The Human Factor

Security officers look to e-learning for training requirements

The digital revolution is transforming the nation’s culture and clearly altering the way people communicate with each other. Nowhere is technology’s power more visibly demonstrated than with training. Factor in digital training that educates, empowers and connects the vital security officer sector, and you have a game plan for success.

However, educational technology tools presented in a vacuum can lead to a disenchanted and disconnected workforce. The key to a successful training program for security professionals is to use technology as a tool for making learning opportunities flexible and accessible to all. Challenges include making sure security officers are fully supported with the optimal learning tools and guidance required to be successful in their roles.

The security officer sector is growing exponentially, and the need for officers to be comprehensively trained is vital. The Freedonia Group, an international business research company, reports that the number of security officers is at historically high levels. In fact, the number of security officers working for private security firms is expected to increase 3.6 percent per year to 780,000 in 2010 from 537,000 in 2000. But will the burgeoning physical security workforce be ready and able to take on the daily challenges they face? And what is the role of security officers in the divergent sectors they serve across multiple industries?

The Role of Security Officers
The Department of Labor defines the role of security officers in three capacities:

First responders. Security officers are often the first responders who patrol and inspect property to protect against theft, fire, vandalism, terrorism and illegal activity. Security officers protect an employer’s investment, enforce laws on the property and deter criminal activity. They use radio and telephone communications to call for assistance from police, fire or emergency medical services as the situation dictates. Security officers write comprehensive reports, outlining their observations and activities during their assigned shift. They also may interview witnesses or victims, prepare case reports and testify in court.

Static and mobile assignments. While security officers perform many of the same duties, their specific duties vary depending on whether the officer works in a static security position or on a mobile patrol. Officers assigned to static security positions usually serve the client at one location for a specified length of time. These officers become closely acquainted with the property and must often monitor alarms and CCTVs. Officers assigned to mobile patrol duty drive or walk from location to location and conduct security checks within an assigned geographical zone. They may detain or arrest criminal violators, answer service calls concerning criminal activities and issue traffic violation warnings.

Varied responsibilities. The security officer’s job responsibilities vary with the size, type and location of the employer. In office buildings, banks and hospitals, officers maintain order and protect the institutions’ property, staff and customers. At air, sea and rail terminals and other transportation facilities, officers protect people, freight, property and equipment. Using metal detectors and high-tech equipment, officers may screen passengers and visitors for weapons and explosives, ensure that nothing is stolen while a vehicle is being loaded or unloaded, and watch for fires and criminals.

Technology Tools
The role and responsibilities of each security officer vary enormously. While classroom instruction is a crucial component of security officer training, technology tools dramatically expand the horizon of each officer. Technology enhances learning for security personnel by being a motivating factor and by its accessibility. Technology helps motivate learners because it allows an officer to access learning opportunities in a way that is immediate, convenient and familiar. People also may be motivated by the opportunity to participate in an activity that uses new technology. Some of the benefits and uses of technology training tools include:

Assessment tool. Technology tools offer the ability to measure the effectiveness of the programs offered. Are officers learning, and is this having a positive effect on their roles in the field? Are the learning goals aligning with strategic goals?

Variety. Internet training makes learning opportunities available in ways that provide flexibility for an organization and allow security personnel to learn a greater variety of relevant material in a timely manner.

Compliance. Compliance requirements for officers vary from state to state and are subject to frequent change.

With virtual training, updated modules can easily and quickly be added, which ensures the officers are up to date on new industry, state and contractual client compliance requirements. Technology also has improved compliance by online record keeping. It allows less room for error and offers more easily accessible training records, available anywhere, to determine if an officer has completed required training. Productivity. Essential functions such as payroll and billing can be delivered electronically, which allows trainers to focus on those areas where face-to-face training is more effective.

Career mobility. Knowledge is power, and a fast-track for advancement awaits officers who tap into the digital domain for 24/7 training.

The e-Learning Revolution
E-learning is revolutionizing the traditional classroom by augmenting textbooks, videos and CD-ROMS with online resources; making learning interactive and multimedia based; and extending discussions beyond the classroom walls via new communication platforms. Education beyond the traditional classroom also is being transformed with Web-based tutoring, access to real-time officer evaluation systems and officer access to coursework from multiple locations.

Some technology skeptics argue that the digital revolution has produced a variety of toxic effects, such as disconnecting people from their communities and one another. Security officer training needs to be an artful blend of online and in-person training. Training that encourages officers to learn real-world skills that enable them to lead people and rise to senior management posts are best delivered in one-on-one mentoring programs and small workshops.

Distance learning is convenient and flexible for students. They receive faster feedback on assignments and have more control over their learning experiences. Online learning also enhances IT skills and fosters new ways of constructing knowledge. Distance learning encourages continued learning and is especially helpful for voluntary programs. Many officers do not keep typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work days and are better able to participate in training that is flexible and available when their schedules permit. Finally, avatarbased virtual world training allows officers to “walk” and “interact” inside a simulated 3-D client site and engage in “whatif” scenarios.

The quality of e-learning varies widely from organization to organization. AlliedBarton Security Services’ online training program has become increasingly sophisticated with new 3-D virtual training that accelerates learning in simulated environments.

Whether used for distance or classroom learning, the benefits of expanding training programs are flexibility in delivery methods, the ability to be interactive and customizations to meet clients’ needs. Security officers appreciate the convenience of on-demand training delivered to the workplace anywhere they are via a variety of methods, including the Internet. In addition to virtual training, AlliedBarton also has released KnowledgeKnuggets™, short instructive audio MP3 files officers can access and use at their own pace and on their own schedule.

A Flexible Solution
Delivering world-class virtual and classroom training programs ensures that security officers are well-versed in a wide variety of tactical and strategic information across diverse industries. It is important to provide training programs in a variety of formats. AlliedBarton’s first virtual training module topic, vehicle searches, is a component of training for the chemical/petrochemical industry. It’s virtual and classroom training curriculum is continually updated and enhanced to accommodate the variety of industries the company serves, including chemical and petrochemical, higher education, commercial real estate, financial institutions, government services, healthcare, manufacturing and industrial, residential communities and shopping centers.

E-learning should not be looked at by companies as a low-cost solution. Creating original content online that takes advantage of the best in new technology, funding 24/7 technical support, revamping or building registration and producing and teaching online can be expensive. E-learning programs can actually cost more than traditional education, but the benefits are worth the investment.

E-learning, however, cannot be a standalone program, especially in the security industry. Clearly, the potential benefits of elearning for officers and trainers are great but must be combined with the human factor. It is important to employ technology for appropriate educational needs and not as a quick-fix educational end. Before initiating new e-learning programs, consider what role technology plays in the training programs and what might be missing in training and education programs already in use. As learning technologies become more sophisticated, so too must user’s assessments of their impact on their employees’ lives.

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