It’s evident, just by the terms used, that mandatory and essential training requirements must be tracked – what is less obvious is the nature of the content to be tracked.
For example, we all know that sexual harassment is one of those “must-have” training courses and all employees should be required to take those courses. However, when the time comes to actually create the course, on what subject matter will be users be tested?
Consider the following possibilities:
- History of sexual harassment;
- Theory of sexual harassment;
- Social psychology experiments revolving around sexual harassment;
- Specific laws covering sexual harassment, as well as the associated penalties;
- Anecdotes about sexual harassment;
- Policy objectives of the organisation.
And here’s the rub: it’s entirely possible that one could develop a sexual harassment course that might discuss specific laws covering sexual harassment – as well as the associated penalties – and yet not mention any social psychology experiments revolving around sexual harassment, or, for that matter, a history of sexual harassment.
With a wide variety of possibilities, this article will focus on a couple of important areas, and provide some ideas on the nature of the content that should be both taught and evaluated.
Before we get into that though, the basic lesson is this: don’t create any training program until you do your homework and research both your company’s situation as well as the outside environment thoroughly.
When it comes to sexual harassment, the first thing you need to understand is the background of what you are training, why you are training it, and what will happen if you don’t train it successfully.
Background on sexual harassment
Many courts have ruled that employers can be held liable for sexual harassment if they have failed to exercise reasonable care to both prevent (to the extent possible) and promptly correct (in the event of failure) any such harassing behaviour that occurs in the workplace.
The kicker is that the employer need not even be aware of any specific actions that actually occurred. A key technique for attempting to prevent well this kind of unlawful harassment will be training.
Now you know that, you know you have to create some kind of outline of the nature of the topics to be taught.
Of course, there are probably an infinite number of variations on the theme, but certainly the “core competency” of this curriculum is addressing the most fundamental aspects of the problem.
With that in mind, let’s go over a brief content outline of what should be included in sexual harassment training.
As you go through this outline, understand this kind of analysis would apply to other kinds of training, such as programs designed to prevent lawsuits, audits, and fines, as well as safety training and ethics training.
Basic Content Outline For A Sexual Harassment Course
A basic sequence of the content areas for a sexual harassment course might be something as follows:
- Define sexual harassment;
- Outline the objectives of a sexual harassment policy;
- Outline which individuals are capable of committing sexual harassment;
- Describe the laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace;
- Provide examples of what conduct constitutes sexual harassment;
- Provide examples of what is not sexual harassment;
- Explain the specific forms of harassment (tangible employment action, hostile environment);
- Describe who can experience sexual harassment;
- Describe under what conditions sexual harassment can occur;
- Provide information for employees on whom to report to should sexual harassment occur;
- Explain everyone’s role in preventing sexual harassment;
- Provide examples for how to prevent sexual harassment from occurring;
- Train employees to properly utilise complaint procedures as well as use reasonable care to make a good-faith effort to avoid the harm of harassment;
- Explain the circumstances under which an employer is liable;
- Explain the steps that should be taken to ensure a thorough investigation;
- Outline the employee’s responsibilities;
- Outline the responsibilities of managers and employers who have to address the harassment;
- Explain what to do if an employee does not cooperate with any investigations.
Second Example: Corporate Ethics
Sexual harassment isn’t the only key area which make be considered mandatory or essential training. Another area is corporate ethics. While incorrectly seen as a “nice to have”, ethics training has key implications in numerous areas of the company, and “ethical malfunction” can lead to criminal activity.
Unfortunately, it takes only one employee to commit a crime – when that occurs, your entire company may be held liable (with possible ensuing fines).
The good news is any fines incurred by your organisation can be reduced by showing you have established an effective compliance and ethics program in your company. To do this, you have to train your employees at all levels on ethics. If you are successful in this effort, you could reduce your fines for criminal convictions by as much as 90%.
Basic Content Outline For an Ethics Course
When establishing a training program for ethics, be sure to include the following elements:
- The policies and procedures of the ethics program;
- The organisation’s code of ethics and code of conduct;
- Creation of overall awareness and understanding of ethics;
- A review of applicable laws related to ethics;
- Discussion of actual ethical dilemmas that employees have faced;
- Discussion of hypothetical ethical dilemmas used to create an interactive training environment, along with discussion of possible solutions.
Also be sure to cover these specific issues:
- How to use company funds;
- Gifts (there may be a limitation on receiving all gifts or gifts over a certain value);
- Whether employees may have personal financial dealings with or invest in companies that supply materials to or buy materials from your company;
- Confidential information;
- Whether employees’ families may take advantage of employee discounts;
- Privacy policies;
- Holding a second job;
- Authority of employees to grant discounts to customers;
- Whether employees may use fictitious names while conducting business;
- Employees performing acts of hospitality toward public officials;
- Prohibitions on all illegal activity;
- Competing with the company;
- Insider information.
Of course, there are many other topics that could be covered in a course of this nature, but you get the point: just creating a compliance course isn’t good enough. You need to cover the subject matter areas that absolutely have to be covered for that course.
While we have given numerous examples here, these examples are by no means exhaustive.
The bottom line is this — when you are creating a course like this, there are three rules to success: do your homework, do your homework, and do your homework.