September means more than just back to school for kids. For a small biz, this is the perfect time to get staff together to ramp up education and training for employees to ensure they have the tools necessary for a strong end-of-year finish.
Of course, there are training courses particular to your industry, e.g., in a medical office making sure your staff is up to date on the latest HIPPA regulations. If there’s no training particular to your industry, you might want to use this time to implement team building activities and training to strengthen morale and make sure workers are firing on all cylinders. But an oft-overlooked area by small businesses is harassment and anti-discrimination training. While this may not be the type of training that will immediately increase profits, in the long run, it’s the type of training you’ll be happy you’ve invested in (especially if you are ever hit with a harassment suit, which could devastate your small biz) and it will help ensure that you are creating a cohesive and respectful work environment.
Generally, laws that prohibit harassment protect workers from verbal or physical conduct in the realms of race, color, gender, national origin, age, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation. The most prevalent form of harassment, sexual harassment, has laws that protect individuals from unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Harassment training is not required under federal law, but some states have enacted legislation requiring training. Also, some court decisions and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Guidelines (EEOC is the government agency responsible for enforcing workplace discrimination laws) make it clear that harassment training is essential. Also, in order to raise a defense or avoid punitive damages in a lawsuit, employers need to show that they have provided harassment training to all employees.
So what should that training include? Employers should be informed of exactly what your policies are and of which behaviors are prohibited. Presenting examples and scenarios are a great way to engage the trainees, especially when they’re relevant and tailored to your work environment.
One of the most important aspects of training is ensuring your employees understand reporting procedures, i.e. what employees have to do if they are the victims of any type of on-the-job harassment. If you have a large staff with an HR department, implementing a reporting and investigating procedure is a lot less challenging than if you have a small staff and you, as the owner, doubles as Human Resources (HR). If you have a very small staff, consider retaining an outside company that can handle harassment complaints and conduct investigations to ensure compliance. Looking to start-ups Namely or Jump Start HR is a good place to began research.
This is also a good to time to reinforce and train your employees on key policies from the employee handbook (or high time to draft an employee handbook if you don’t already have one!).
To get started, here are a few policies to consider reviewing: Ethics, Confidentiality, Computer usage, and Social Media.