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Education and Training

Once you have written your policy, it is time to create a plan for education so that the policy comes to life and doesn’t just live on the page. Even the best policy won’t be effective if people don’t know what it says or why it exists. Therefore, it is essential to provide regular opportunities for your community to engage with the policy.

The education you provide for employees, volunteers, and program attendees might differ in length and content, but, at a minimum, each of those groups should be informed of the expectations of the organization, its policy, and its reporting process. This basic knowledge on its own is insufficient to change people’s behavior or an organization’s culture, but is an important element of a larger educational strategy. Below are a variety of learning opportunities and educational tools for you to consider including in such a strategy.

Please note this submodule has not yet been externally reviewed. We will remove this note upon completion of external review, anticipated by January 2023. For more on why Sacred Spaces’ external review is a critical component of our resource development, see Keilim Toolkit Review Process.

Considerations

Minimum Requirements

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Some states and cities require employers to provide employee anti-harassment training. When they do, they may also have requirements about the content and structure of the training, or the qualifications that the trainers must have. For jurisdictions that do not require training, compliance training – a form of training that includes information on where to find the policy, a basic overview of its terms and expectations, and how to report policy violations – is still considered a baseline organizational responsibility. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the guidelines of many state and local enforcement agencies, either state explicitly or suggest that employers can demonstrate reasonable care to prevent unlawful conduct through compliance training. 

Compliance training plays an important role in helping all people in your organization – be they employees or other constituents – recognize policy violations and understand reporting options. However, research increasingly suggests that there is limited to no evidence that simply reviewing the law or policy on its own changes behavior or prevents harassment. While everyone must be familiar with the policy, training on responding and reporting should be seen as a minimum standard, often necessary to comply with regulatory guidelines. In order to effect real behavioral, attitudinal, and cultural change, skill building, along with ongoing organizational dialogue and other educational opportunities, are needed. 

Skill-building

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Skill-building is a training technique that goes beyond simply telling people what not to do, or even what to do, by providing specific and clear guidance on how to do something, as well as an opportunity to practice and receive feedback. A strong compliance training should incorporate skill-building exercises to bring the policy to life, as participants practice the skills they’ll need to implement and uphold the policy. For instance, a standard compliance training would cover the behaviors prohibited by your policy. Ideally, this segment of the training would then be accompanied by skill building exercises, such as case scenarios, role-plays, and problem solving in which participants have an opportunity to practice identifying these prohibited behaviors and trying out different techniques for intervening in the moment or deciding how and to whom a report should be made. Similarly, the organizational response portion of a training would tell people how to report and detail the ways in which the organization commits to handling reports, while the skill-building component might include training and practice for supervisors on their special responsibilities upon learning of problematic behavior and how to compassionately receive a report, or for case managers, next steps to take after a report is received. While not usually a legal requirement,  without skills training people may understand what to do, and even commit to doing it, but have a skill deficit that hinders their ability to implement this knowledge.

Beyond Compliance Trainings

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In addition to providing skill-building opportunities around policy implementation and compliance, a broader educational strategy should incorporate skill building, dialogue and other learning opportunities in more general areas that can help prevent problem behavior from occurring in the first place, or escalating into policy violations. 

Beyond preventing problem behavior, these ongoing educational opportunities can result in a more supportive environment, increasing the likelihood that concerns about interpersonal conduct or personal safety will be raised sooner, that reports will be easier to address when they are raised, and make it more likely that people will cooperate in an investigative process. 

Skill building takes time, practice, and ongoing support and learning works best when it is tangible and reinforced, so aim for varied ways to teach and apply information. Topic areas for additional learning and skill building, as well as suggestions for incorporating ongoing learning opportunities into your organization’s regular operations, can be found in Examples of Skill-Building Topics and Training and Learning Opportunities in the Supporting Resources section below. 

Timing

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At minimum, compliance training should happen annually, and  and during onboarding for employees, volunteers, and members. This ensures that everyone has access to the same information from the start of their time at your organization. Additionally, education should happen in an ongoing fashion throughout the year.

Information or training should also be provided to contractors, such as ensuring that contracts include a link to the full policy or an executive summary of the policy. Check state and local law to determine if other populations are required to be trained.

Training Techniques

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As you design a training or work with a consultant, consider these factors that can help make your training more effective: 

  • Clear learning objectives
  • Interactive engagement 
  • Varied teaching methods
  • Opportunities to practice applying the material (such as scenarios or role plays)
  • Inclusive and accessible presentation of the material and activities (such as representation of diverse identities and ensuring learners with disabilities are able to access the material)
  • Attention to power dynamics in harassment and discrimination
  • Use of adult learning principles
  • Knowledgeable and well-trained facilitators
  • Relevant examples 

See also Questions to Ask a Potential Trainer in Supporting Resources below for guidance in selecting a consultant to conduct the training. 

Follow Up to Training and Learning Opportunities

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Consider how the organization will reinforce the new knowledge and skills participants learned. Follow-up may include additional training; one-on-one, small group, or large group discussion; self-assessments; and discussing the content in supervisory meetings. Reinforcement and application is a crucial part of a successful training strategy. 

Training and learning opportunities should be part of a larger organizational strategy that has the support of key stakeholders, including leaders and those participating in learning opportunities. Codifying your organization’s plans for regular learning opportunities helps to ensure that training is not merely a one-off initiative but an ongoing commitment.

Supporting Resources