Making it Work

Making it Work

Workplace security programs and protocols that can stop dangerous and damaging incidents before they happen

We only talk about incidents like mass shootings when they occur, but for every mass shooting at a concert, or every incident of workplace violence we see on the news, there are dozens of other acts that don’t happen—often because of preventive security measures that were implemented well in advance.

For business decision-makers and their security partners, there are few priorities more urgent than identifying potential threats to people, property and proprietary information, and adopting mitigation strategies designed to prevent those incidents from ever occurring. Whether it is workplace violence, bomb threats, mass shootings, opioids, internal theft, counterfeiting, supply chain security, natural disasters, cybercrimes or a myriad of other damaging and violent acts, the most effective risk mitigation security strategies all stem from the same basic process:

  • Get inside the minds of bad actors
  • Identify weaknesses in existing security protocols
  • Use those insights and information to conduct a security threat analysis
  • Design an effective security program to optimize protection going forward Here are the critical steps in driving that process forward.

Make an Assessment

The first step in any security plan is assessing the risk that could impact a company, venue and/or business sector. That assessment encompasses both the Structural Risk, those risk factors shared by all companies in a certain business sector or geographic area, and Variable Risk, elements that are impacted by management decisions. The best and most effective security audits are both holistic and strategic in nature, assessing not just the big picture, but the small details. Professional security audits are designed in such a way that they identify the vast majority of threats and vulnerabilities in a systematic and strategic manner. And while you can never discount a true Black Swan event, a prepared professional can use their experience and insight into familiar scenarios and tactics to inform their analysis.

Harness People Power

While you can (and should) try and get into the head of those who might want to harm your business or your people, it’s frequently more effective to get into the heads of your own workforce. The best way to do that is to make sure you foster a workforce where employees communicate, and where people feel comfortable bringing safety concerns and ethical issues forward.

If employees know there are programs and protocols in place they can count on to safely, confidentially and appropriately address their concerns, they are far more likely to come forward—especially when they have concerns about an individual harming themselves or others. A reliable reporting program also helps with situational awareness: employees are more likely to be both vigilant and vocal if they know that their enhanced situational awareness will lead to meaningful follow-up.

You also need to make sure that different parts of the company are talking to each other.

If the right people are talking to each other within the organization (HR communicating with security to evaluate personnel risks, for example) the majority of potentially volatile situations can be successfully mitigated before becoming a problem. It’s when people don’t talk that issues arise—and sometimes people get hurt.

So, while risk needs to be assessed and addressed programmatically, the secret sauce is a committed, well-trained workforce who takes safety and security seriously. They are the ones who will tell you what’s wrong, where it’s wrong, and how it’s wrong: the single best payoff for your security dollars.

Partner Up

While your employees are a good source of intel, they should not be the only one. Complacency can impact their reporting since they can become too familiar with their surroundings, failing to notice issues that an outside source might recognize immediately. That’s why an outside perspective is such an important step in assessing risks and creating a mitigation plan.

Experienced security professionals have worked with many different types of companies. This gives them a perspective that can’t be achieved through internal security departments. Solutions created to address risks with other companies can be applied to your company by these professionals if a similar situation arises for the first time. For example, you may have a disgruntled former employee that is a risk to do harm to company personnel. Because your outside security consultants have addressed this type of risk several times with other companies, they can quickly help you create a plan that includes preventative measures, communication and the involvement of local authorities.

Data is playing a much larger role in risk management than in the past. A consulting company should have a strong commitment to data-driven decision making. They have access to benchmarking metrics most companies don’t, and they have the perspective to put those metrics in context. This is especially valuable for smaller and mid-sized companies that often don’t have much, if any, of a security infrastructure in place. Security organizations can consult, applying their expertise and insights and creating new security systems, programs and protocols; they can be used as a “liquid workforce,” bringing in personnel to handle specific situations or scenarios as needed; or they can even embed an employee as a full-time asset within your organization.

Finally, security professionals can tell business decision-makers hard truths: what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. That’s essential, especially with large corporations. Hierarchies, org-chart realities and relationships and corporate inertia can compromise communication and decision-making. Unfortunately, an in-house security executive may be less motivated to expose weaknesses in the company’s security efforts, since any weaknesses that are uncovered could be seen as reflecting poorly on the security department. An outside firm typically has both the willingness and ability to point out—appropriately, but assertively—what is and isn’t working and what needs to be done improves safety and often saves money in the process.

Educate and Inform

Once you’ve committed to enhancing your company security, implementing a clear and culturally acceptable workplace violence training program is vital. The right educational program is empowering. No matter what position they hold in the company, every employee wants to know what to do in the event of an emergency. Reviewing and discussing past security incidents is a great way to make this training hit home. Every incident is unique, but they can all help learn from the past and better prepare for the future.

Even the threat of a security vulnerability can disrupt business continuity, impacting lives and damaging bottom lines. Bomb threats, for example, are far more common than many realize, and the standard response of immediate evacuation often isn’t the smartest or safest move. Funneling employees out the front door actually creates a greater opportunity for mass devastation if the bomb threat is real and placed at that entrance. More generally, a company can lose millions of dollars in lost productivity when bomb threats occur and disrupt business operations for hours at a time while investigations are conducted.

Talk the Talk

One often underappreciated aspect of corporate security is how effectively companies handle the aftermath of an event. While clear communication and public relations might seem like “spin” or “too little, too late” in the wake of an event, strong crisis management is enormously impactful. Productivity can drop precipitously after a security breach occurs.

However, when employees see leadership respond to security incidents quickly and appropriately, they are more likely to quickly return to business-as-usual. The result is that you have minimized downtime/disruption, avoided lasting damage to your brand and business, and improved your chances of avoiding future incidents. A big part of an effective response is coordination—knowing who does what and why. In sports, we talk about playing your position and not the ball, and it’s the same in business. Because whether you’re protecting people, facilities or assets, the ability to respond is a key aspect of your overall preparedness and security posture.

Working closely with a trusted and experienced security partner who follows these basic guidelines and best practices will go a long way toward creating and maintaining an effective security program that will minimize risks to property and personnel—and stop dangerous and damaging incidents before they occur.

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Security Today.

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