Survey: Post-training activities are key to success of anti-harassment training
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Survey: Post-training activities are key to success of anti-harassment training

Of all the forms of employee training, harassment prevention training is perhaps the most vexed, difficult and — frequently — unsatisfactory.

It can also be hard to tell if anti-harassment training is working to curb harassment in your workplace. Or are you merely covering your organization’s backside in case of complaints or lawsuits?

Amid all this uncertainty, a research study led by a professor of social psychology at Columbia University gives at least one indicator of what works in anti-harassment training — robust reinforcement of the training once the training itself is over.

Best practices

The researchers surveyed nearly 300 HR managers to see whether “best practices” — notably doing a pre-training needs assessment and using active along with passive training — insured positive outcomes. These outcomes were defined as perceptions that 1) the training had been a success, and 2) the frequency of harassment had declined as a result.

Analyzing the replies, the researchers found that most of these best practices seemed to have little generalized effect on the success of sexual harassment prevention training. There was one exception, however: post-training activities.

The HR managers felt that these latter activities did help lower the frequency of sexual harassment complaints. For purposes of the survey, post-training activities were defined as:

  1. Explicitly rewarding trainees, in performance appraisals or otherwise, for applying the training to their job
  2. Explicitly penalizing trainees, through lower performance ratings or disciplinary action, for failing to apply the training
  3. Providing performance aids and/or reference materials to assist in knowledge retention, and
  4. Following up the training with refresher courses


As training professionals know, there’s a strong body of research demonstrating that any learning is better retained if it’s followed by a series of reinforcement activities. This study of anti-harassment training seems to fall into line perfectly with that research.

So if you’re in charge of choosing and/or presenting anti-harassment training in your organization, it would behoove you to arrange regular follow-up for your trainees. True, the reward and punishment pieces may not be within your purview. But you could present the research findings to those in your organization who do control these outcomes, and suggest that the training’s effectiveness would be enhanced by such measures.

This blog entry is based on the following research study: Perry, E., et al. (2010) The Impact of Reason for Training on the Relationship Between “Best Practices” and Sexual Harassment Training Effectiveness. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 21 (2). 187-208,

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