At a keynote presentation at NRF Protect last month, a panel of industry leaders was shown data that 65 percent of retailers provide active shooter training and was asked—why aren’t we at 100 percent? While there is still room for improvement, experts noted that violence prevention training occurs more frequently today than five years ago and is becoming more common all the time.
Violence prevention training should be standard, agreed Kathleen Smith, vice president of asset protection with Albertsons. Employees are on the front lines, exposed to many threats, and so they need clear guidelines for actions to take in the event of an incident, she said.
Scott McBride, vice president of global loss prevention, safety, and security for American Eagle, echoed the importance of employee training on violence prevention and suggested it may help LP to sell it as standard operating procedure. “I believe part of the challenge is in the presentation to management,” McBride said. “Just like cashier training includes all possible cash register issues, employee training should cover all threats. Don’t sell it as a separate training program,” he advised.
But whether violence prevention training is standalone or part of a general training curriculum, the effectiveness of the effort needs to undergo assessment. Do we provide enough training? Will it prevent violence? How, in fact, do we know if the training we’ve contracted for is doing any good at all? These are daunting questions, compounded by the fact that workplace violence prevention is not a core expertise for many LP leaders.
McBride noted that his team continues to evolve its plan to prevent violence, and he includes peer networking with those in industries outside retail. Indeed, a lot can be learned from the consensus of trainers with expertise in aggression management and security leaders that have managed programs for decades in high-risk industries such as healthcare. We solicited suggestions from these experts to help LP leaders assess whether their current in-house violence prevention training is effective and to help choose between different training providers.
Standards for Course Content
At a minimum, experts generally agree that employee training on workplace violence should cover the following 12 core elements:
1. Core values. Training must promote the core values of the organization and tie violence prevention training into the corporate mission.
2. Risk assessment. Your actual risk should provide the basis for the extent and content of training. A good training program provides content after identifying who is at risk and from what types of violence.
3. Definitions of aggression and violence. It is necessary to teach employees how your company defines violence and what types of incidents they need to report, such as a verbal assault by a customer.
4. Safe systems of work. Part of protecting employees from violence is teaching them how their physical environment may protect them or put them at risk, such as store design and layout, alarms, how to call for security assistance, how to report an incident, and so on.
5. Profiles of aggressive individuals employees may encounter. For example, information should provide characteristics of irate customers, intoxicated individuals, or people with mental illness.
6. Theoretical models of aggression and violence. Educate employees on why aggressive feelings may occur, both in others and themselves, and how to address those feelings.
7. Conditions and triggers for the prediction of aggressive behavior. These will help employees or supervisors anticipate and defuse a potentially violent situation.
8. Both theoretical models and skills practice for de-escalation. Good workplace violence programs will include skills training on how to respond to aggressive behavior and potentially violent situations.
9. Legal and ethical issues. The information must be relevant to the different groups of training recipients. One example would be restraining methods LP agents can and should not employ.
10. Physical contact skills. For different relevant personnel, provide skills training on escaping, blocking an attack, or restraint.
11. Hostage situations. Address immediate management of hostage situations for security and relevant management and employee personnel.
12. Support programs. Provide awareness education on support programs that are available for employees who feel threatened or become the victim of a violent incident.
3 Questions for Assessing Training Providers
Standardized training packages should be approached with caution, warn training experts. Choosing a training provider or determining training course content should be based on detailed needs analysis.
Carefully select a training provider by researching the program content from several providers and through consultation with similar organizations to obtain recommendations. Then focus on three key questions to judge the suitability of the company’s training before making your final selection.
1. What is the values base of the training? A violence prevention training program will not only impart skills and knowledge to your employees, it will transfer values that will infiltrate your company culture. Make sure any presentation will be in line with your corporate values and reinforces how it approaches aggression and violent situations. Investigate what legal and ethical issues the training will cover and if it is consistent with your company policy.
2. Will it work in our environment? Training programs, especially those geared toward handling armed intruders, may presume certain conditions, such as the presence of alarms, security personnel, and so on. Research whether the training will support your physical environment as well as your company policies.
3. Are the techniques relevant? Any training program should be directly relevant to the situation in which you expect employees to use the skills. As such, you need to assess for gaps in a provider’s training program and fill them in yourself. For example, an outside trainer on aggression management likely won’t address your incident reporting structure; so you need to educate employees on it or work with the provider to include it in their program.
Words of warning
Training should be only one component of a workplace violence prevention program, note experts. It must also address issues such as store design, complaint reporting procedures, operational policies, and so on. Training also needs adequate funding, should be periodically monitored, undergo annual review, and include a plan for periodic refresher training.