Evolving Harassment Training in 2021


January 21, 2021  |  Janine Yancey


For 30 years, companies have trained on sexual harassment prevention without connecting it to a broader workplace culture strategy. Emtrain is changing that in 2021.

I helped change the law in California and Emtrain is actively lobbying in other states with pending harassment training bills — all in an effort to shape mandated (and budgeted) training into an effective component of an overall culture strategy where employers can proactively monitor their culture, identify and benchmark their strengths and weaknesses, and demonstrably improve their culture year over year.

California changed the law so that, as of January 1, 2021, employers can fulfill their training requirement by having managers spend 60 minutes in a course each year and non-managers spend 30 minutes in a course each year.

What does that mean for you and your organization?

Here’s a January 5, 2021 discussion that I had with Branden Butler, the Deputy Director of Education at California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Here’s a FAQ on the new amendment that went into effect on January 1, 2021.

In a nutshell, employers may satisfy the 120 minutes and 60 minutes respective requirements by training annually (60 minutes and 30 minutes), rather than every other year.

Why should employers train annually rather than every other year?

If you leverage an annual program as a means for getting visibility into the vital signs of your workplace culture – or what we call your Workplace Social Indicators™ – e.g., the levels of social intelligence, power dynamics, well understood norms of behavior, in-group/out-group behaviors, etc. – then you can use your annual training program as a culture monitoring tool, and improve your culture year over year — in addition to meeting compliance mandates.

But I already use Glint or Culture Amp or another employee engagement tool. Isn’t that enough? (No)

Here’s the deal. You don’t get 100% participation in your employee engagement surveys. You also may not get completely authentic feedback in your employee engagement surveys. I spent enough years as an employment litigator to tell you that employees don’t feel comfortable answering employer sponsored surveys where their identity is not protected. And employee engagement tools address “engagement” – they don’t address the vital signs of culture health such as risks posed by behavioral gaps in ethics, respect, and inclusion.

What benefits can I expect from an annual respect program?

Employers gain several benefits when they sponsor an annual respect program.

  1. You provide your CEO an opportunity to message the workforce each year about social issues and how those social issues should or should not impact employee behavior so that employees continue to act in a way that is consistent with corporate values.
  2. The habit of engaging in a respect program each year builds employees’ expectation of a robust discussion about employee conduct and how some conduct may or may not fit into the established norms of the workplace culture.
  3. Sponsoring an annual program provides an opportunity to examine the most recent current events, the social issues prompted by those current events, and how those social issues impact your workforce, e.g., impact of COVID on employee interactions; navigating Zoom meetings between employees; discussion of politics, speech on social media, etc. People learn best through relatable events and nothing is more relatable than a well known current event.
  4. Peer to peer learning. People always think they’re right and their view is the dominant view — it’s just human nature. Sharing how others view the same conduct in video scenes is enlightening and helps people widen their lens on how there are many ways to interpret different actions and situations. If human interaction were easy, we wouldn’t need therapists in our society. But obviously, that’s not the case.
  5. Monitor your culture, identify your strengths and weaknesses and improve your workplace culture year over year. You can’t change what you don’t measure. If you embed your content with diagnostic questions probing employee sentiment about the Workplace Social Indicators, you can generate a heat map on the strengths and weaknesses of your culture and anonymously benchmark your culture against thousands of other organizations. By leveraging data and the ability to benchmark, you can visibly move the needle and increase your culture health score year over year . . . to the delight of your workforce and your leadership.

We’re living in historic times. Our social norms are changing. Our economy and business models are changing. And amid this turbulence, People and Culture Leaders are expected to be the rudder that guides the workforce. It’s time to be strategic and savvy and use the earmarked time and budget of legally mandated harassment training to sponsor an annual respect program that is also a powerful tool in a comprehensive culture strategy.


Janine Yancey
Founder & CEO Workplace Visionary
View bio

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