Is Bad Training Worse Than No Training?


Patti Perez



Post-#MeToo, employers are more confused than ever about whether to provide harassment prevention training. Does it work? Is it a good investment? Will it actually move the needle as it relates to achieving a better understanding of the issues and positively affecting behavior at work?

Research and experience tells us that the answer to all these questions is YES. But there is a caveat. We know that bad training is bad…so what are some of the steps employers can take to make their training effective?

I recently covered this very topic at this year’s national SHRM conference in Chicago and this article provides an excellent summary of steps to take to maximize the value of your training.

Here are a few more tips:

  1. The research is clear: training that focuses only on legal compliance and on what NOT to do (in other words, fear-based training) is not only ineffective, it can have a backlash effect. If your goal is to scare your employees and leaders into behaving respectfully, you need to reassess those goals. Instead, focus on then positive – what behavior do you expect from your employees? What are the positive consequences to a workplace culture that focuses on clear communication and positive interactions? The more you give your employees a “what’s in it for me” message, the more likely the message will stick.
  2. Carefully select your trainer (for live training) and your training vendor (for online training). The key is to make sure the training is designed and delivered by a true subject matter expert. And while having an understanding of underlying legal principles is important, it isn’t enough. The expert must also have experience drafting and implementing policies, conducting investigations, and doing work to prevent and resolve workplace conflict, including harassment issues. A professional with this experience will do more than check the legal compliance boxes necessary for mandatory training…they will also provide the nuanced and perspective-changing examples that are necessary for a successful training program.
  3. All training, live or online, must be interactive. My presentation provided participants with several examples of interactive activities I use that truly engage the audience, and serve to highlight important learning lessons. One idea is to use a game or activity…I use one called “Two Truths and a Lie” (or some variation). In this activity, you write three nuanced statements and have participants identify which two are true, and which one is false – and you ask them to provide an explanation as to WHY the statement is true or false. I also reach into my bucket of stories about investigations. I give participants a brief description of the facts from an investigation and give learners a multiple choice “test” to see if they can guess what happens next. This one really sparks conversation and interactivity!

The key is to have a goal in mind, plan intentionally, be creative and have fun. By using this “formula” you’ll not only educate your employees about acceptable and unacceptable behavior, you’ll also make a usually-dreaded event become one they look forward to attending. For even more insight into creating effective training, check out this video that outlines the most effective online training approaches, and discusses how to develop and deploy training that will really create positive organizational change.


Patti Perez

Patti Perez is on a mission to transform workplace culture. She combines her experience as a licensed California attorney, a professionally-certified HR executive, a specialist in the prevention and resolution of workplace drama, an expert witness in state and federal court, a state regulator, and as an entrepreneur to create a revolutionary shift in the way we communicate and make decisions at work. Patti serves as VP of Workplace Strategy for Emtrain to help us in our mission to create healthier workplace cultures. This role helps her to leverage technology solutions to deliver engaging, informative, and pragmatic content and also allows her to provide thought leadership on workplace training issues.

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