The Larry Nassar sex scandal at Michigan State University was tragic for many reasons. One of them was the fact that so many people within the athletic department knew what was going on. But for years, no one said anything. As a result, hundreds of young women were abused within MSU’s facilities over the course of 24 years. The case is a sober reminder that security at your organization is everyone’s job.
What’s more, failure to participate in security undermines security.
No matter who you are or what your role in your company, it’s your job to say something if you see something. In many organizations, that philosophy is often overlooked or ignored. I have a colleague who was assessing security at a hospital. During his walk-through, he asked a doctor about a door that was propped open. “That is not my responsibility,” the doctor huffed. “I am not security. They need to make sure this door is secure.”
That excuse won’t make much difference when an active shooter uses that door to enter the building. The doctor could easily mitigate a tragic event by taking three seconds to shut the door.
Many incidents that occur at work could have been easily prevented if someone had said something. Instead, personal harm and major corporate loss happen due to people’s negligence and ignorance. It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect your organization.
This is a looming problem for every organization. Everytime I do an assessment, these issues are generally there. What causes the problem, and what can you do to fix it at your organization? Let’s take a look.
Why Don’t We Promote Security at Work?
Why don’t people contribute to the security of their own workplaces? There are several reasons—some more understandable than others. Here are the ones I see most often when I conduct physical security assessments.
We often tell ourselves that it’s no big deal—it’ll never happen to us. Statistically, they’re right...sort of. Event X or Event Y will probably never happen. But when you consider all the possible events that could occur when you ignore security, suddenly you’re likely to be the victim of one or more of them.
People may be afraid to report a crime that happens at work. Often, when a victim reports an assault or harassment, they risk their reputation, their privacy, their status and even their employment. For many, that’s too great a risk, so they remain silent.
Lack of awareness
People in your building simply aren’t aware of the issues. They don’t think about security as part of their job, and the issues aren’t on their radar. The average employee doesn’t think like a security consultant, so they never see the problems or imagine the consequences.
Today’s culture places value on being polite, and usually that’s a good thing. But when good manners get in the way of good security, being polite can be risky. The culture of the workplace needs to value safety above manners. That might mean not holding the door open for the person behind you, or not sharing your password with others.
Go deeper—check this out! Top 5 Security Threats Hiding in Plain Sight
7 Steps to Creating a Culture of Security
If your building’s physical security is truly going to be effective, it is critical for your organization’s leadership to foster a corporate culture of security. Proactively challenge the stereotype that security is a lesser activity reserved for low-level employees. Instead, make it the mission of every employee to safeguard the company and one another.
The stigma of security can be hard to overcome, but when upper management and executives take on security responsibilities themselves, the change is much more effective. How do you do that? Here are seven steps to get you started.
Handpicked related content: Don’t Stop at the Door—Keep Employees Safe Outside of Work
1) Teach Crime Prevention 101
At the most basic level, your people need to have an elementary understanding of safety in the workplace. Teach about emergency preparedness plans and drills. What do you do in the event of a fire? What should you do if there’s an active shooter?
Also, make it clear why your specific security protocols are in place. When people understand the reasons behind requirements, they are much more likely to get onboard with them.
2) Increase awareness
Local and world events impact your facilities. Keep employees informed of relevant issues and events that could affect your organization. Train employees on appropriate behaviors that improve security (e.g., don’t hold secured doors open for others).
Provide an in-house awareness conference or hold a series of discussions about security. Sometimes it’s important to simply address about people’s concerns—especially if you’ve had an incident in your building or nearby.
Host a session about workplace violence and what your leadership is doing to ensure people are safe. Talk about why and how everyone needs to help.
Related content: Why Your Employees Won’t Stop an Assault at Work—And How to Change It
3) Make it easy to report
Too often, there are major roadblocks to reporting security and safety issues at work. Review your reporting process and ensure that it’s user-friendly, easily available, and anonymous. Victimization studies show that often, witnesses rather than victims are the ones who report, because reporting could put the victim’s job at risk. Anonymous reporting can reduce the risks of repercussion.
4) Add security responsibilities to everyone’s job description
No one should be able to say, “Security isn’t my job.” Add security responsibilities to every job description, because it should be each person’s job to ensure the safety and protection of the company and the people they work with.
What that looks like will differ from one role to another, but it’s critical that every employee has a security awareness. If they notice something, they need to say something. If they’re suspicious of something, they need to report it.
5) Know the warning signs
Don’t ignore the signs that someone could be a danger to others. Educate your people to notice possible red flags—for example:
- Becoming reclusive
- Neglecting grooming
- Unusual changes to mood or personality
- Changes in work performance
If you notice these kinds of signs in a coworker, it’s important to notify their supervisor or Human Resources. Even if a person isn’t a danger to others, these may be indications that they need some help.
6) Use outside resources
You can’t complete this initiative all on your own. Outside resources can provide expertise and influence that your internal personnel don’t have. Ataata is a company that educates workplaces about security using funny videos and quizzes. Their training keeps you entertained and engaged while providing critical security information.
The quizzing allows employers to verify that employees watched the video and understood it. Each person is graded with a risk score, so you can pinpoint the people who need the most attention. It’s a great way to articulate specific security expectations and ethics throughout your company.
7) Onboard new hires
Make people aware of your security measures from Day One. Whenever someone is hired, one of the first parts of onboarding should be security awareness. Integrate it into training for new hires, as well as ongoing training programs.
Better Building Security Starts Now
Security efforts are there to protect your employees, not to inconvenience them. But for security to be effective, everyone needs to pitch in. Talk with your security team about how to take these steps to shape your corporate culture.
Want more best practices to improve your building security? Subscribe to the blog.