Tips for Developing a Workplace Sexual Harassment and Violence Prevention Program
Efforts to prevent sexual harassment and violence in the workplace must be rooted in building a workplace culture of respect, equity, support, and safety. It must recognize how power and control manifests in the workplace, and empower employees to disrupt the norms that allow for sexual harassment and violence to occur.
How to Create a Prevention Program
Step One: Connect and Partner With Local Sexual Violence Experts
Community sexual violence service providers offer immediate access to experts and targeted information about local resources. Community providers can serve as co-trainers who may present specialized content specific to sexual violence and harassment, and may be available to talk to employees who come forward with questions.
Step Two: Assemble a Diverse Group of Workers as an Advisory Group
Workers know how, where, and when sexual harassment shows up in the workplace, who are often the targets, and who are the perpetrators, so it only makes sense that they should be involved in the development of policies and procedures intended to prevent this conduct. Employees involved in an Advisory Group should be assured that participation in the group is confidential and that they will not be retaliated against in any way for their participation. Workers from all levels of the organization, and from diverse backgrounds and experiences, should be asked to join the Advisory Group. Assembling a group of employee stakeholders allows for buy-in for any prevention program, as people have a stake and interest in what they have helped to create.
Step Three: Create a Policy on Harassment and Violence Impacting the Workplace
- Adopt a Comprehensive Workplace Policy that covers domestic violence, sexual violence and harassment, and stalking. Include the policy and any resources in employee handbooks or other workplace policy manuals.
- Collaborate with employees at all levels of the organization to ascertain their needs, concerns, and gaps. Consider starting by implement a workplace climate survey process.
- Review model policies. Many organizations already have policies designed around legal considerations specific to sexual harassment. However, the best policies “one-stop-shop” speak to all forms of gender-based violence that impact the workplace (e.g., domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, whether the violence occurs at home or on-the-job), and prioritize prevention-oriented and trauma-informed practices over inaccessible legalistic language designed to mitigate liability.
- Evaluate your policy and program for successes, failures, gaps, and opportunities for improvement.
Key Elements of Prevention-Focused Training Curricula
Step Five: Spread the Word
Prevention-oriented organizations do not wait until after a well-known incident occurs to inform employees of policies, available resources, and workplace expectations. Engagement mediums may include:
- Articles and features (via website, newsletter, e-mail)
- Printed and electronic resource/referral lists
- Posters, brochures, and safety cards (distributed or posted)
- Health fairs, safety days, special commemorations, “lunch break conversations” or other events.
Step Six: Tailor Approaches to the Size of the Workplace
In order to lower costs, small employers might consider partnering with a consortium of several small employers, perhaps through a local Chamber of Commerce, to plan joint training events. While partnerships are useful for sharing expenses and ideas on broader topics, make sure that a focus on your organization’s specific needs and gaps remains paramount.
Partnerships are also a convenient way to establish ongoing relationships with local sexual violence service providers, who are often happy to provide educational trainings at low or no cost. Ongoing relationships with service providers also lay the foundation for rapid referral of victims and survivors when needed, or quick consultations when unique workplace situations arise.
In order to deliver standardized information across multiple sites and in various geographic locations and environments, larger employers tend to benefit from standardized policy-based curricula designed to be adaptable to the needs of different types of worksites.
A “Train the Trainer” model prepares internal trainers to conduct training at different work sites. One “trainer” from each work site comes to a one-time, centralized “Train the Trainer,” and then is responsible for providing the educational program to the assigned work site. Since these training topics may prompt the need for immediate assistance, standardized training models must take into consideration how to immediately and properly refer employees at the time of training, encouraging sites to develop localized partnerships with community service providers. Partnering with local sexual violence service providers located near each worksite can assure employees that help will be available at the time of in-person training, or available to them otherwise.
Step Seven: Monitor and Evaluate Impact
Policies and Procedures
Implement an Annual Review Checklist, measuring employee training, use of referrals and services, reporting information, and incidents, to compare the impact of new policies and procedures over time. Immediately after implementing training or a new policy, expect an increase in activity occurring, with a gradual decrease over time. This is a good thing as it demonstrates confidence in the procedures and policies.
In addition, an Employee Survey could incorporate questions on employees’ perceptions about the usefulness of existing policies and procedures.
Evaluation of training programs can take place through the use of a post-training feedback form, which asks participants questions to gauge whether the training improved their knowledge, and increased their ability to engage as bystanders, hold each other accountable, and support employees experiencing violence and harassment.
A more sophisticated effort may include a pre-training and post-training survey that measures changes in employees’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors before and after training. It is critical that the questions in the survey match the content and intent of the training material.
Employee Support and Services
Add sexual violence and harassment-specific questions to existing surveys designed to measure employees’ satisfaction with Employee Assistance Programs or other employee services.
Review incident reports for both the quality of responses, and the specific actions taken. As prevention and early intervention efforts take hold, the number of incidents should gradually decrease.