A focus on Security Training, Resources, and Safety Post-Pandemic

Guest Contributors Marisa Randazzo, PhD and Nabih Numair, CPP contributed to this article.

While the pandemic took everyone by surprise, even more alarming has been the transition as we return to the office. Many agree it will never quite be the same as it was in February 2020. After 18 months of social distancing mandates and limits on in-person interactions, employees are returning to the office with a multitude of stressors — some manageable, and others on the fringe of a crash. It’s critical to think through how to be proactive in mitigating harmful threats and helping those out in need of extra support.

Question 1: How do you identify employees who need additional support?

Identifying employees who need additional support as we return to the office is not always easy to spot. Security professionals should prioritize training that focuses on uncovering anomalies that may signal workplace violence incidents.

“Workplace violence (WPV) training needs to be engaging and interactive. If your WPV training is just a video, your team will not be as ready as they need to be when something goes wrong,” shares Nabih. He adds that training content needs to be realistic, but can’t be over the top so that it induces fear. The goal is for participants to understand the concepts and signals that support pre-incident discovery and ease the transition back to in-person as we return to the office.

This training must also include situational awareness and how to report unusual or concerning behavior. A recent Secret Service report states that two-thirds of the attackers (n = 24, 65%) engaged in prior threatening or concerning communications. Think through how easy or difficult it is for employees to report an issue within your organization. If you’re scratching your head on how an employee might follow the steps, it’s time to reevaluate this process.

Lastly, remember to invite all departments to participate. You can’t limit the teams you train since you never know where an incident can occur.

Question 2: What resources are available to support employees as they return to the office, including space to ease back into a routine?

Companies must understand that the workforce has changed. Employee needs are growing more diverse by the day. A ‘culture of care,’ as Dr. Marisa Randazzo describes, has expanded to encompass health, safety and security. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are provided in-house as well as remote through third-party services, and offer an array of support — from telemedicine, to credit consultation, to emotional wellness resources, e.g., meditation, yoga, apps for sleeping. Providing small opportunities for employees to exhale can go a long way.

Preparing to return to the office is the time to think creatively about different services employees may need as they ease back into an office culture. How you support your team members now, will have an impact on an organization’s success. Even those teammates who continue working remotely, Nabih shares that even they may be faced with a myriad of circumstances, such as domestic violence or burdens of financial distress from significant others who were laid off.

Employers need to look at ensuring team members know of all the resources available and be cognizant of what their team members are going through, regardless of whether they’ve returned to the office or continue to work from home.

Question 3: As teams return to the office, how are you factoring in the effects of the last 18 months into your security strategy for a smooth transition?

Companies have shifted dramatically during the past 18 months — and for many, they’ve gained a pool of potentially disgruntled ex-employees from unfortunate downsizing and layoffs to keep afloat. Poor handling or insensitivity around downsizings and restructurings in such a tense environment can heighten risk as we return to the office environment. Curate all information and intelligence available and share it with those that need to know in order to keep the company and employees well protected.

After all, intelligence on its own isn’t useful without proper training and awareness of how to apply it. Nabih shares that his security philosophy is that training and intelligence go hand in hand. As you prepare for employees and teams to be back in the office together, consider revising incident communication and response policies with front line teams.

Nabih shares an example:

In investigating a POI/BOLO — if your intel unit sees that a POI recently posted online about your CEO and the POI plans on making their grievances known, that information needs to be passed on to your front line executive protection team, guards, and receptionists. This is the time to refresh the policy and procedure across teams. If you wait until an incident happens to train your team, you will fail.

When it comes to training the workforce on pre-incident indicators, threat intelligence comes into play since every region is different. Partner with your intel team to know data points such as crime, terrorism, and other issues that affect the region faces. Leverage that to personalize and regionalize your security training so it is customized to the needs of that particular office or team.

Additional Thoughts

In security, leaders strive for simplicity but unpredictable Covid-19 management guidelines and inconsistency in each state, country and region make that goal anything but simple as employees begin to return to the office. The policies of today may not be the same tomorrow. When communicating with employees, Dr. Randazzo finds communicating regularly is critical. Even sharing that there are no updates at this time is helpful in providing reassurance. It’s easy to wonder and draw conclusions from lack of information, so taking a proactive approach will benefit your organization.

While we are all experiencing the ‘new workplace’ together, review additional Considerations for Returning to the Office for guidance on how to effectively prepare for collaborating with other functions in preparation for what’s ahead.

About our contributors:
Marisa is CEO and Founder, SIGMA Threat Management Associates LLC. SIGMA provides threat assessment training and consulting for school shootings, targeted violence and protective intelligence investigations.

Nabih is Senior Manager, Security Training, Awareness, and Partnerships at Palo Alto Networks. He has built and led teams covering the entire spectrum of physical security; executive protection, security operations, global security operations centers, event security, travel security, workplace violence, security training programs, and more.

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