps.

Use learning analytics to make better decisions by converting data into insights.
The true value is not just in providing more data, more charts, and more graphs. The value is in leveraging AI to search for and surface insights that you’d never think to look for.

Combine the analytics from learners’ performance with key KPIs for the outcomes you desire, and have the analytics engine generate predictions such as, “Learners who reach mastery in the Objection Handling module will close 3.4 percent more deals.”

Now that’s actionable intel.

1 learningexperiencedesign.com

14% of organizations are experimenting with artificial intelligence tools such as machine learning and live chat (up from 6% in 2016)
30% of organizations are using games and simulations (up from 20% in 2016)
Fastest growth segments include continuous learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR)
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The Cognitive Science Behind OttoLearn - OttoLearn Adaptive MicrolearningThe Cognitive Science Behind OttoLearn - OttoLearn Microlearning

Hi Josh,

About a week before I began getting my Ottolearn Mastery Moments, I had a popup window from Adobe appear on my screen as I was working on another project, prompting me to update my version of Flash. We do use Flash, so like an idiot, I clicked on the popup and asked it to start the update—and only then noticed that the url was not an adobe address. Of course, I closed the popup window using the X in the upper corner, which didn’t solve anything. Our IT guys did the best they could for me, but my computer is still compromised, and is being replaced.

Fast forward to Ottolearn and your Online Security for Employees course. After completing several mastery moments, I have now learned what to do with popups like that. This morning, as I restarted my computer again, that same Adobe popup appeared and this time I was ready! I opened task manager and killed that little $%^&^ dead in its tracks.

I know the point of letting us try out OttoLearn as participants was for us to experience the power of this platform from the learner’s point of view. I can tell you that I personally am very grateful for the training you provided to me, and the fact that I was able to let others in my company know how to kill off those nasty virus-carrying popups. Yes, it works. Yes, it’s fun! And yes, I have a true feeling of accomplishment.

I can’t wait for the point at which we can talk more about developing courses for our clients.

Thank you!

Experience

Exp.

High

New accounting rules

Workplace violence & harassment prevention

Low

Framing a basement

Changing a tire

High

Low

Perceived Relevance

No items found.

Retrieval practice is the key to retention.

Your brain wants to be as efficient as possible. Why would it try to encode information for long term storage if it thinks you don’t need it? You need to actually practice retrieving memories (information) in order to have your brain store it in long-term memory.

Spaced retrieval radically improves learning efficiency.

You not only need to practice retrieving information from memory, but you need to wait until you’re on the edge of forgetting it. This is why cramming is so ineffective at generating long-term retention.

Interleaved learning feels strange at first, but dramatically improves retention and skill.

Interleaved learning—mixing up material while learning and practicing, such as mixing up practice activities while learning WHMIS and supervisory skills, will improve your retention of both.

Option

Pros

Cons

User-based
(Seats)

  • Cost predictability. Each seat costs you $x/month
  • Typically more expensive than a usage-based license

Usage-based

  • Typically less expensive than a seats license
  • Cost variability tempered by pre-purchasing usage credits that never expire and consume them over time

Engagement Factors

Experience

Exp.

High

  • Best possible quadrant for engagement 
  • Will overcome learning obstacles
  • Will find a way to learn, even if materials are poor  
  • Won’t need nudging or incentives
  • Text is great
  • Can easily learn something
  • May need to work up the energy to engage in low quality materials  
  • May procrastinate, so incentives can help motivate.
  • Text is great

Low

  • Wants to learn
  • Has little experience so can benefit from more instructional quality
  • Greatest benefit of video and other rich media
  • Worst possible quadrant  
  • May not have experience in the topic
  • May not really care about it
  • Will require a lot of motivation to see engagement
  • Video can help

High

Low

Perceived Relevance

Neovation Learning Solutions Team - OttoLearn Microlearning is a product of Neovation Learning Solutions Training Engagement, Retention, and Microlearning - OttoLearn Microlearning

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