What Is New In Electronic Security Training
Learn by doing and find a good example
Unlike most things under the sun, there really is something new
and exciting in electronic security training, and this new approach
is poised to vastly improve formal training for those in
the industry. It also represents a massive upgrade for what used
to be largely an on-the-job “train-by-example,” or “learn-by-doing,” industry
standard. Moreover, the world’s most successful companies are increasingly
availing themselves of these new techniques.
In the late 1970s, burglar and fire alarms were simple-series or parallel circuits
comprising a battery at the beginning of the detection loop that ran to
a mechanical relay at the receiving station. All of the detection devices were
mechanical, and anyone who understood electrical devices could probably be
trained on them in about a day.
This is not to say that there weren’t plenty of “tricks of the trade” to be
learned with field experience and a bit of sage advice from the wise, old veterans.
But overall, if you understood the most basic of electrical devices, you
were, in short order, good to go.
A Surge in Technology
Then, not so many years later, what used to be a wire-and-fasteners industry
became much higher tech. With the microprocessor revolution, alarm control
equipment became complex.
Panel mounting and wiring went from eight simple connections to dozens
of connections—some with rather complex rules for testing—and what
would soon become literally hundreds of complex and interlocking programming
Unfortunately, training still consisted of the learn-it-yourself-by-trial-anderror
method, with only the poorly written instruction manual as your guide.
Cranky and false alarm-ridden systems were the norm—and police departments
got pretty cranky, too, when they had to respond to these nuisances.
A Good Reason for Training
This rise in the complexity of sensors and controls led some of the larger manufacturers
of controllers to create training departments. Most were staffed by
factory technicians with a lot of technical savvy and surprisingly little teaching
experience. The format was lecture, and the text consisted of the instruction
manual. Classes were usually fairly short, head-stuffing sessions that covered the features more than the practical mechanics of what an install would require.
Even so, this was a step forward. Having at least some formal instruction
was light years ahead of the on-the-job “learn-by-mistake” method. And false
alarm rates continued to be a serious problem.
Simultaneously, commercial security was starting to grow into the multibillion-
dollar industry it is today. With video and access control networks
monitoring and controlling literally millions of cameras and thousands of
doors worldwide, electronic security technicians were being replaced by information
technology workers with the networking skills to connect all of
Unfortunately, few of these network professionals currently have the requisite
security skills to make the kind of decisions that are required to assemble
or maintain a trouble-free and effective protection system. More often
than not, design decisions are made on loyalty to a manufacturer whose history
is in computer hardware, not security equipment.
This often leads to incompatible equipment choices and poor service delivery
to the customer. This is further proof that a new approach to education
in the electronic security industry is needed, and its absence is holding back
those who make their living from it. What is interesting is the utter lack of
interest that the professional associations have in promoting a full spectrum
of up-to-date training that meets the needs of their members.
Furthermore, most private training companies in the security space provide
training products that serve only the bare requirements of certification
Training Advances in Other Areas
During this period, the study of adult learning was coming into vogue in universities
and large corporate training organizations around the world. Truly
separate juvenile and adult training models were becoming accepted. Adults
want training to be fast and targeted to their needs and are motivated by the
feeling that what they are learning will be useful in completing their tasks.
Enter Rapid Training Models
Rapid training models vary slightly from one school of thought to another, but
all have several things in common: They employ needs analysis, multimodal
training, rapid feedback, skills testing, job aids and performance analysis.
While that is quite a list, all of these adult learning concepts and practices
are based on common sense and real classroom experience.
Analyze Before Training
A clear lesson that has emerged from all of the training research is that targeted
training works. This means that before you accept, or design, a training
program, you must analyze your students’ needs.
Questions to ask are: What are the exact things my employees must learn
in order to do their job better? Do they need a training class, training aids or
some combination of the two?
Remember That They Forget
What the head-stuffing sessions fail to address is the fact that, without immediate
reinforcement, learned material may be lost at a rate of 80 percent
of the materials read and heard after two weeks. In contrast, up to 70 percent
of what we see and experience—think video or live demonstration—may be
retained. At the very least, printed materials presented in class should also go
home with the student in a readable, usable, easy-to-reference form.
Job Aids for a Quick Refresher
Reviewing learned materials can be streamlined by producing job aids. Think
of job aids as “cheat sheets” that outline the exact steps of a process enabling
an employee to do the task described. Printed job aids work nicely for describing
simple tasks like what items need to be kept on a service truck, but they
can become confusing when describing more complex tasks.
