By Andrew Rawson

The #MeToo movement and new anti-harassment laws are prompting many organizations to seek new ways to create more respectful, inclusive workplaces that are free of sexual harassment. For the hotel industry, with its people-centric culture and unique working environment, this can be particularly challenging. Regardless of the industry, preventing workplace harassment requires a holistic approach, encompassing the right policies and procedures, training and education, culture and commitment from leadership.

An effective harassment prevention training program can be a cornerstone in creating a safe, respectful environment for employees and guests. Here are five training tips:

1. Make training more engaging with interactivity

Developments in eLearning and video technology are transforming the boring, static training model of the past into a more interactive, media-rich learning experience. Enabling employees to interact with content is conducive to raising awareness and changing behaviors. For example, interactive video scenarios that portray real-world situations can connect with employees on an emotional level, deepening their understanding of the effects of harassment on individuals, teams and the organization. And training should be mobile optimized to enable easy access on any device, at any time.

2. Tailor training to the hotel industry

In addition to interactivity, it’s important that harassment training reflect the hotel culture and environment. One of the core principles for preventing and addressing harassment is “regular, interactive training tailored to the audience and the organization,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. Industry-specific videos, images, examples, terminology and assessments should be relevant to hotel employees. Incorporating branding and a video message from the CEO further demonstrates to employees that the organization values training.

3. Expand training topics to include bystander intervention

As harassment training moves away from simply focusing on avoiding legal liability to prevention, and promoting respect and civility, more organizations are recognizing the value of bystander intervention training. Teaching employees techniques and best practices for safely intervening when they see a co-worker being harassed helps remove the uncertainty of not knowing what to do to stop inappropriate behavior. Further, bystander intervention training helps foster a sense of community among employees.

4. Raise awareness of the benefits of an inclusive culture

Training hotel employees on the value of diversity, inclusive thinking and cultural competency — the ability to interact effectively with people of different backgrounds, cultures, races, religions and perspectives — can help them be more successful in their jobs and reduce incidents of harassment. In addition, diversity and inclusion initiatives can have a positive effect on recruitment and retention, brand reputation, customer loyalty, productivity and the bottom line. Notably, this year Hilton, long recognized for its diversity and inclusion efforts, was named the No. 1 company to work for in the U.S. by Fortune magazine in partnership with Great Place to Work®.

5. Ensure your training meets new state requirements

For a growing number of organizations, providing employees with sexual harassment prevention training is now mandatory. Since #MeToo, six states have passed anti-harassment laws that require sexual harassment training for employees and managers, and more are expected. Hotels in California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, Delaware and soon Rhode Island should be evaluating and updating their sexual harassment training, policies and internal reporting processes to meet the upcoming deadlines. New York employers only have until Oct. 9, 2019 to provide employees with interactive sexual harassment training. California employers with five or more employees must provide interactive training for supervisory and nonsupervisory employees by Jan. 1, 2021. Also, Illinois recently enacted the Workplace Transparency Act, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, requiring all Illinois employers to train employees on sexual harassment prevention on an annual basis.

With these five tips in mind, implementing a harassment prevention training program tailored to the hotel industry is one of several positive steps leaders can take to reduce the risk of sexual harassment and promote a safe, respectful and inclusive culture for everyone.