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Seven Ways to Make Harassment Training More Effective for the Health Care Industry

By Andrew Rawson

Fears and misinformation about COVID-19 are leading to incidents of discrimination, bias, and harassment against Asian Americans, people of Asian descent, emergency responders, health care professionals, and others. Janet Dhillon, JD, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), recently posted a statement underscoring the agency’s focus on enforcing employment laws during the pandemic and urging employers and employees to “be mindful of instances of harassment, intimidation, or discrimination in the workplace and to take action to prevent or correct this behavior.” 

Whether employees are working from home or in a medical facility, a modern, online harassment training program is an important factor in raising awareness about different forms of discrimination and harassment—including cyberharassment and cyberbullying—and other misconduct, as well as helping staff transition back to a safe, respectful workplace. With that in mind, the following are seven tips to make online training more interactive and effective:

1. Tailor training to the health care industry. Harassment training can have a greater impact when it reflects the environment in which employees work and interact with colleagues, physicians, patients, suppliers, and visitors. Using industry-specific videos, examples, and other elements adds authenticity and contributes to a more meaningful training experience. Including a video message from the CEO or practice leader communicates a “tone from the top” message that everyone is responsible for preventing harassment and strengthening workplace culture.

2. Leverage e-learning tools and strategies. Technology and innovations in e-learning are transforming the conventional model of online training into an interactive learning experience designed for a 21st century workforce. Presenting topics in bite-sized episodes with interactive video scenarios is one technique for engaging employees and raising awareness of behaviors that can lead to incidents of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Furthermore, mobile-optimized training allows for 24/7 access on any device and makes it easy for human resource managers and administrators to send out e-mail or text reminders, keep track of employee participation, and view future training requirements. 

3. Explain anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures. Regular, interactive training, comprehensive harassment policies, and an effective harassment complaint system are among the EEOC’s “promising practices” for preventing harassment. Through training, employees and medical staff can gain a deeper understanding of how anti-harassment policies apply in everyday interactions and how to access different reporting options, such as an ethics hotline or dedicated e-mail, for questions or complaints about misconduct. 

4. Ensure compliance with state and local training requirements. Starting with the onboarding process, training all employees, managers, and contractors can help radiology practices stay up to date with a growing number of anti-harassment laws that have been passed in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Currently, New York, New York City, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, and Delaware require organizations to train employees on sexual harassment prevention. In February, New Jersey’s governor proposed similar legislation, and more states are expected to follow.

5. Teach bystander intervention techniques. Bystander intervention training has emerged as one of the most effective ways to stop inappropriate workplace behavior before it rises to the level of illegal harassment. Training employees on different techniques to safely intervene during or after a harassing or threatening situation is a tangible way to encourage employees to be allies of coworkers who are targets of harassment and help prevent future incidents.

6. Promote inclusive thinking and actions. The ACR’s 2019 Diversity Report says radiology practices “need to become more welcoming to diverse workforces and recruit top talent while mitigating unconscious and conscious biases.” As part of a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy, training employees on unconscious bias and D&I concepts can help foster a culture in which employees who feel overlooked or underappreciated have opportunities to participate in the organization’s operations and leadership. 

7. Cultivate workplace respect and civility. According to a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management, 1 in 5 Americans left a job in the past five years because of a toxic workplace culture, costing companies an estimated $223 billion in turnover. The need to cultivate respect and civility through training and education was echoed by EEOC chair Dhillon’s COVID-19 message: “Our collective efforts to create respectful workplaces for all our nation's workers, even during these trying times, will enable us to emerge from this crisis stronger and more united.”

As part of a holistic approach to preventing sexual and other types of harassment and creating arespectful, inclusive workplace, an effective training program can help drive positive behavior andattract and retain a diverse staff during these stressful times and beyond.

— Andrew Rawson is the chief learning officer and cofounder of Traliant, a provider of sexual harassment training for today’s diverse mobile workforce. He advises organizations on training to prevent discrimination, harassment, and other essential compliance and workplace conduct and culture topics.