Properly produced video job aids can make very complex tasks doable,
and they can now be stored and presented anywhere through smartphones
or laptops. Job aids should break down large tasks into small, easily digestible
Clearly labeling each of these small bits of knowledge is critical. Users
must be able to readily identify their needed information so that they can access
it, review it and move on with their job. Good job aids alone have proven
to increase productivity by 22 percent, according to one study, and they increased
accuracy more than 90 percent in another.
An important learning concept is that different people learn in different
ways, and people tend to sort themselves into learning categories by their
choice of profession.
Lawyers love to read, language specialists learn by listening, and tradesmen
like to touch their work and usually learn by doing. So, to try training a
tradesman or tradeswoman from a set of manuals would be much less effective
than training him or her directly on the equipment.
How can tactile learners be efficiently trained if they don’t have access
to equipment? Fortunately, students have proven that they absorb training
information through properly presented video instruction very well, particularly
if they can view and review the video shortly before performing
the task themselves.
Live demonstrations using real equipment are, of course, a great way to
increase retention and can be used to train a sizable group of students. You
might consider choosing one student out of the group to be the subject of instruction
and demonstrate the process. This is a proven technique for giving
the entire group the vicarious experience of being directly instructed.
By allowing students to display their mastery of course information by taking
a test, you also increase retention and can deepen their experience of learning.
For this to take place, the questions on the test must be properly designed to
reinforce the content and the purpose of the instruction. How well students
do on the test is also a good indicator of how well the course has been constructed
and presented, so testing serves multiple purposes.
Training for Effectiveness
Just like anything you buy, training will have varying effectiveness and quality.
One way to judge the quality of training is to find some activity you can
measure, or some yardstick of customer satisfaction, and make a comparison.
Measures of effectiveness might include a decrease in the amount of return
calls, increased customer satisfaction (taken through a survey), shortened install
times, decreases in tech support calls or fewer second-level expert interventions.
Finding a Comp lete Training Solution
How do you assess what your training needs are? First, look at what, if any,
changes are happening in your products, services or staff. Either now or in the
past, have you changed the basket of services you offer?
Are you taking on new employees, or have you taken on any new product
lines? Has there been a decline in productivity because of these changes? If
yes, then it is your job to get to the bottom of what your people need.
Something for the Salesperson
Somehow, within the electronic security industry, salespeople often have not been considered as needing training of their own. Nearly all required certification
classes completely ignore the salesperson’s needs. Is there anything less
exciting for a salesperson than being expected to learn how to identify circuit
types or resistor codes when he or she will never actually need this information
to do his or her job?
Instead, what makes sense is to be training them on system design, closing
techniques, current codes that may influence pricing and on how to do a productive
walk-through. These kinds of sales certification courses are available
if you look for them.
What to Look for In a Training Provider
In many states, the training must be certified by the state. Beyond meeting
any applicable state requirements, the training provider should be able to offer
continuing education units that anyone in contact with customers will be
likely to need in order to stay current on his or her license. Do those classes
contain valuable and current information?
The training provider ideally should be able to provide custom, or targeted,
training designed around your chosen product(s), services and policies.
This would include some form of hands-on training with your chosen equipment
designed to simulate on-the-job experiences. Targeted training will save
you money over generic training in the long run.
How many days, including travel days, will your employees have to be engaged
in training? A good training provider will use that time efficiently or
will come to your location to administer training. Do the potential classes
include performance testing?
A good training provider also should provide a usable text or other takehome
references for students after they leave class.
The offering of comprehensive online training for busy folks who don’t
have time to attend classes also is something to look for in a training provider.
Online training should include video job aids that can be referenced after
students finish their training.
A good training provider can identify the usefulness of job aids and can
design them and should offer sales personnel courses designed around their needs with CEs
or required certifications.
Other services a good training provider may offer include managing your
online knowledge base related to equipment, sales policies and so on, so that
it is always available online as needed. Keep these questions in mind:
- Is the training provider properly credentialed to meet state licensing and
continuing education requirements?
- Does the training provider offer custom training?
- Is the training delivery useful and engaging?
- Does the training provider use class time efficiently?
- Will trainers come to you?
- Is there testing?
- Does the training provider offer a useable text or take-home references?
- Does the training provider offer online courses and video job aids?
- Is the training provider able to supply job aids where these might be helpful?
- Does the training provider offer sales personnel a course designed for
- Can the training provider manage an associated knowledge base online so
that it is available as needed?
Training services for the electronic security industry are increasing in sophistication
and effectiveness. Your employees will benefit from the kinds of
training services described in this article.
This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Security Today.