Micro and social learning
This section looks at Micro and social learning as an effective education approach organisations can use to address workplace sexual harassment.
Effective sexual harassment education happens not only in training or during one-off conversations. It happens everywhere – openly, regularly and with the continued support of leaders. This is the concept of micro learning and social learning.
- Micro learning is education delivered through short activities, spread across a period rather than relying on a single learning event. It is a continual approach that helps to keep important messages alive after training and policy implementation. It has been proven to boost engagement, absorption and retention of information, and allows time to practice and embed the new skills learned. It also has the benefit of being flexible and is often inexpensive to create and deliver.
- Social learning is learning by observing other people and is based on the notion that people learn by observing the behaviours of others and through the power of storytelling. Leaders openly communicating about sexual harassment, and continually modelling expected workplace behaviours, is therefore an important social learning tool.
These approaches are particularly effective for driving a culture of trust where respectful discussions about preventing sexual harassment are normalised (similar to the way in which addressing other workplace health and safety hazards is now part of ‘business as usual’ in many organisations), and where policies and procedures are brought to life.
Micro learning modules have been developed specifically for Respect@Work. They include:
- What is sexual harassment? - Increase your understanding of workplace sexual harassment
- What are the impacts of workplace sexual harassment? - Increase your understanding of the impacts of workplace sexual harassment.
- How does the law protect me from workplace sexual harassment? - Increase your understanding of how the law protects you from workplace sexual harassment.
- Who is responsible for preventing workplace sexual harassment? - Increase your understanding of worker and organisational responsibility to prevent workplace sexual harassment.
- What can I do if I am sexually harassed at work? - Increase your understanding what you can do if you are sexually harassed at work.
- Workplace sexual harassment: Key stats - Increase your understanding of the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.
Below are some example tools and resources available online to support social and micro learning initiatives addressing workplace sexual harassment. You can also visit the Respect@Work Resource Hub and search for further resources there.
Social learning tools and resources
Regular engagement with workers in open and respectful conversations about drivers of sexual harassment, what it looks like and prevention. This could be done in 1:1 meetings, team meetings or with a larger audience. There are online resources available to support conversations, including:
- Fair Work Ombudsmen - Manager’s guide to difficult conversations in the workplace
- Champions of Change Coalition – We set the tone: Eliminating everyday sexism
Clear messages from Board and leaders
Boards, Directors and company leaders should provide clear and unambiguous zero tolerance messaging – and back their words with actions.
Mentoring, coaching and counselling
This can include leaders mentoring or counselling their teams. Peer-to-peer mentoring is also useful in addressing resistance.
Social networks and advocate groups
The Champions of Change Coalition encourages leaders to contact the group to join or start a new Group as a cross industry group or industry specific group.
Micro learning tools and resources
Company Town Halls or CEO Talks
Senior leaders and CEO discussing workplace sexual harassment to your whole organisation – for example observations, shared learnings, progress against action plan.
Board communications or updates
Board members providing updates on the organisations strategy and activities to prevent and address sexual harassment.
Protect time in meetings for micro-learning. Examples include: knowledge sharing of a particular case, sharing experience, roleplaying bystander scenarios and how to respond, watching a video and then discussing themes and takeaways.
As the largest communication tool within many organisations, email communication is a key way that to distribute information and create awareness of sexual harassment through a micro learning approach. VicHeath have developed a guide for organisations to implement a social norms email campaign encouraging bystander action to act on sexist and sexually harassing behaviours while working remotely.
Communicate through company-wide newsletters to increase awareness or provide information about sexual harassment. This could be in the form of short pieces from leaders, shared experiences (where appropriate), significant facts or figures, short quizzes on facts or links to other resources for employees to explore.
Social media platforms and blogs
Provide short messages, polls, surveys or videos through your organisations social media platform or blog posts as learning units or to promote discussion on sexual harassment. These platforms could also be used to provide pre-training activities like pre reading, videos and quizzes.
Examples of video education resources currently available include:
- SBS Inclusion Program - video-based modules on diverse topics including those minority groups more likely to experience sexual harassment at work
- ComCare micro-learn videos on sexual harassment
- Our Watch: Doing nothing does harm
Online articles and membership resources
Distribution of online and membership resources to your people:
- Australian Institute of Company Directors provides essential reading for board directors on the Board’s Role in Preventing Sexual Harassment
- VicHealth have a number of resources specific for sexual harassment, gender equality and bystander intervention
- Raise it! toolkit created by the Victorian Equal Rights & Human Rights Commission contains and number of resources to help address workplace Sexual harassment.
- The Law Society of NSW have launched an online portal includes resources that provide information on sexual harassment in the legal profession and initiatives being undertaken to address it. The platform also includes information on training the Law Society of NSW is providing to raise awareness of the issue and combat sexual harassment in law.
- ComCare practice guidance for workers
Posters, fact sheets, flyers and stickers for your workplace. There are free resources available:
- Anti-Discrimination NSW fact sheets
- Queensland Human Rights Commission fact sheets and posters
- Equal Opportunity Tasmania posters, postcards and brochure
- Western Australia Equal Opportunity Commission Sexual harassment fact sheet
- SafeWork Australia fact sheet and infographics
There are numerous podcasts relevant to sexual harassment and matters of gender diversity and power in the workplace. Examples produced by Australian law firms include:
- Herbert Smith Freehills - Sexual harassment and gendered violence in the workplace
- Ashurst Australia - Employment: where to next for sexual harassment in Australian workplaces?
- Clayton Utz - Managing sexual harassment in the workplace
- ei Legal – The Employment Law Podcast, Sexual Harassment
- Bal Lawyers - HR Breakfast Club
Some law firms and other organisations release free webinars on sexual harassment prevention and response. Examples include:
- Herbert Smith Freehills (2021 E&IR Safety Leadership Series National Webinar.
- Law Institute of Victoria Sexual Harassment – Prevention & Positive Action
- Champions of Change Coalition Preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace
- The Australia Institute of Company directors offer webinars on sexual harassment information specifically for board members
Organisations can create their own Chatbot tool, or use the Chatbot created by the Victorian Equal Rights & Human Rights Commission, Raise it!, to provide your workforce with a mechanism to obtain anonymous answers to questions about sexual harassment at work, support and response.
The Law Society of NSW have also launched an online portal that provides lawyers with information on the steps they need to take if they wish to report such incidents or behaviour.
Gamification of education content by including interactive game creation applications focused on sexual harassment.
The International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation has developed a sexual harassment at work online game that allows learners to recognise situations at risk, making them take action and decisions.
Virtual and augmented reality
New technology which is premised on the basis that allowing employees to “experience” sexual harassment from the victim’s point of view, and as a bystander, via virtual reality, is considered to be a way to effect real change.
For example, Equal Reality is a non-government developer of virtual reality for diversity, equity and inclusion training and has worked with a number of large organisations across Australia on sexual harassment training on sexual harassment, gender bias and culture bias.