Our highest-traffic blogs are the ones in which our experts highlight the top trends in the coming year – 2018 in this case – that we expect to see driving best practices and priorities across the U.S. and the world in five areas: (1) threat and violence risk management; (2) security risk management; (3) investigations; (4) law enforcement; and (5) private client and family office services. As the first installment in a five-part Hillard Heintze series on these trends, this blog focuses on threat and violence risk management.

Trend #1: U.S. corporations and public agencies will confront even higher risks associated with workplace violence

The news headlines and statistics tell a story that gets grimmer by the year. In 2017, we endured tragedies such as the mass casualty shootings in Las Vegas, the Texas church and Fort Lauderdale airport, among others. Each of these were incidents of targeted violence in which a known or knowable attacker selected a particular target prior to their violent attack. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) recently reported that violence in the workplace increased by 23 percent to become the second-most common fatal event in 2016, behind transportation incidents.

Our concern about this trend is supported by evidence within our own Threat and Violence Risk Management engagements, which grew so significantly in 2017 that we had to establish this area as its own stand-alone practice. We have also seen a continuing shift in demand – away from requests for stand-alone cases by mid-sized businesses and public sector organizations, and toward large-scale, enterprise-wide, program-level demands for ongoing case support and program development assistance from large Fortune-ranked firms and U.S. federal agencies. This includes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Social Security Administration, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We expect this trend to continue in 2018.

Trend #2: Demand for workplace violence training will be strong

In 2017, one of the most common violence prevention issues we discussed with our clients related to best practices in how to terminate an employee of concern. This was just one of many critical, emerging focus areas of workplace violence prevention and mitigation – issues that in-house threat assessment teams may not be fully informed about unless they are staying current through ongoing training opportunities.

In fact, we have found that while many companies and government agencies have established multi-disciplinary behavioral threat assessment teams, they often lack the training to interact with and interview subjects of concern. As some businesses and public agencies initiate steps to establish workplace violence prevention programs – and others with programs seek to ensure their experts and other stakeholders are apprised of constantly changing best practices in the field of targeted violence prevention – they will need to design and implement training curricula for three critical and distinct audiences:

  1. Employees – They must gain at least a baseline understanding of the behaviors that constitute potential warning signs of an individual who may be on a path toward violence and how to report these.
  2. Managers – They must understand their duties and responsibilities in terms of handling issues or concerns among employees and how to route this information to the company’s threat assessment teams.
  3. Threat Assessment Team Members – They must stay current with emerging best practices and also share what has and hasn’t worked with their other in-house teams.

Trend #3: Interactive Behavioral Simulation training will continue to represent a “best practice” in workplace violence prevention training

Even after decades of experience in this domain, we know of no better training framework than the one used by thousands of federal law enforcement agents over the years in agencies such as the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Capitol Police, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the CIA. This unique methodology gives participants an opportunity to participate directly in interactive behavioral simulations that reflect potential real-world threatening events.

These simulations train attendees in a highly realistic environment in which they can explore, practice and evaluate the skills taught during the training and implement policies and procedures that help protect their protectees and stakeholders. Team members develop new skills by engaging in highly realistic simulations customized to the needs of a specific group. Subject-matter experts, cross-trained as actors, portray individuals who may have the intent to carry out an act of violence.

In 2018, the agencies that have relied on this training mechanism for so long will continue to do so. Adoption of this methodology will expand as new adherents in the corporate world first test and explore its efficacy and then embrace it more extensively to meet their in-house threat assessment team training objectives.

Trend #4: Given the complexity and cost of creating in-house teams, 24-hour service contracts will be in demand

As risks continue to trend upward and companies find that effective workplace violence prevention programs cannot become operational overnight, more will turn to external service providers who can provide immediate threat assessment services and support when behaviors of concern first become apparent.

This external resource puts experts in all the disciplines necessary to prevent an act of violence – behavioral threat assessors, open-source threat intelligence specialists, law enforcement liaisons – a phone call away. It is, simply put, a critical part of a best practice approach in assessing and managing behaviors of concern and threats in the workplace.

Again, we see evidence of this in our own work. In 2017, we established the Hillard Heintze 24-Hour Call Center (312-229-9800) to make it much easier for any business or organization to get immediate assistance and support on any case involving behaviors of concern in the workplace.

Trend #5: Organizational leaders will become more informed about their options and choices in pursuing Indirect Threat Assessments and Direct Violence Risk Evaluations of employees exhibiting behaviors of concern

There are two types of behavioral threat assessments. An indirect threat assessment does not include an in-person evaluation of the subject by a licensed psychologist. A direct violence risk evaluation does. (Refer to this instructional piece, “Indirect Threat Assessments and Direct Violence Risk Evaluations: Understanding the Difference,” if you are interested in further distinctions between these two.)

The direct approach is best – where possible and appropriate – because it enables independent, third-party evaluation and typically provides the organization with more insight and clarity on how to manage, intervene or safely separate from the employee in question. Typically, the results of the indirect assessment or direct violence risk evaluation are integrated with the findings of any additional behavioral threat investigations, initiating a two-stage process: (1) an examination of information for evidence of behavior and conditions consistent with the likelihood of a violent attack on a employee or workplace and (2) an attempt to determine whether the subject appears to be moving toward an attack and, if so, how rapidly.

These are technical, expert-driven methodologies that do not fall within the purview of even most enterprise-level threat assessment teams. However, they represent the best means for managers – from HR, Legal and Security to administrators and front-line supervisors – for preventing an attack. For that reason, we expect to be in higher demand in 2018 than in years past.

Trend #6: Many large corporate security departments will begin to include threat intelligence monitoring as a supporting capability

This is a trend we have been tracking for several years. Security leaders are being asked to be more proactive in identifying and mitigating potential threats, and open-source intelligence (OSINT) is becoming the most effective tool to respond to this challenge. Though enterprise-level security leaders are already incorporating OSINT gathering into their security capabilities, we see evidence of an expansion of such programs as smaller businesses and other types of organizations adopt or outsource these capabilities.

This market is also evolving beyond the widespread use of automated, strictly software-based intelligence gathering technology products. We are seeing more tailored services, managed and directed by an OSINT expert, that provide company-specific intelligence that is more relevant and actionable. After all, a truly holistic threat assessment strategy involves more than just identification. It must include a comprehensive investigation, assessment and management component as well.

What’s on your action list in 2018? Are you ready?

Are you addressing these priorities in your organization? We are interested in hearing how you are preparing for the upcoming year. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be addressing Top Trends to Watch in 2018 in our other practice areas. Want an automatic alert when the next blog goes up? If you’re not a subscriber already, subscribe below.