I just returned from serving on a panel before an international conference of security directors where the hot topic was radicalization in the workplace. Security professionals around the world are trying to understand how to deal with this critically important issue. An impressive roster of speakers – including a “who’s who” from academia – discussed the origins of violent extremism and how to detect behavioral warning signs.

A key highlight that emerged was a near-universal recognition among the panel speakers that the majority of corporate security departments today are not sufficiently prepared, informed or knowledgeable about how to address radicalization in the workplace. If you’re interested in the presentation – Radicalization in the Workplace – I made and on how Hillard Heintze is advising our clients in this area, you can access it here.

In order to gauge the risk of violence, there is a growing need for security and human resource departments to distinguish between employees who have the legally protected right in the workplace to have “radical” beliefs and those who may be on a path to violent extremism.

Radicalization in the Workplace: Collaboration is Key

I discussed investigative approaches to help corporate security and HR directors detect those who represent a risk of violence. This field is expanding quickly and there is no doubt we will begin to see more and more guidance and insight coming from law enforcement, academia, the mental health community and religious communities.

During the panel discussion, I shared my view that the good news is that we don’t have to “re-invent the wheel” when it comes to addressing radicalization in the workplace. Mature security departments have already established threat assessment teams as a core program and system aimed at identifying and preventing persons with the means and interest to commit an act of violence at the workplace. It is a best practice that has been written about extensively throughout the security industry and in the educational realm.

Many Perspectives, One Goal

In order to prevent workplace violence and violent extremism, threat assessment teams must collaborate regularly with representatives from departments such as:

  1. Security – Security personnel play a key role in many phases.
  2. Human Resources – Especially helpful if an employee displays behaviors of concern. HR should notify the security department of any employee terminations.
  3. Legal Services – Legal relations representation is critical to ensuring that you properly define all legal issues during case management. In some circumstances, legal services staff can lead efforts to obtain protective orders or engage in other legal procedures related to the team’s activities.
  4. Supervisors – Line managers and supervisors are often the “first line of defense” in detecting and monitoring behaviors of concern within a workforce.
  5. Local Mental Health Liaison – If not included as regular members of the team, these experts should be notified of the team’s existence and included as ad hoc members when needed for information sharing.
  6. Labor Unions – In organizations with labor unions, corporate leadership should recognize that both management and union leaders have a mutual responsibility to ensure a safe workplace environment for employees. Unions can play a key role in preventing acts of workplace violence.
  7. Local Law Enforcement – A memorandum of agreement should be developed with the police department so its representatives are able to fully participate as members of the threat assessment team when deemed necessary.
  8. Outsourced Entities – Any other external partners with whom members of your community regularly interact. This can also include human resources from relevant outsourced service providers upon request from the standing team.

Look for more to come in the weeks ahead, as our security risk management company, Hillard Heintze, disseminates best practices and investigative tools for companies to recognize violent extremism warning signs, just as we have for terminations, domestic abuse in the workplace and mental health. Rest assured there is no need for a new forum, it already exists in your threat assessment team.  


The New Challenge for HR And Security Leaders: Radicalization in the Workplace
View the Presentation