Three Ways to Make Sure Your Online Training Program Hits the Mark

More than ever, company leaders are being asked to step up efforts to prevent harassment and other workplace misconduct. Many leaders in HR, talent, training, diversity and legal departments have wondered whether designing a robust training program will help them with their prevention efforts. This is especially true given recent news stories that say online harassment training hasn’t proven effective. Digging deeper into the data and research on this topic, what is clear is that poorly designed and poorly executed training is ineffective; so the secret is to find training that is actually effective.

What are some of the issues you should look for when deciding whether to provide training? And if you do decide to provide it, how do you decide they type and content for the training?

Some companies opt for live training, either designed and delivered by an in-house professional or by an outside consultant.  For other companies, it isn’t realistic to train their workforce via live training, so the question then becomes can online harassment training be effective? Can online harassment training programs be designed and delivered in such a way that it not only maximizes learning, but also creates behavior change? The answer to both these questions is yes – but you need to make sure you explore at least three issues before you select an online training provider.

  1. Is the training designed by subject matter experts who combine legal and realistic workplace concepts, along with behavioral science research, innovative training techniques and present it in a compelling and entertaining way?
  2. Legal requirements and social science research makes it clear that interactivity is a key component to effective training. Given that, ask yourself whether the online training solution you’re considering incorporates methods to make online training as interactive as possible.
  3. Does the training solution make use of the most modern engineering platforms so that it allows you to track activity, and use that data to make changes that will improve your workplace?

Make Sure the Training is Designed by Subject Matter Experts

Too many online harassment training solutions have been designed by professionals with no experience in preventing and solving workplace issues. For those of us in the world of HR, D&I, talent management, employee relations, or employment law, we know that ours is a world of nuance and requires a combination of subject matter expertise, compassion, experience with the realities of the workplace, knowledge of legal compliance issues and an expertise in wordsmithing, to name a few.

When you are selecting an online training vendor, you should ask who developed the courses. Are the developers experts in all the areas mentioned above? Have they written and enforced workplace policies? Have they conducted investigations and crafted creative and effective solutions when an investigation uncovers misconduct? Has the person (or people) conducted live training programs? Are they equipped to answer questions from learners?

Interactivity is a Key Component of Effectiveness

When I sat on the California Fair Employment and Housing Council, we were confronted with the challenge of defining interactivity. In the context of live training, any good training session conducted by an experienced and professional presenter, would by definition include interaction – between student and teacher, and among the students themselves. But our challenge was to define how an online training program could achieve this same level of interaction. We developed rules on that that provide mandatory guidance in California, and can serve as best practices even beyond compliance – after all, the purpose of requiring interaction is to increase learning and behavior change. Here are three ways in which we defined interactivity:

  • A “plug-and-play” program doesn’t cut it. The online training solution you choose must include a way for learners to advance through sections, answer questions, view videos in their entirety and generally stay engaged throughout the training program.

  • Because dialogue is critical to meaningful interaction, highly visible question and answer sections allow learners to dive deep into areas they need more clarification on. And remember that the subject matter experts described in the section above must be available to answer these questions and should provide practical guidance – without that, the Q&A is unhelpful.

  • Polling question results, Q&A and other tools should be visible since this increases interaction among learners. As a way of replicating the interaction that occurs at live training sessions, the most sophisticated and effective online training programs have the Q&A in a public place for all learners to view. Learners have reported that having the Q&A visible allows them to get questions they might have (but might be too afraid to ask) answered, makes them feel connected to other learners who might be experiencing similar concerns, and allows them to get practical and actionable advice that they can then use to make immediate improvements in their workplaces.

Make Maximum Use of Data Collected During Training to Make Further Improvements

You should select an online harassment training provider that includes an experienced team of engineers who have designed a program that is useful on the front end and back end. On the front end, is the user experience one that will resonate with a modern audience? Does the material flow well and is there a mechanism to capture engagement on the platform? On the back end, ask whether data is provided to identify trending concerns (are your learners primarily concerned about retaliation in your workplace? With a lack of diversity? With the investigation and resolution mechanisms at your company?). Your ability to identify these potential blind spots will not only put you in the best position to solve problems early, but will also give you a roadmap on topics to focus on (do you need new policies, perhaps a lunch and learn session on a particular topic, to include a new topic at an executive retreat, etc.?).

By looking at these three critical issues, you’ll be on your way to deploying an online training program that will move the needle when it comes to behavior, and that will put you at the to of the list as employer of choice.

Additional resources

There are additional aspects that must be incorporated into an online training program to be truly effective. If you’d like to watch or share a quick video on the topic, watch or download resources on Online Harassment Training – Effective for #TimesUp? and get tips and recommendations on how to ensure any online training programs you invest in are going to be effective and deliver positive behavioral changes.

If your organization would benefit from guidance and support to create an effective online training program, contact us at or call 1-800-242-6099. You can also sign up for a free sexual harassment prevention course trial to see for yourself what effective, impactful training looks like.

business compliance
Janine Yancey
Business Compliance & Workplace Culture Expert
View bio

Stay up to date with our blog posts!