Learning & Development

Safety Resources: What Today’s HR Leaders Need to Know About Workplace Violence

While corporate security experts are instrumental in helping to prevent workplace violence, HR professionals play a critical role in preventing and mitigating threats in the workplace. With that in mind, HR decision-makers need to keep their finger on the pulse of a rapidly evolving threat landscape, appreciating where new and elevated threats are coming from and making sure they are adhering to best practices when it comes to protecting against workplace violence.

An Evolving Threat Landscape

Against the backdrop of new post-COVID realities both in and out of the workplace, the threat landscape is changing rapidly. From increasing mental health challenges and new operational changes, to technologies and social media channels that give an amplified new voice to potential bad actors, the number and nature of workplace-related threats is evolving at an unprecedented rate.

Mental health challenges.

At a time when so many are struggling with mental health, recognizing the connection between mental health challenges and workplace safety should be a priority for any HR professional. Post-pandemic realities ranging from work-at-home options to the isolation that comes with fewer in-person engagements have taken a toll on vulnerable individuals, many of whom are already dealing with the aftermath of losing friends or loved ones. Whether loss or a change in professional circumstances, increased stress and uncertainty are key ingredients in a recipe that can lead to the emotional and mental instability that is so often at the root of unpredictable or worrying behavior. HR professionals need to be aware of those pressures and should have a plan in place to intervene when employee mental health challenges pose a challenge.

New norms and new perspectives.

With so many companies operating in a work environment that looks very different than it did just a few short years ago, the pressures that come with changing workplace realities are more likely to fan the flames of workplace violence. Along with shifting social norms and a hyper-partisan political climate, this creates a situation where disgruntled employees are more likely to speak up or take action when they feel they have been wronged. HR leaders need to not only be aware of these trends, but to recognize what language and which actions are concerning enough to warrant the expert attention of a trained investigator or threat management professional.

A bigger megaphone.

The technology advances that unlock new efficiencies and conveniences often come with corresponding vulnerabilities and potential exposures. Much-discussed AI innovations make powerful new tools with the potential for misuse more accessible. Data privacy and data security are also more challenging than ever before, with hybrid and remote work models making it more challenging to secure personal or sensitive information.  And for all its extraordinary capacity for connectivity and bringing people together, social media platforms provide disgruntled or volatile individuals with both a bigger megaphone and a new way to collect personal information — which is why staying informed about tech trends and being proactive about addressing things like AI and cybersecurity challenges is at the top of the agenda for responsible HR professionals.

HR Security Priorities

In an environment where workplace violence and security threats are evolving so rapidly, what can HR professionals do to keep pace?

Assemble your team.

As important as they are in protecting their people, places, and assets, HR professionals need a full team in place to successfully design and execute a security plan that addresses workplace violence and other threats. Representatives from the Executive level, as well as from Legal and PR, should all be involved. Their contributions and buy-in are important, not just for more effective planning, but for a more effective and efficient response when a potential threat emerges. When time is of the essence, predetermined policies and approval mechanisms for things like forensic psychologist support or investigative or surveillance activation are critical. When delay or confusion can be not only costly, but potentially tragic, the right team structure is invaluable.

Plan and plan again.

Another critical element of safeguarding the workplace is a violence prevention plan. Unfortunately, not all HR professionals recognize the need to review and update that plan on a regular basis. In an environment where so much is changing so rapidly, an annual or semiannual review process is important for maintaining an effective security plan that effectively addresses new and emerging threats.

Proactively address vulnerabilities.

Another space where HR plays an important role is in identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in their security program and workplace violence prevention protocols. In addition to helping draft, deploy, and regularly review a workplace violence prevention plan, HR decision makers should also check critical boxes like making sure to have an employee assistance program for employees facing mental health challenges, conducting a physical security review, and making sure access is monitored, and working with IT to make sure cybersecurity measures are updated and rigorously tested.

Find a trusted security partner.

Perhaps the single most important thing HR professionals can do when it comes to security and workplace violence prevention is to recognize their limitations. Securing the services and support of a trusted security partner with proven workplace violence prevention expertise can help make workplace security more robust and comprehensive. Security professionals can work with HR and other stakeholders to review policies, processes, protocols, and programs—and make sure key priorities like reporting channels and responsibilities are established, escalation points are defined, and training programs are implemented. They can also help with mental health evaluations and interventions, as well as with the kind of professional monitoring and assessment that can identify and neutralize potential workplace violence threats before they emerge. In a fast-changing environment with more and varied workplace threats, savvy HR professionals understand that professional security support as a potential difference-maker.

Miguel A. Martinez is a Vice President and Global Investigations Unit Leader with the Pinkerton Group. He has more than two decades of experience managing all aspects of consulting, security, and investigative practice. He has special expertise in Project Management, Enterprise Risk Management Solutions, Investigative Services, Security Intelligence Services, Global Executive Protection Services, and Special Event Management, and he is keenly focused on building strategic long-term relationships with clients and delivering effective security solutions globally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *