It has never been more important for organizations to adopt targeted agendas related to Harassment and Diversity in the Workplace, Justice and Inclusion (“DEI”). When properly implemented, high quality training programs can be important and inexpensive tools for improving work culture while mitigating the significant risks inherent in the modern world.
Companies have long used training to meet compliance requirements. Harassment Prevention Training focuses on the difficult topic of sexual harassment as well as other forms of harassment and discrimination. DEI training courses show how employees experience the workplace differently depending on their identity. how unconscious prejudice, microaggression and other forms of exclusion cause harm; and how anyone can support DEI initiatives. Effective training should be in-depth, strengthening your organization’s policies and providing practical tools to troubleshoot problems that arise.
Traditionally, these problems have been human resource issues, but in our current climate they pose business risks that require top-level attention. It is important for all risk and compliance professionals to understand the actual uses of this training.
Understand the cost of training
The real cost of harassment prevention and DEI training can be deceptive: it is easy to focus on the price of getting the training, although it is a small expense compared to your total cost.
The first hidden cost to consider is the opportunity cost of your staff’s time during the training. As with all employee meetings, which cost thousands per minute, it is inherently expensive for everyone in a company to attend training. Employers rightly seek the highest quality training to ensure employees receive the greatest possible value and learn for the time they spend.
Training administration costs are also easy to overlook. HR teams can invest significant time and money keeping a record of completed training and managing annual and country-specific training for employees and managers.
Online training has proven to be an option that provides a consistent, convenient, and effective experience. Although training courses can cost thousands of dollars depending on the size of your business, they are powerful and easy to manage, especially when moving to remote work.
Accounting for Risks
However, the cost history of this training includes even more. From a risk management perspective, these prevention costs can easily be offset against the actual risks of harassment and discrimination or the failure of a company’s DEI efforts. Depending on the status, there may also be a compliance component.
Of course, harassment and discrimination can have permanent and harmful effects on those who endure it that organizations must consider in the first place when planning prevention efforts. In addition, businesses need to consider the impact of costly lawsuits or administrative proceedings, where damage and penalties can be significant if you lose, and legal costs of hundreds of thousands even if you win. By adopting a comprehensive anti-harassment policy and providing adequate training, employers demonstrate that they have made good faith efforts to prevent harassment.
According to Kevin O’Neill, principal at Littler law firm, training can even protect your company from damage claims. “Once you’ve had effective training,” says O’Neill, “it has been considered by case law to be one of the most powerful mitigating factors to avoid exposure to punitive harm.” The quality of training can also reduce a company’s risk. Good quality training is a “great element of evidence and effectiveness when you need to demonstrate that you did everything you can to prevent and correct the harassment,” says O’Neill.
More serious, however, are the indirect costs and risks to an organization, including:
- Employee Attrition, Loss of Productivity, and Bad Morals. Employees who are harassed or in an unfair environment are likely to leave the company and replacing these employees costs employers billions of dollars annually. Even if employees don’t leave, neglecting these issues can hurt productivity and hinder innovation and collaboration for victims and their colleagues alike.
- Management and governance continuity risk. For years, managers, executives, and board members have resigned for not responding effectively to harassment. This trend only continues.
- Reputation and Brand Risk. Stakeholders, as well as regulators and the media, have high expectations that organizations prevent harassment and discrimination and increasingly show real improvements in DEI. No organization is exempt from this, which is why companies are retiring outdated and obnoxious brands despite the massive cost.
- Eroding customer and market position. Companies that suffer reputational and brand damage can lose valuable customers and market positions. Gone are the days when companies could remain neutral on these issues – your customers expect more.
- Supplier risk and insurance costs. If harassment is not cured, it can also lead to increased insurance costs and cut companies off from supplier relationships.
If you think spending four or five digits on quality education is expensive, consider the cost of not promoting a safe and inclusive culture.
Make an informed choice
Given these risks and costs, it is important that you select the highest quality provider that meets your needs. The bar for these training programs is high. The content needs to get close to the Netflix quality we expect from subscription streaming services, or the staff will tune out – programs based on videos and pictures or green screens are not convincing and do not have the required impact.
In addition, it’s important to work with a provider who has extensive experience and can create programming content that can really affect employees. Free or low-cost options can be attractive on tight budgets. However, saving in this way carries its own risks. Employees are increasingly voicing negative training experiences on these topics, and companies can get caught up in social media crises simply by picking a low quality option.
Investing in high quality, comprehensive training is about more than just reducing risk and liability. Sarah Rowell, CEO of Kantola Training Solutions, says, “It also has the ability to change the behavior, if not that of a egregious harasser, then that of bystanders, managers, frontline supervisors, or unsuspecting perpetrators.”
Courses that address cultural trends and engage learners in real-world experiences prepare employees to identify and address problems in the workplace. Immersive training beyond ticking boxes can transform corporate culture and the way employees experience the workplace, leading to real, permanent change.