Kantola’s latest Harassment Prevention training leans deeply into one of the most effective learning methods
In the years since the #MeToo movement went viral, it impacted the regulatory landscape and forever changed how we prioritize preventing harassment in the workplace. During that time, many companies have tried to create awareness and bring about change, including using harassment prevention training.
But if you’ve been part of these efforts over the past few years, you already know that not all training works. In fact, research shows that some training can actually backfire, unintentionally making the problem worse. This is especially true when training comes in the form of cheaply produced videos, with cringey dialogue and unrealistic scenarios. The best way to avoid this—take your training to the next level. Helping organizations get beyond this impasse is why Kantola has leaned deeply into one of the most effective learning methods for preventing harassment: authentic, well-produced storytelling.
Let’s take a closer look at how training with storytelling can make all the difference.
“Personal stories—instead of cold facts—make people want to help keep others safe,” according to a recent study by the Annenberg School of Communication. “There is a long research history across a number of fields finding that narrative stories are powerful in shaping beliefs,” says senior author Emily Falk, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Communication Neuroscience Research Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Up to 75% of employees have either witnessed or experienced workplace misconduct
- Worker misconduct, including harassment and bullying, cost U.S. businesses $20 billion in 2021 alone
Stories help us envision life from a different perspective
When we listen to someone tell their story, we are temporarily transported away from ourselves to experience another person’s reality. We live through their words, feeling each moment, understanding the nuance of the situation and connecting to that individual at a deeply human level. And so it is with employees when they hear personal stories about harassment in the workplace.
When an individual shares their account, it can paint a very personal picture in the mind of a learner. They are suddenly able to envision life from a new and different perspective. And in doing so, this can evoke empathy and understanding. That’s what makes one person want to protect another.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about stories, especially personal accounts, is that they are effortlessly memorable, enabling us to retain knowledge in a transformative way. All that is needed for effective learning is the ability to listen and open our minds broadly enough to accept another person’s truth. And the research proves it. According to a recent study from team at Princeton University, as you hear a story unfold, your brain waves actually start to synchronize with those of the storyteller. It’s no surprise then that average memory retention from storytelling is at 93%.
Experiencing real-life stories
To get a sense of how this works, it’s best to experience it for yourself. The following examples show how the authentic quality of real-life stories can help learners to make discoveries about how people feel when faced with difficult situations. Check out these short clips.
Mica, a Black woman, shares her story about employees singing along with loud rap music that repeatedly uses the N-word. She explains how hurtful it felt to be ignored when she asked for it to stop. Her story is memorable in its honesty and clarity.
Jonas describes how a co-worker labeled him as “feminine” and went on to reduce the type of work he was assigned. When Jonas says, “…work is the one place I don’t want to feel out of place,” it helps us to empathize and understand the seriousness of the situation.
Starting out at a new tech company, Caroline was excited to be part of the team. But instead of feeling welcome, she was excluded by the company’s “boy’s club,” ultimately limiting her professional opportunities. Her story reminds us of the damage gender discrimination can do.
Real-life stories can shed light on different ideas, shift perspectives and open our minds to new ideas and ways of thinking. And when they are integrated into harassment prevention training, these types of stories have the power to bring about transformative change.
- Engaging: Individuals talk about their experiences—engaging learners through genuinely personal stories.
- Evoke empathy: Listening to stories through candid first-person interviews evokes a deeper level of empathy.
- Memorable: Authentic stories are memorable, helping employees to retain new knowledge, ideas and ways of thinking.
- Easy to learn: The impact that some behaviors have on coworkers becomes easier to understand when conveyed through real-life stories.
- Prompt reflection: Stories told through actual, unscripted accounts create a uniquely authentic learning experience. Even the most skeptical learner will pause to reflect.
- Open the door to new perspectives: A wide range of situations with a variety of people helps learners to appreciate new perspectives and understand how a safe and respectful workplace—or the lack of it—can feel to others.
Annual updates to courses keep stories fresh and new
Despite the fact that storytelling is one of the most effective learning methods, there is an important caveat to keep in mind. Any story will get old and tired if it’s told repeatedly. That’s why Kantola, unlike most other training providers, offers updated and fully-compliant courses on an annual basis—adding documentary-style first-person interviews, main scripted stories, and ensuring that all scenes reflect an ever-evolving workplace.
While one story may not end harassment today, over time stories can reach people at the deepest level, where real change is possible. In the end, stories can and do make a difference—with the power to transform not just our workplaces, but our world in a positive way.