As a lifelong Training & Development professional, and the owner of a progressive training and eLearning company, I’d love to think that all training is meaningful. Unfortunately, this altruistic vision is unrealistic.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things in terms of our role when it comes to working with clients:

-I owe it to them to be a consultant and counsel them on determining the right thing to do.

-Understand that the right thing to do isn’t always what they asked for, and often isn’t the best or most profitable solution for us as a vendor.

-Recognize that what I would do, and what I like is not always the right solution for a given client’s circumstances.

-Realize that in the end, after all the advice, what the client decides trumps whatever I suggested.

In a training context, that sometimes means questioning the status quo.

Is Check-the-Box Okay?

While my core being rebels against the idea of check-the-box training, I understand it has a place in certain workplaces. What is check-the-box training? It’s training that’s put in place because it has to be there. It’s a situation where stakeholders care that people took a course (because they’re mandated to) more than if or what people learned from the course.

As someone who preaches that training isn’t the answer to all problems (an unusual perspective for a training company) I hate the idea of training for training’s sake. But the bitter reality is there are times when a mandated course is needed strictly because it’s mandated, and the organization needs to take the quickest and cheapest route to get there. I get that. However, I feel this mentality has spread to topics where it doesn’t belong. Let me explain.

Compliance Training & the ‘Just Get It Done’ Mindset

Too often companies are using this “just put something out there” mentality on all compliance training. I don’t believe they should, because there are real things to learn and real change that can happen. To this end, we try to think about creative ways to handle compliance training to make it better and an actually educational experience.

Take this award-winning HIPAA Privacy Compliance training course we did as an example. We used humor and storytelling to create an experience unlike most other compliance courses. This engagement level drew in learners and had a significant effect on the behavioral results post-training. Since HIPAA violations can trigger HUGE fines (among other issues) why not focus on people learning and being better at their jobs, versus creating another check-the-box course?

#MoreThanMean Harassment Training Implications

This brings me to the main point of this article: should the recently released #MoreThanMean video influence how we think about this type of training?

harrassment training

Like other compliance training, sexual harassment training is another one of those topics that companies often feel just needs to be presented so they can cover themselves legally. How callous is that? I mean, yes, there are the implications of fines, loss of productivity, and other residual implications of inappropriate behaviors. But why are we not looking at the implications to the prospective victims here?

I feel one of the reasons harassment training gets undervalued as often as it does is because it’s usually such bad training. Often focused on the cost of violations, maybe keying on some unrealistic scenarios, and often displaying brutally dated vignettes.

As we’ve said many times before, true learning happens when you put things into context and tie it to real world circumstances and consequences. The #MoreThanMean video does an amazing job of this. If you aren’t familiar with this video, it’s a piece that focuses on the harassment a couple Chicago female sports reporters experience on a daily basis. The video consists of REAL guys reading REAL comments about women sports reporters, to their faces. If you haven’t seen it, view it here below.

WARNING: the video is emotionally challenging to watch and does contain vulgar (although censored) language.

If we created sexual harassment training that took the position of showing the professional and emotional impact on the victims, like the video above, would that not be infinitely more effective than the bland, meaningless drivel most harassment courses consist of?

So, what was it about this video that made it so compelling? We’ve all heard about online bullying, sexism, and abusive treatment before, so why was this different? It focused on spreading the emotions felt by the victims, to the viewer, front and center. Watching the men read those tweets to the women’s faces oozed with genuine discomfort and emotion. As challenging as it is to watch, feeling how the women must have felt is what makes it so gripping.

Meaningful Training

Sexual harassment and the aftermath of these types of circumstances are emotional to say the least. Why doesn’t any harassment training portray it that way? Yes, there are a ton of courses that go through the motions of telling you what not to do, and a lot more that explain some of the implications. But have you ever seen a harassment course that made you feel like what it must be like to be harassed?

True change in “crimes” of this nature begins by empathizing with the victim’s perspective. If a potential perpetrator truly understood the emotional consequences of their actions, they would be far, far less likely to behave that way.

So, as I said, I understand there is a need for certain topics to have the occasional check-the-box course. But can we at least agree that this is too often being used as a crutch on topics where we could actually do real good? Let’s relegate check-the-box to a last resort, and elevate topics like harassment to something more than an after-thought. I can guarantee the behavior portrayed in #MoreThanMean is more than an after-thought to those women, and it should be to the rest of us as well.