Harassment Training: Measure, Score, and Develop Employees’ Pro-Social Behaviors

Harassment prevention training should address pro-social skill development; not just policies and laws to memorize

Have you ever wondered why we still have so much harassment and discrimination litigation 25 years after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases of Faragher and Ellerth prompted employers to start conducting regular harassment training workshops?

Harassment training hasn’t stopped harassment claims or even changed employee behavior in a significant way. Why? Because employers are still treating respect, as a rule, to memorize rather than a skill to develop. We have increasingly diverse workforces where the notion of respect varies based on different perspectives and life experiences and learning how to be respectful to different people from different backgrounds requires skill development and practice. Unfortunately, employers have historically not used employer-mandated harassment programs for skill development or a component of their overall culture strategy. 

Harassment Training: Measure, Score, and Develop Employees’ Pro-Social Behaviors

Several states mandate employer-sponsored harassment prevention training in an effort to protect employees from illegal behavior based on their protected, personal characteristics. These legal mandates identify the “floor” of acceptable workplace behavior. If you’re spending time and money training on behavior, why not model desired social behavior in different situations and take the opportunity to connect how people act to the workplace culture. Respect is the foundation of any culture and connecting harassment and respect to the core behaviors that create respect (or harassment) is vital, particularly as we increasingly navigate multigenerational, multicultural workforces, where the concept of “respect” is not as simple as it sounds.

Respect is a Skill to Develop, not a Rule to Memorize

Ask employment lawyers or HR business partners and most will agree the vast majority of harassment and/or discrimination claims stem from specific social behaviors or what we call social indicators, e.g., in-group/out-group dynamics, power dynamics, social aptitude, and organizational norms, which trigger very predictable workplace results. In-group/out-group dynamics occur when people with similar life experiences exclude people without those same life experiences. Power dynamics refers to how managers use their power in the organization and their awareness of how that power affects the employees around them. Social aptitude is a person’s skill at reading a person’s non-verbal cues. Organizational norms refer to the well-understood norms of behavior that guide how people interact with each other in the workplace. All of these behaviors are social behaviors that require practice and development; they are not just rules to memorize.

Organizations Optimize Harassment Training Programs By Building Skills and Measuring

Organizations should definitely cover the nuts and bolts of harassment prevention, e.g., the laws, policies, and complaint procedures. But that’s the bare minimum. To get a real ROI, organizations should use the program to build pro-social skills that limit the opportunity for harassment and discrimination, and which create a respectful workplace culture. A respectful workplace culture fosters more productive teamwork and higher employee retention.   

Emtrain ensures you’re covered legally. We provide a legal guarantee that our course meets the legal requirements of every state in the U.S. I was the expert witness and helped draft California’s most recent training mandate – SB 1343 (Read more Evolving Harassment Training). Many California state agencies partner with Emtrain to meet their internal needs, as do state and city agencies in New York.

In addition to covering the “floor” of acceptable behavior (from a legal perspective), we take the opportunity to identify and develop pro-social behaviors like social aptitude, healthy power dynamics, strong norms of behavior, etc. In our harassment prevention program, we show video scenes illustrating these social behaviors, and then immediately pulse employees, asking them to apply the video scene behavior to the behavior within their direct teams and measure the behavior they personally experience. Through illustrating and pulsing, we’re able to measure and score the core respect behaviors within the workforce and create a global benchmark so companies can compare how they’re doing against others and have a framework for understanding the health of their workplace culture… which affects risks like claims and business metrics like productivity and employee retention.

Emtrain’s Preventing Workplace Harassment Training

Emtrain’s Preventing Workplace Harassment Training Program meets all state regulatory requirements. And, it also models pro-social behaviors on the following topics:

  • Power dynamics and managers using their power wisely (unhealthy power dynamics leads to quid pro quo harassment)
  • Excluding people and in-group/out-group dynamics (which undermines diversity & inclusion and can trigger  hostile work environment claims)
  • Allyship and demonstrating how to use your power to speak up
  • How to navigate risky romantic relationships within the workplace
  • How to ask someone what pronouns they use
  • How to be respectful of someone’s national origin and not make assumptions
  • How to not make assumptions due to race or gender
  • Demonstrating how to ask express discomfort when co-workers speak a language you cannot understand 
  • How to navigate medical conditions and disabilities
  • Identifying and avoiding ageist remarks
  • How to navigate and avoid common retaliation situations
  • Modeling a manager’s behavior in addressing anti-social behavior and/or an employee complaint
  • And many others

Our training program is designed to engage learners and prompt a dialogue on workplace behavior while meeting regulatory compliance. Contact us for a demo of our Harassment Training Program and how we can help you develop and measure pro-social behaviors in your workplace.



harassment training
Janine Yancey
Business Compliance & Workplace Culture Expert
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