5 Steps to Effective Workplace Harassment Prevention Training

December 15, 2019

Contributed by Catherine Mattice Zundel, HR West 2019 Speaker.


When I was thinking about what I wanted to present at HR West 2019, it wasn’t hard to decide on a presentation around true harassment prevention. Seriously, 2018 was a crazy year not only because of the #MeToo movement, but also because of the legislation that followed. California’s new harassment training requirement to be specific.

My personal opinion, however, is that the new harassment prevention training leaves something to be desired. Of course I have no problem with the legislation itself and am happy and proud that the state I live in is requiring this in more workplaces than the previous legislation did.

In fact, I think that requiring training for the entire workforce was long overdue because harassment doesn’t stop just because you only have 49 employees, and only telling supervisors about it and not employees isn’t all that useful, and it’s important that each and every employee know how to identify the different types of harassment and what their rights are.

My problem is with the fact that the required learning objectives don’t include anything to help employees actually PREVENT harassment. If you take a look at the requirements, most of the information is around identifying behavior and reporting behavior, rather than preventing the behavior. Beyond that, training on its own is not enough to ensure a workplace free of harassment or any other harmful behavior – but we will dig into that during my presentation.

For now, I want to talk about how HR professionals, employment attorneys, corporate trainers, and instructional designers for online courses can improve their training using an age-old technique – ADDIE.

To be honest,  I feel like I’m out on a limb on this and I can’t believe I’m the only one talking about it. Every trainer worth their salt knows about ADDIE, but no one’s been shouting from the rooftops that we should be using it!

ADDIE stands for: Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate – it is five simple steps to creating effective training.

If California legislators were to use this model for developing the harassment prevention training requirements, they would have come up with something much different and much more useful than what we’ve got. Let’s break it down.


Needs analysis is the first step in developing training. This is where you decide the exact results you are seeking from training and how they will further your progress on overall objectives.

Right now, harassment prevention training learning objectives basically include that after the training, attendees will know how the law defines harassment and how to bring it to the attention of management. The objective should instead be that employees will be empowered to stop incivility, bullying or harassment when it occurs using specific communication tools, and behave in a way that creates a positive work environment where negative behaviors do not thrive.

What I’m saying is that organizations need to ask themselves what behavioral outcomes they want from the training. For example, you may want your employees to act respectfully or to be aware of personal biases that may be affecting their actions. Once you know what behaviors you are looking for, only then you can create a training that actually meets those needs.

Bottom line, the key to developing your learning objectives is to understand first what behaviors you want to change – after all behavior change is the purpose of any training. Right now your harassment prevention training is focused on what you want people to know if they experience harassment, rather than what you want them to do to prevent it before it happens.


This is the step where you start thinking about the actual content of the training, like learning objectives.

Learning objectives should be actionable and specific enough that someone can take what they have learned and implement it at their own workplace. So ask yourself, “What should people be able to do after the training?” We at Civility Partners believe that all employees should be trained on how to step in when they witness any negative behaviors – even small acts of incivility or bullying, because those behaviors escalate to harassment. Once you have a list of desired skills, you can develop a training that actually teaches those skills.


This is where you start actually creating the training materials. If you plan on just having someone lecture your employees for a couple of hours without any visual aids or handouts, then your training won’t be as effective as it could be. Not to mention, the law requires that training be interactive, so boring lectures would also fail the compliance check box.

If you really want to prevent harassment, then get creative! Include some handouts for attendees to follow along and have them act out some scenarios to keep them engaged. While quizzes help teach material, I recommend scenarios and roleplay because they allow people to actually practice the behaviors you are looking for from your workforce.


The implementation is where organizations often fall short, and where you must go further than the legal requirement of training – training is just one aspect of actual prevention. Prevention is about behavior change and while training can help teach employees how they should behave, it doesn’t actually enforce any behavioral change at all.

A two-hour training just isn’t going to make much of a difference if employees aren’t held accountable for what they learned when it comes to preventative measures. Hold employees accountable by having pre- and post-training worksheets and activities that reinforce the behavior. Managers should also be having regular conversations with their teams around how each person can commit to building a positive work environment, and leaders should be having regular conversations with their managers around their ability to hold employees accountable and creating a positive environment.

Evaluate (and Improve)

The last step in the ADDIE model is to evaluate training effectiveness – something I think is definitely missing from current harassment prevention training practices. Most trainings measure success only via the ol’ “smile sheet,” an evaluation form given out right after a training, that basically asks if the learner got something from that training.

Go beyond that by breaking down what success really looks like – is it a decrease in the number of harassment complaints received by HR? Is it lower turnover and higher employee engagement survey scores?

If your measure of success is simply checking the compliance box, it’s time for your harassment prevention to be much more than that.

In the end…

I hope I’ve convinced you that current harassment training is definitely missing some key elements according to the ADDIE model – a well-known model for designing training, that’s been around since the 80’s. I would go as far to say that title, “prevention training” is far-fetched and inaccurate.

We need more intentional information about strategies for nixing harassment, that each and every employee and manager can use, more focus on behavior change, and a specific measure of success that connects to organizational goals and objectives.

Training is an important part of harassment prevention, but it’s just that – a part.


About Catherine Mattice Zundel SHRM-SCPSPHR

CEO, Civility Partners, Catherine Mattice Zundel is a Strategic HR Consultant who partners with clients to build positive cultures. For over a decade, she has assisted Fortune 500’s down to mom and pop’s, as well as the military, nonprofits, and everything in between. She is a regular contributor to Forbes and has appeared on NPR and CNN, and in USA Today, Time, Psychology Today, and many other major news venues as an expert. She’s also published a ton of articles and is one of LinkedIn Learning’s course authors. Her first book was hailed by Ken Blanchard as “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic” of workplace bullying, and Catherine is one of the founders of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition.

To learn more about  harassment Prevention Training, do not miss Catherine’s HR West 2019 session, Beyond Compliance: Preventing Harassment on Tuesday March 12, 3:25 p.m.-4:40 p.m. in Grand Ballroom ABC. #HRWest19

Register to attend the full 3-day conference or for a day (Monday or Tuesday): http://www.hrwest.org/Register.


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