Racial Bias or Workplace Sexual Harassment – Why eLearning is an effective solution

The recent incident at Starbucks, which involved two African American customers, has created quite a storm. This article doesn’t focus on the controversy around whether it was racial bias or unconscious bias. But from a business perspective, we try and understand actions which an organization must take to avoid such situations and manage their risks.

Perceived discrimination could happen anywhere –  at work, the park, or even on the train. The only difference is the manner in which your employees deal with customers. This reflects as an experience they have with your brand, and an isolated incident has a snowball effect in the age of social media. The best question to ask yourself when looking to avoid such incidents is – are you as an organization doing enough to train your employees?

Not too long ago, a regular at a GAP store, an African American man was forced to prove the clothing he was wearing was not stolen. In reality, he had purchased the clothing from the same store a month prior to the incident. The bigger problem may be out of racial prejudice, or a case of unconscious bias. But the key here is policy training, anti-discrimination policy training, and even getting employees to be aware of biases that may creep into their day-to-day interaction with customers. The way the employees at the store dealt with the customer caused emotions of shame, rage, and guilt. And not to mention a public furor. At no point along a buyer’s journey would a customer want to feel these emotions, and employees need to be better trained to ensure that the experience they deliver to customers reflects the brand’s ethos and values.

Problems like these require regular training, interventions, and assessments from HR, L&D, and Compliance Training departments. The fact that Starbucks shut their store for a day indicates that the cost of not training their staff was a bigger risk to their brand than shutting down their stores. An ideal mix of blended learning is the key to sustainable ongoing training instead of resorting to emergency training activities which last for a day.

Here’s how eLearning is great for anti-discrimination and racial bias training:



Why anti-discrimination and a policy statement

A short 2-3 minute video on the company policy, and how it’s aligned with the company values. This could contain a short statement from the CEO/Head of People as well.

The policy

A simple Level 1 or 2 eLearning course to explain the policy, the do’s and don’ts, what the law says, and what the roles are with respect to the responsibilities of employees and managers.

Scenario-based training

This could be conducted in the stores/on location or delivered via a Level 3 eLearning course as well.

Face-to-face intervention

 An ideal mix would comprise of a face-to-face workshop and Q&A led by a manager (who is trained on how to conduct such sessions) and answer questions which the employees may have. This would be an advanced situational training to provide context in the presence of the manager.

Although Starbucks decided on training their employees for a day, it doesn’t take into account new employees who would join the organization post the one-day training. Typically, the food & beverage, and restaurant industry sees a lot of attrition. This is ideally why organizations choose an LMS as it facilitates easy training that needs to be repeated.

Where sexual harassment once plagued organizations, the action taken by corporates leading to sexual harassment becoming a Compliance-Based Training Program for all employees, saw a drastic drop in the number of reported cases. The idea behind it is simple – build online courses that use a mix of company policy training and scenarios depicting actions which are deemed as possibly being sexual, and the best ways to avoid them. This can be followed by an assessment where learners are asked to make a decision on what they’d do in a certain situation with instant remedial feedback.

In a service-based industry, where staff interactions with people is inevitable, wouldn’t e-learning courses and compliance-based training make sense? There is no doubt about how much costs, time, energy, and human resources can be saved if these integral training programs are made mandatory compliance-based training for old and new staff. Not to forget the PR damage, apologies, and loss of customers the organization can avoid.

A few ways in which industries can integrate eLearning as a solution to train their staff on ant-discrimination and racial bias are:

  1. Instead of handouts or just reading a policy document, converting such material into mandatory compliance eLearning is a better option. All staff must attend or take the online course and successfully pass these trainings, perhaps as part of their induction program. eLearning makes training more impactful with the use of audio, video, and other forms of media.

  2. Introduce a mix of simulation-based courses, especially in work environments where visualizing appropriate customer-employee interactions will help the employees better manage situations. You can shoot videos at your store with actors, or even employees willing to play the part. Seeing situations from a third-party perspective will help your employees retain the content more effectively.

  3. End your training with an assessment. Ensure employees are quizzed on various scenarios and policies that are a part of the organization. This assessment will test how much of the training is actually retained. Create a strong assessment question bank with randomization, and set the passing percentage high, this ensures all employees get every policy based question correct. Good LMSs with reporting mechanisms are adequate to track these scores and completions.

  4. Training should be a regular affair. eLearning facilitates this practice. Training courses once created can be made regularly available to old and new employees using an LMS.

Make it mandatory for learners to retake the training after specific, regular intervals. You can do this by setting an expiry date on the original certificates. This way, employees are continuously trained in the policies and procedures specific to your organization.

It starts small, but eventually, regular training and development in your organization is very important. We at eNyota Learning have experience in designing custom built compliance-based training across a variety of policies. Talk to our team of experts to know how we can help your organization create and implement successful compliance-based training courses that are effective and impactful.

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