As the construction industry adapts to new ways of working in the face of COVID-19, it’s essential for employees and managers to maintain standards of professional behavior— whether they are working in the field, in the office or from home. Implementing an online sexual harassment training program that’s tailored for the construction industry can help minimize the risk of costly and time-consuming harassment claims and improve company culture — during and after the pandemic.

Here are eight training tips and best practices to make your sexual harassment training more interactive, modern and effective:

1. Establish credibility with relevant content
Regular, interactive training that reflects your workplace and workforce is one of the core principles for preventing and addressing harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. Industry-specific examples, realistic videos, images, and terminology add authenticity and context that can help change attitudes and actions.

2. Set the right tone from the top
A strong tone from the top is essential in creating a respectful, inclusive culture and influencing employee behavior. Including a video message from your CEO or president serves as a stamp of approval and reinforces the message that preventing harassment is a priority and everyone is held accountable for their conduct.

3. Boost engagement
To keep employees engaged in the training, eLearning experts recommend presenting content in brief nuggets or episodes that focus on behaviors and explore topics through interactivity. The key is to encourage active participation. For example, using realistic video scenarios that require employees to interact with the storyline and make decisions that aren’t always clear-cut. With the right content and production values, videos have the power to connect on an emotional level that can deepen employees’ understanding of how workplace laws, rules and policies apply in everyday interactions.

4. Reinforce policies and procedures
Conducting regular anti-harassment training beginning with the onboarding process is an opportunity to help new hires get off to a successful start and address their questions about your policies and reporting procedures. For employees working from home due to the coronavirus, online training is a convenient way to explain new telework policies, and reinforce the expectation of appropriate conduct – whether they are in the office, on a job site or interacting via emails, texts, live chats or online meetings.

5. Stay current harassment training mandates

Effective sexual harassment training programs should be easy to update with changes to internal policies and procedures, and new rules and requirements. For a growing number of employers this means ensuring training complies with new state and local sexual harassment training mandates. New York, New York City, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware and Maine now require employers to provide sexual harassment training to their workforce. In February, New Jersey proposed similar legislation and more states are likely to follow.

6. Offer mobile-optimized training

Mobile-optimized training provides greater convenience and efficiency for both employees and employers. For employees — especially those with unpredictable work schedules, such as in construction — mobile-optimized training enables access on any device at any time. Employees can start a course on a laptop and complete it later on a smartphone or tablet. For HR managers and administrators, mobile-optimized training makes it easy to send out email and text reminders from any location, as well as bite-sized videos covering timely workplace issues, such as how to keep workplace interactions respectful during the coronavirus pandemic. 

7. Promote diversity & inclusion
Cultivating a diverse and inclusive workplace can be a competitive advantage in attracting, hiring and retaining skilled talent. Conversely, workplaces that lack diversity are more likely to see incidents of sexual harassment and racial/ethnic harassment, according to the EEOC’s harassment task force. Diversity training helps organizations promote the advantages of diversity and inclusive thinking, while raising awareness of the negative impact of cliques, unconscious biases and other inappropriate behavior on individuals, business decisions and the workplace culture. A positive sign that the construction industry is recognizing the benefits of D&I is the new Culture of CARE initiative established by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and AGC of Washington. Its purpose is to ensure welcoming, safe, and inclusive workplaces that are free of harassment, hazing and bullying.

8. Train on bystander intervention
In the era of #MeToo, more employers recognize the value of bystander intervention training in combating sexual harassment and fostering safer, more respectful and inclusive workplaces. Training employees on proven bystander intervention techniques helps individuals overcome a reluctance to get involved in uncomfortable situations and speak up against toxic behavior. Bystander intervention — whether it occurs during or after an incident — is also a way that individuals can be allies and show support for co-workers who are targets of harassment.

Evolving from awareness to prevention
Addressing the pervasive problem of sexual harassment is not a once-a-year, check-the-box task. Along with leadership’s support and the right policies, procedures and ongoing communication, a modern harassment prevention training program can be a cornerstone in your efforts to strengthen workplace culture, promote positive behavior, cultivate a diverse and inclusive workforce, and manage the risk of costly harassment claims and reputational damage.