Continuous Evaluation Is the Key to Preventing Workplace Violence
Security can take multiple forms. There’s physical security, cybersecurity, and of course, security as it relates to workplace safety.
That last one is of paramount importance from both a moral standpoint and a business standpoint. It’s unethical to knowingly put employee and/or client lives on the line. Negligence can cost organizations a pretty penny in court, and especially in the wake of the mass shootings that have occurred in current and former places of employment this year, workplace violence is an issue that can’t be taken lightly.
Security leaders know this. They know training employees on how to respond to an active shooter is important. And at the same time, they also know they need to take proactive steps to ensure employees never have to use that training.
Modern technology can help, using continuous evaluation to go beyond the pre-hire background check and make leaders aware of behaviors that are cause for concern.
This approach is built upon the fact that disengaged employees are grown, not hired. In other words, the superstar applicant who gets the job won’t necessarily be the exact same person after their first week, month, or year with the company. That’s simply because no one can predict the life events that may occur over time, nor how each individual will cope with the particularly challenging ones.
What leaders can predict are the behavioral outcomes associated with certain signs of stress – someone who is irritable, argumentative, withdrawn, depressed, etc. These signs can be picked up by continuous evaluation, then be used to spur business leaders into interventional action so adverse outcomes are never realized.
Permission for continuous evaluation can be incorporated into the employee onboarding process to enable ongoing checks for risky activities that employees may be engaging in outside of work. This comes in handy in situations where an employee is arrested for a misdemeanor or minor felony that employers won’t be alerted to unless an employee tells them.
A transportation company recently saw the benefits of such ongoing discovery. When they continuously monitored 10,000 of their drivers, they uncovered nine new convictions and 10 new arrests in just the first 30 days – including cases of 2nd degree kidnapping, assault, aggravated battery, domestic violence and driving under the influence, to which they were unaware.
When focused specifically on preventing a workplace shooting, cases like these are especially relevant. In multiple instances, domestic violence has been a precursor to more aggressive, tragic, public attacks.
There are other warning signs, too, some of which can only come from the observations of others. That’s why some continuous evaluation platforms allow for individuals to – with or without anonymity – report suspicious activities they see or hear about at work, like someone being verbally or physically abusive to a coworker or client. These contributions create a more holistic view of an employee’s behavior and help leaders better determine whether someone poses a serious threat to the business and the individuals it serves.
In certain cases (e.g., serious crime), termination may be the only appropriate outcome. That’s why the best continuous evaluation platforms integrate leadership across Human Resources and Legal.
But in instances where discovery occurs early, actions can be taken to course correct behavior– as would be the case if an employee with no related criminal history starts to randomly act out. This is where leaders can encourage HR to step in, having them engage that employee and initiate a conversation about what has prompted their change in behavior. If applicable, they can also make suggestions regarding how to improve it.
Before stress-induced, disgruntled behaviors turn in to potentially life-threatening acts of workplace violence, HR has the ability to intervene if they can discover risk early. For example, an employee about whom coworkers have expressed concern may explain to HR that they’re struggling with their workload or are having a difficult time working with a particular coworker. Both of these issues are directly within HR’s purview, and can potentially be solved by having a supervisor take some responsibility off their plate, or by bringing both individuals in to discuss more efficient interactions.
HR can even intervene if the issues stem from problems at home. Many companies have employee-assistance programs and referral resources that can help individuals who are struggling with their finances or overall health and wellness.
In thinking about how security leaders can ensure businesses are a safe space for productivity and professionalism, the alarming trend of workplace shootings have primed leaders to automatically host active shooter response training. Security leaders need to know that this is just the start. The best approach to active-shooter prevention takes things one step further, into the realm of continuous evaluation, early discovery and, as a result, timely intervention.