Occupational training programs grew significantly last year, as more than one-quarter of workplace learning and development leaders saw their budgets increase, according to research from LinkedIn. More significantly, an estimated 69 percent indicated that the executives at their respective organizations saw talent development as the top priority. That enthusiasm is likely to continue in 2018, with businesses in almost every sector focused on bolstering internal training technology and offering upskilling opportunities for existing employees, Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel, research director for the human resources networking and research firm Future Workplace, reported.
But while addressing evolving workplace training challenges and trends is certainly important, HR leaders and other learning and development stakeholders should remember to devote energy toward the basics – those instructional topics that maintain their relevance no matter what.
Here are some of the essential subjects every organization should tackle via workplace training programs:
Recent highly publicized incidents of workplace sexual harassment have thrust the topic into the public consciousness. Employees in virtually every industry have long dealt with this issue. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handled 30,000 sexual harassment cases in 2015, helping victims gain more than $160 million in settlements. Sadly, far more incidents of sexual harassment likely unfold, as 75 percent of victims do not report the unwanted advances of their coworkers in fear of retaliation, the EEOC found. For this reason, the National Women’s Law Center estimates that 25 percent of working women have experienced sexual harassment.
In light of the recent events, enterprise leaders have reacquainted themselves with these realities and taken action, USA Today reported. Many are now instructing HR teams to not only offer mandatory sexual harassment training but also beef up instructional offerings with more nuanced modules that cover issues such as office party behavior. Organizations who have yet to take such action should consider doing so, San Francisco-based attorneys Cheryl Orr and Irene Rizzi told the Society For Human Resource Management.
Why? Many state governments are poised to pass new legislation that will make workplace sexual harassment training mandatory. California, Connecticut and Maine currently have such policies in place. Orr and Rizzi say others will follow in the footsteps of these states in the coming months and years.
Active shooter situations
The prevalence of workplace shootings is another pressing issue for modern businesses. Instances of workplace homicide have become more common since 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the more than 1200 homicides committed at businesses between 2013 and 2015, an estimated 88 percent involved assailants wielding firearms. This data, along with very public workplace shootings such as the one in Orlando this past year, have organizations on high alert, The Associated Press reported.
In July 2016, analysts for the enterprise alert software provider Everbridge spoke with nearly 900 workplace safety stakeholders at companies across the U.S. and found that 69 percent believed active shooter situations are the top threat to employees. However, 80 percent of respondents said that their respective organizations had done little to prepare workers for these scenarios.
Businesses without training programs that address workplace shootings must develop and deploy such instructional assets as soon as possible. Ideally, these courses should at least cover the basic three-step reaction workflow law enforcement agencies say is effective. According to the National Safety Council, groups like the Department of Homeland Security advise employees involved in workplace shooting incidents to take one of the following three courses of action: run, hide or fight.
An estimated 20 percent of American adults suffer from mental illness, researchers for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Found. Unfortunately, the workplace often exacerbates the symptoms that accompany common psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety. In some cases, particularly stressful professional environments can trigger the development of mental illness in previously healthy individuals. This state of affairs is immensely problematic on its own. The societal stigma surrounding mental illness further worsens the situation, discouraging individuals with serious psychological conditions from accessing treatment. In fact, only half of American adults suffering from such sicknesses actually seek treatment, according to NAMI.
Businesses that fail to offer guidance and support to employees with mental illnesses often see the results of such negligence in the books. For example, depression and anxiety lead to losses in productivity that sap $1 trillion from the global economy every year, the World Health Organization discovered.
Businesses in every sector should offer workplace training programs that raise awareness around mental illness and offer actionable solutions for individuals with existing conditions or those in high-stress roles that may precipitate the onset of serious psychological disorders. Such instruction is particularly important for supervisors, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Why? These operational leaders are responsible for accommodating employees with mental illness, as well as spotting the warning signs that may signal the initial development of these conditions.
In 2013, analysts from the Ethics and Compliance Initiative, an American think tank and compliance organization devoted to studying ethics in the workplace, connected with more than 6,500 U.S. professionals as part of its regular National Business Ethics Survey. Over 40 percent of respondents reported observing misconduct in the workplace. Managers were involved in 60 percent of these incidents, which ranged from violating internet policies to offering clients and public officials bribes, according to the ECI. Of the employees who saw these activities unfold, a mere 60 percent reported them. The other 40 percent chose not to notify HR in fear of suffering retaliation, something 20 percent of workers who report wrongdoing experience.
Businesses can avoid these situations and lay the groundwork for ethical work climates by providing ethics training. However, this instruction cannot take place for the sole purpose of compliance, Harvard Business Review reported. Ethics training should give employees the insight and skills needed to act ethically and help their colleagues do the same. For example, an effective ethics training module might address themes like compassion and fairness as they relate to evaluating the motivations behind and addressing unethical behavior in the workplace.
As workplace training evolves, organizations must continue to focus on core subjects that will maintain their relevance far longer than trendy instruction practices or technologies.