This month the word ‘banter’ was yet again the subject of a tribunal claim. In Allay (UK) Ltd v Gehlen the EAT rejected the employers defence that they had taken reasonable steps to prevent racial harassment, despite having provided equality and diversity training two years prior.
The basis for the decision was:
- Just because training has been provided, does not mean its effective.
- With the training being a whole 2 years prior, it had faded from the memories of the perpetrator, but also the managers, who didn’t know what to do when the incident happened.
The training was labelled ‘stale’.
What are the learnings from this case?
Here are some thoughts from our Head of Learning about what makes effective training:
1. Make the training centred on influencing your culture
This helps engagement. Compliance training can trigger an ‘eye rolling’ response. If you encourage your managers to identify what the culture should be, and what they can to do get you there, your delegates will feel they are participating in a conversation, rather than being ‘done to’.
2. Make the training relatable
Give ‘real world’ examples of the behaviour you need to eradicate and emphasise that it can happen unintentionally. Case studies are great ways to achieve this, but they do need to be realistic: Avoid the temptation to be too dramatic such that your team members feel that ‘that wouldn’t happen around here’. We tend to err on the subtle – if it creates a ‘you should see what actually goes on around here!’ type comment, then your workshop is off to a strong start.
If your focus is on ‘banter’, recognise that it’s important to retain humour at work. Give them tools to identify that it’s banter that’s not inclusive/at someone else’s expense that is not okay.
3. Explore why people don’t speak up
Make this the first step to giving them to techniques how to do it. Make the technique easy to use – and practice it, right there in the session if you can.
4. Explore how to receive feedback in a healthy way
We all know feedback is a two-way process. If you’ve created a relatable experience in your workshop, many people will be thinking back to what they may have done in the past! In your equality and diversity training explore why it feels so challenging to be criticised for misplaced humour and how to manage the immediate ‘it’s not me, it’s you!’ reaction.
5. Don’t gloss over the tough messages
Whilst harassment can happen unintentionally, it can also happen because someone is careless or reckless or because someone is out to cause harm. Acknowledge that and explore the range of responses open to you as an organisation.
6. Make sure you ask your attendees ‘so what?’
Ask them to identify what they will be doing differently, for sure, but if you are only training your managers, what are you asking them to do to cascade all you’ve discussed? This is where a theme to the workshop can help. You can help your managers with a structured ‘toolbox talk’ around that theme or with other themed communications tools. If they have been asked to ‘own’ some of these messages, they are more likely to act when they see something happening that’s not okay.