Training can and does prevent problems, but the catch is you actually have to train people in what you want to prevent happening. If done correctly, you can actually erase problems as if they never existed.
In California we require companies of a certain size to provide a minimum of a 2-hour training session to all managers in preventing harassment. For the most part, companies take this kind of training very seriously because it can be a defensive tool in a lawsuit. Training in this case is called preventative care, and demonstrates that the company was trying to prevent harassment in the workplace. When training is omitted, that defense is not available.
But let’s say that because you are not tracking your training well, in this case by role, title or responsibility, you don’t provide training to everyone. “Oops”, is not a mitigating factor that judges allow as evidence. Not to mention, companies want to create harassment free work environments whether the government requires it or not, so they really do want their employees to know the rules. Once again, training prevents problems if it is provided.
In creating work environments that are harassment free, companies begin with very strongly worded policies. They articulate procedures to follow, but they know that because of the sensitive nature of this topic, they must run training to provide employees a full understanding. This is why most harassment prevention training has a manager module and a module for all other employees. I personally think that classroom based is best when you are trying to first train this policy, and eLearning is a great annual reinforcement. Yet when trouble arises in your company, it is time to make live appearances again so you can prompt questions and give answers.
I’ve been at some companies that begin with online training, and then HR, and Senior Management personally meet with all employees in large forums. Regional meetings, company-wide events, on location they are personally talking about the importance of information, zero tolerance to retaliation and how they want employees to act.
Training does prevent problems, but only if you do it correctly and provide it to all employees.