According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Although it’s difficult to determine the scope of human trafficking worldwide, as many cases go unreported, the International Labour Organization estimates that there were about 40.3 million victims of human trafficking international in 2016 alone. As January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, let’s look at how training can help organizations combat what is not only an organizational issue but a human one.

How Training Can Help

Training can help employees recognize the signs of human trafficking, which can help stop it in its tracks. For example, in 2016, an Uber driver was able to stop a teenage girl from being trafficked by recognizing the warning signs and immediately contacting law enforcement. Now, Uber partners with numerous organizations to “mobilize communities, raise awareness, and advocate for policy and legislation” and educates its drivers on how to identify and respond to human trafficking through training materials and in-person sessions in major cities such as Seattle, Baltimore and Sacramento.

Recognizing the active role training plays in combating human trafficking, many states have adopted human trafficking awareness training requirements — especially in industries particularly prone to trafficking, such as hospitality, transportation and manufacturing.

However, organizations across industries have a “shared responsibility” to combat human trafficking through training and awareness efforts, says Andrew Rawson, chief learning officer at Traliant. “If we don’t train people on these issues, then I don’t know how, as a public, we can help identify and rescue [victims].”

Best Practices for Maximum Impact

To be effective, human trafficking awareness training should be tailored to the specific industry — or, better yet, job role — at hand. For example, Rawson recommends customizing training for housekeepers, front desk workers, food and beverage workers, and maintenance workers to provide learners with “practical examples” of what to look for. Ashley Garrett, director of the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center (NHTTAC) echoes the importance of industry-specific training, as warning signs are largely industry-dependent. For example, health care organizations should train employees to look for patients who defer to someone else when answering medical questions or who don’t seem to have control over their documentation.

“I would encourage organizations or industries to look in the context of what their own workforce is, and who their own customer and consumer base is, to understand more specifically what their red flags are,” Garrett says. Conducting risk assessments can help learning leaders identify these red flags and “understand how to step in and intervene.”

Training programs should also address more general signs of human trafficking, such as people who look “incredibly distressed,” unusually exhausted, paranoid and/or fearful or who seem to have no control over their money, travel documentation and/or other forms of identification, says Dr. Mar Brettman, chief executive officer of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST).

Once employees understand how to recognize human trafficking, they need training on how to respond, whether it’s bringing concerns to a manager’s attention or, in more urgent cases, contacting law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline. “The easy part is teaching people what to look for,” Rawson says. The hard part, however, is encouraging employees to take action, as many “don’t want to get involved.”

Leaders should encourage employees to “come up the chain of command” with any human trafficking-related concerns they may have, Rawson adds. Further, bystander intervention training can equip employees with the tools they need to feel confident speaking up after identifying signs of human trafficking.

Supporting Human Trafficking Survivors

“Survivors are coming out of their experience wanting to thrive, and one of the things that they want, and need, are employment opportunities,” Garrett says. Through professional development opportunities, organizations can support human trafficking survivors in a achieving their career goals. To set survivors up for professional success, BEST partnered with Waldron Consulting to provide workshops on basic career skills, such as how to build a resume and how to interview.

Partnering with local victim services organizations is another way companies can help build “supportive career pathways” for human trafficking survivors, says Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski, program manager of Future Without Violence’s economic justice and workforce initiatives. That organization’s “Promoting Employment for Survivors of Trafficking” (PEOST) project builds “strong collaborations” between victim services agencies and workforce development programs to improve survivors’ “access to quality education, training and employment opportunities.”

To truly make a difference, organizations must first understand the prevalence and impact of all types of trauma and work to dismantle the obstacles they create that can hinder survivors’ access to employment. “This means adopting a human-centered approach to work that is more collaborative and supportive, rather than transactional,” Gonzalez Bocinski says.

The Bottom Line

In addition to the more urgent impact trafficking has on its human victims, it can also cause numerous issues for employers, including a tarnished company brand, liability issues and decreased productivity. Training can help combat these issues — and help employees feel inspired to continue working at a “company that cares” and that exercises corporate responsibility.

However, the true bottom line is simple: Many victims of human trafficking have no one advocating for them, Rawson says. “That’s why it’s particularly important that organizations provide this training on human trafficking … whether it’s required by law or not.” After all, the training is relatively brief and inexpensive to deliver, but it has the potential to save lives. In terms of value, that’s one benefit that simply can’t be measured.