By Susan Adams, SPHR, Senior Manager HR Consulting
Most California employers are by now (hopefully) aware of SB 1343, an update to The California Fair Employment and Housing Act that requires every business or nonprofit organization in the state with more than five employees to provide sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to all workers. Ultimately, this legislation is designed to furnish all workers with a common framework for what is considered harassment or inappropriate behavior so that issues can be prevented or addressed quickly.
Going Beyond Compliance: The Business Case for Anti-Harassment Training
Eliminating harassment and abusive conduct is vital on several levels. Organizations that allow an environment where this type of behavior festers are putting their businesses at risk. They could face lawsuits, negative publicity, and ultimately a loss of trust from employees, customers and other stakeholders. Not only can this damage the organization's reputation, but it can also lead to expensive compensatory and punitive damages. Just as important, this type of environment can negatively impact the recruitment, performance and retention of top talent.
Inevitably, some leaders will see this training requirement as a burden. But far from it, harassment prevention workshops present a unique opportunity for any organization to start chipping away the so-called “invisible” effects of harassment or discrimination and build a positive culture from the ground up — one based on respect and inclusion.
Leaders set the tone in the workplace and are key players in determining the overall culture. But managers who have been in the same environment for a while can often fail to see the “forest for the trees.” Harassment, abuse, and the toxic environment this behavior creates can become normalized so that employees, leaders and sometimes even the victims do not clearly recognize it. The new legislation addresses this dynamic by specifically requiring expanded training for managers and supervisors.
Against this background, harassment prevention workshops uniquely create an opportunity for everyone to be honest, reflective and empathetic about their own behavior and its impact on coworkers and the organization as whole. This can be just the wake-up call that is needed to recognize red flags and start course correction.
Ultimately, harassment prevention should be much more than an exercise in risk management: It should be about creating a culture that directly supports individual and organizational success. In committing to a workplace where individuals are valued and respected, organizations can develop the next generation of strong leaders and cultivate a skilled, efficient workforce.
2 Tips for Complying With California Sexual Harassment Trainings Requirements
Organizations can hire an experienced legal or human resource professional to lead SB 1343-compliant training, as a seasoned trainer has access to techniques and methodology to make training relevant and impactful that the online approach cannot recreate. But regardless of who leads it, there are two critical elements to include that help organizations move beyond mere compliance and start creating truly open and accepting workplaces:
Respect is the basis of effective organizations: One of the easiest ways to prevent harassment or abuse is by agreeing to renew commitment to respect in the workplace. That maxim of respect covers any interaction between co-workers, supervisors, managers, customers, media or other stakeholders. Crucially, this condition of respect only really works when it comes from the top. That means managers, leaders, and line supervisors have a clear understanding of what constitutes harassment, inappropriate behavior, and abuse.
It is also vital for leaders to model what good communication and listening look like. This helps develop a rapport and level of trust with team members, which in turn enables them to have critical conversations about people's experiences in the workplace, especially when people act inappropriately. Because frequently, harassment is not intentional. Managers who can communicate effectively with their teams and enforce the expectation of mutual respect can help prevent speech or behavior that “crosses the line” into offensive or inappropriate.
Have a well-defined reporting mechanism: While the goal is ultimately to eliminate all harassment and abuse in the workplace, both can still arise even in the most respectful, most inclusive organizations. That is why it is critically important that employees know what to do if they experience or witness inappropriate behavior. They must be empowered to report incidents to any manager, a neutral third party like a human resources professional, or even through an anonymous tip line for any harassment or ethical matters. Managers, for their part, must be trained to listen and respond to these concerns.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training That Actually Sticks
Sexual harassment preventative training can have numerous benefits, including attracting, cultivating and retaining talent; supporting a foundation of respect and inclusion in the workplace; and reinforcing an organization's commitment to its workers. It can also boost innovation and workforce productivity.
To get the most out of this opportunity, turn to BPM. Our HR Consultants are demonstrated authorities on the requirements of this legislation. With BPM’s dynamic virtual and in-person sexual harassment training solutions, offered in partnership with Dale Carnegie Training, we take you beyond basic compliance. Fusing the knowledge base and resources of our respected HR Consulting Practice with the timeless wisdom of Dale Carnegie, our SB 1343-compliant trainings help leaders build the groundwork for a respectful workplace culture. To learn more, contact Susan Adams, Senior Manager in our HR Consulting Practice, today.