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J. J. Keller & Associates recently donated $40,000 to help fund University of Wisconsin Oshkosh research on the effectiveness of sexual harassment prevention training.

The gift supports the crucial work of Shannon Rawski, a leading researcher in understanding sexual harassment in the workplace and an assistant professor in UW Oshkosh’s College of Business.

Rawski said research to evaluate the impact of anti-sexual harassment training programs has not kept up as companies across the nation rushed to revamp their efforts in the wake of the 2017 #MeToo movement.

“New innovations in training are moving faster than the research,” Rawski said.

J. J. Keller President and CEO Rustin Keller said the company’s purpose is to help employers ensure safe, respectful workplaces.

“An important part of this is training leaders and employees in how to prevent sexual harassment,” he said. “We provide highly recognized training in this area today and are developing new solutions for the future. Yet we believe that continually building on today’s understanding of how people learn and how new technology can optimize their learning is critical, for our customers and for society as a whole.”

Keller added that the company formed the J. J. Keller Center for Market Insights in 2019, specifically to inspire and lead research on workplace issues, such as preventing sexual harassment.

In one of two studies underway at UW Oshkosh, Rawski will consider the effectiveness of delivering anti-sexual harassment training via virtual reality.

For this work, she said J. J. Keller & Associates also is allowing her to use the company’s sexual harassment prevention training materials, including its 360-degree video virtual reality software.

In August, Rawski traveled to California to learn about virtual reality research protocols from Jeremy Balienson, communication professor and the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

In a second study, Rawski is considering whether there is a research-practitioner knowledge gap for sexual harassment training best practices in large public companies. The study also investigates whether companies that invest in HR professionals’ development are more likely to already have implemented sexual harassment training that conforms to best practices.

The formidable study involves analysis across three large data sets and a nationwide survey.

Rawski expects to have initial results from the two projects by the end of 2020.

Her past research has considered the unintended negative side effects of anti-sexual harassment training programs as well as employees’ differing interpretations of ambiguous sexual behavior. Her work has garnered international recognition from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Le Monde.

Rawski, who earned a doctorate in organizational behavior from the University of Arkansas, teaches human resources management, staffing and planning, training and development and information and metrics courses at UW Oshkosh.

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