As organizations increasingly recognize the need to be proactive in preventing acts of violence in the workplace, many are starting naturally by establishing a policy or a set of policies that prescribe the entity’s position on key issues related to workplace violence prevention and their expectations of their staff and employees – or updating these if they already exist.
But policies by themselves don’t keep the workforce secure. Programs do – as do training curriculums that raise security and workplace violence awareness among employees and managers to ensure Threat Assessment Teams are prepared to evaluate cases when behaviors of concern are reported to them. These critical elements – policies, programs, training and their outcomes that create an informed and observant workforce and a well-prepared threat management system – must be aligned and integrated in order to actually prevent violence and save lives.
Here’s a 6-step process to align these critical elements and secure your workforce.
Step 1. Establish or Update Your Workplace Violence Prevention Policy
A policy on workplace violence prevention is a set of principles or rules established by the organization that help define behaviors, responsibilities and expectations for personnel – from line staff to top executives.
We find some policies are voluminous, complex and complicated, and they may fall under the purview and oversight of different departments. For example, Human Resources (HR) tends to own the policies related to hiring, harassment and zero-tolerance behaviors; the Security Department defines the policies in areas such as access control, “do not admit” protocols, security guard duties and outer perimeter barriers; and the Legal team sets the policies related to areas such as compliance, information sharing and other practices with legal implications.
Often, we find these policies outdated and compartmentalized – especially as technology and emerging best practices evolve.
The first step in advancing workplace violence prevention is to conduct a review and evaluate the current strengths, capabilities and resources of these policies and relevant departments.
Step 2. Get Experts Involved, Where Appropriate
Don’t expect to establish an effective workplace violence prevention program without outside expertise. You want to ensure that your project team includes specialists with expertise and experience in threat assessment, psychology, mental health, law enforcement, privacy regulations and legal counsel. Ensure that the team’s comprehensive review covers areas such as onboarding, employment screening, privacy compliance and issue resolution and escalation.
Step 3. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Align Your Practices with Key Standards
Rely on best practice standards to evaluate your policies. ASIS International and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) developed the joint ASIS/SHRM Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention American National Standard to “help organizations implement policies and practices to more quickly identify threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to engage in effective incident management and resolution. These standards reflect a consensus from professionals in the fields of security, human resources, mental health, law enforcement, and legal.”
These, as well as guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the U.S. Department of Labor act as good baseline for your efforts. You may not have the expertise to self-evaluate, but you can insist that those doing the evaluation rely on these standards.
Step 4. Understand Your Assessment’s Recommendations – and Implement Them
A proper gap analysis or needs assessment of your organization should result in a detailed report with findings and recommendations for improvements as well as guidance on building a workplace violence prevention program. It should cover the program’s mission and budget; the collection of “information of concern” from employees, managers, contractors, family members and other key constituents; and the formation of cross-functional, multi-disciplinary threat assessment teams. It should also identify and clarify key roles and define core operational practices and policies, reporting guidelines, awareness campaign objectives, and other critical program pillars and elements. During this program development, consider conducting a workplace violence prevention survey to gain an overall picture of employee perceptions and insights across the organization.
Step 5. Turn Your Workplace Violence Policy into a Program
Now turn the recommendations into action. Document key roles and responsibilities. Approve and publish policies. Determine exactly who is going to serve on your Threat Assessment Teams – both employees as well as external personnel such as representatives from your first responder community, including mental health experts, and independent threat assessment specialists.
Step 6. Train and Educate
With your workplace violence program in place, focus on training. Think about your different audiences. One is your general workforce. For them, you need to stress the importance of “see something, say something” and the collective responsibility of the entire workforce in preventing workplace violence. Explain what to look for and how to report concerning behaviors and situations. Another audience is managers and supervisors. Help them understand their critical role in identifying and responding appropriately to disturbing, disruptive or threatening behavior and how to recognize the warning signs of potentially violent behavior. Finally, educate your internal Threat Assessment Team members. Present them with the latest research and principles in the areas of threat assessment and violence prevention. Explain how to share information among the team members and other resources within the limits of information sharing and confidentiality. In addition, improve their capacity to conduct threat assessment interviews, including exploration of the key questions that need to be answered.