The Imperative for Human Resources and Security to Work as One

I often talk to large enterprises about the way their corporate security teams are structured and what other teams they work with to gain or share threat data. Often I come to find out that many departments, in particular human resources (HR) teams, are often siloed from corporate security.  

Not working closely with HR can be a major hindrance to a corporate physical security program. Think about it this way: the HR team had a record of an employee who during a termination made a threat against the CEO but didn’t share that record with corporate security. That employee is then seen a week later by the executive protection team stalking the CEOs home or office.  Had HR shared that information with the team when it happened, they could’ve better monitored for the threat in advance and stopped a potential threat actor against the CEO.

I recently spoke to a group of HR professionals at the SHRM 2021 Conference. It was exciting to be in front of an audience I don’t normally get to connect with. I talked with them not only about the importance of convergence with corporate security but also the threat of workplace violence in a remote world and how to develop best practices around protective intelligence and threat assessment

My hope is that they walked away with a better understanding of how to bridge the gap. It’s all about providing a more comprehensive view of potential threats, in a single pane of glass, monitoring the status of terminated employees, aiding in assessing the threat posed by problematic actors, and tracking for new signals of violence.

The threat of workplace violence, even at home

Workplace violence (WPV) is one of the most prevalent physical security threats seen by corporations today. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) each year, an average of nearly 2 million U.S. workers report having been a victim of violence at work.

But despite being such a large threat, many corporations are not paying enough attention to workplace violence. This became clear in our 2021 Mid-Year Outlook State of Protective Intelligence Report where over one-quarter (26%) of those surveyed said their company has never addressed the potential for workplace violence and employees would not know what to do if an active shooter entered their facilities. 

Furthermore, workplace violence is now not only an “at the office” issue. A virtual workforce has pushed potential threats and the duty of care into newer territories (like the home) where many teams lack the resources, tools and expertise to manage. Now, HR professionals are having difficult and emotional conversations with disgruntled employees in attempts to resolve undesirable situations via videoconference. Even when done appropriately, the virtual medium can come across as impersonal. HR and security teams need to be thinking about what happens when a furloughed or fired employee decides to retaliate.  

Utilizing protective intelligence and threat assessment

After a lifetime of investigating threats and attacks, I know that it is a complex challenge for HR and corporate security teams to figure which individuals are a threat or who needs some extra support. It’s critical to identify and act on warning signs.​ And just because you don’t know, doesn’t mean you’re absolved from compliance in keeping employees safe.  Finding the threat (signal) is important, but do you know where to look?  

To do this effectively, organizations need tools that guide the identification of threats, gathering of information, assessment, creation and implementation of plans for addressing threats.  This way all teams (human resources, corporate security, executive protection, etc.) can play a role in evaluating and addressing threatening behavior and reducing the risk of workplace violence.

Without proactive programs in place, organizations can be surprised in today’s threat landscape — from stalking, to handling disgruntled employee behavior, to addressing mental health.  A single thread that connects protective intelligence technology to behavioral threat assessment methodologies is game-changing.  The latter takes the guessing out of the equation.  

Today, many organizations end up viewing threat indicators as independent events due to limited context – isolated in HR or security conversations. It is risky when you can’t see the full picture, or prioritize what matters the most.​ Working together, HR, Legal, and security teams can understand the signals together and keep employees safe. ​

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Fred Burton