When the #MeToo movement took off last year after several high-profile men were accused of sexual misconduct, attention focused to workplace harassment and discrimination, and what companies across industries should be doing to reduce its occurrence.

The conversation around these topics was localized to Chicago last month when news broke that Michael Ferro, a tech entrepreneur and investor in Chicago, was accused of inappropriate sexual advances.

(Photo via Traena)

And now a Chicago-based tech company is working to help startups implement anti-sexual harassment policies, particularly by emphasizing their responsibility to do it while they are still small.

Traena, founded in 2016 by Chris Wade, is an enterprise software company that provides professional learning and development services. Businesses can work with Traena to create customized training programs across industries and roles, which they then deploy to their employees via a mobile app.

“We worked with a lot of small to medium-sized businesses and saw the lack of resources available to provide good training and ongoing knowledge sharing within companies,” Wade said. “Our mission is to help those companies deliver the training they need to for as inexpensively as possible and in an engaging format.”

Traena wouldn’t disclose any of its specific clients, but said it works with small 10-person companies up to 200-person companies, across industries like education, pharmaceuticals and engineering. Their services cost $15 per employee per month.

But Traena began offering anti-sexual harassment training for free this month to startups with under 20 employees as a way to hopefully help reduce the number of incidents taking place. Wade said the initiative was inspired by the frequent reports of sexual harassment allegations across the nation, but also because he heard from his customers that this was training they needed. Often times, smaller companies don’t have human resource departments and other assets to help manage the implementation of formal workplace policies.

“We saw a need from our customers, who are not typically offering any anti-harassment training,” Wade said. “It’s too difficult, too time-consuming or too expensive to create a good training program.”

(Photo via Traena)

To craft useful policies and coaching programs, Traena is working with Chicago-based law firm Quarles & Brady. The course includes two five-minute videos that cover the basics of federal harassment laws, and how to identify inappropriate behavior and report it. Additionally, the program walks users through 10 interactive scenarios that range from managers harassing subordinates to inappropriate workplace jokes.

“It’s meant to cover a pretty wide range of scenarios that frankly, a lot of people have probably seen,” Wade said. “We’re driving home what is harassment, what’s not and how you report it.”

Though early-stage startups tend to focus on revenue and growth goals, Wade said it is imperative for them to also pay attention to how their workplace culture develops. Having policies in place early on helps them avoid issues down the line that can fester when a work environment becomes toxic. Often times, companies identify a culture problem once they have hired a sizable staff, but by then it can be difficult to correct and redirect employees’ behavior, Wade said.

“The culture of a company often sets by the time you have 15-25 people,” he said. “It’s typically a lot earlier than companies even realize.”