Q: I am developing a workplace violence program for my company. I don’t want to miss any early opportunities to “bake in” success, so to speak. What are the big things I need to be thinking about as I develop policy and workplace violence program design?
A. Great question.
- I’d start with a mission statement that includes the guiding principles of the program. Not only does this give all stakeholders of the workplace violence program a summary of what they’re working toward and why, it can guide you as you develop policy.
- Next, it’s essential to set the tone from the top with the full support of the CEO/Chairman and executive body. Even the best of programs will not work if key people are disengaged or in disagreement with the program and its value/importance.
- Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to show the program’s effectiveness early in the implementation. From there, establish a regular set of meaningful program metrics and a schedule for reporting them to senior executives and the CEO. This will help keep that executive support enduring and active.
- As you develop policy language and communication plans for your workplace violence program, remember to emphasize early and often that all associates within a company must share the responsibility for the security and safety of others. Too often business units will defer responsibility for safety and security matters strictly to the Security team. Doing so will render a program inefficient and ineffective. In order to have a properly functioning workplace violence program, safety and security must be seen as everyone’s responsibility, from the line staff who are closest to the work and possess their own informal communication pathways, to the housekeeping staff and front line security officers who know every square foot of a building (and its vulnerabilities). All need to be made aware of and educated on the importance of the program and the unique responsibilities each of their roles play in maximizing the security and safety of co-workers.
- A core constant, regardless of the company or industry, is early detection, reporting and intervention. Therefore, ensuring that all associates, who are often the first line of detection, recognize and report any behavior, comment or act that causes fear and concern in a timely manner is critical. A great deal of effort must go into training and education to help identify potentially violent behaviors.
- Because the workplace violence program will rely on associates across the company for consistent awareness and reporting, breaking down barriers and understanding the cultures and sub-cultures that exist within the different parts of an organization will be important. For example, will the associate who arrives to work with visible bruises and curious explanations for them be handled the same across different work groups? Will some managers be dismissive of veiled threats and inappropriate comments made in a performance review discussion because that’s “just how Bob is” or will they report them and let those properly trained in threat assessment handle the matter?
- A company is wise to have a policy on intimidation, bullying, stalking, veiled threats, harassment etc. by associates, intimate partners, contractors, vendors and even clients that they can uniformly implement and apply. Arriving at the definitions for your policy, the education of it and consistent enforcement of it will be an important undertaking—one that will no doubt create philosophical differences between stakeholders at the outset.
- With organizational changes, budgetary pressures and ever-increasing conflicting demands and priorities, it’s easy for a company to let their program go stale. Executive sponsors may leave the company, budget hawks may target the workplace violence program because “nothing has happened” (ignoring that this is the evidence of program success). Remember from the outset that you, the Security leader, are the person who will need to ensure that the program is resilient, vibrant and enduring.
Response provided by Dan Sauvageau, SEC Emeritus Faculty.