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Assessing your training needs.

Assessing your TRAINING NEEDS

One of the most difficult responsibilites of a security manager is to provide current, pertinent, and needed training to various levels of the security force. Faced with financial restrictions, limited staffing, and work schedules, the manager must select and provide instructional material that will enhance the performance and confidence of each officer.

This must be accomplished while the mission of security - the protection of people and company assets - is being fulfilled. Therefore, the manager must follow a precise course of action when designing, developing, and selecting appropriate training material for the security force.

For a training program to be beneficial in both cost and transferable knowledge, proper planning is required. Planning begins with setting goals. Whether the training is to introduce a new concept or review operational procedure, the security manager must decide what behavioral change is required to accomplish the training goal. If relevant training material is to be developed, significant research and planning must go into the project.

One method of accomplishing this task is to establish a partnership in training program development. If training touches more individuals than just those who receive the instruction, others should be involved in creating instructional material.

When conceptualizing a program, the manager should obtain input from several sources. Those affected by the training must be considered, such as management and supervisory personnel, program implementers, other employees, and visitors.

Since training should be directed toward changing behavior, the content of an instructional program should contain information aimed toward that objective. The first step in arriving at this goal is to initiate a needs assessment.

As mentioned earlier, security force training affects the entire company and thus should include recommendations from other individuals in the organization. To ensure essential information is obtained for instructional modules, the assessment process should include individuals who can provide input to the programs.

Before embarking on any training venture, the manager must identify what material is relevant to present to trainees. To initiate a program without determining what to teach is a waste of time, money, and staffing. Without a clear instructional direction, the activities that go into the development of a training program may have negative results. Therefore, a needs assessment must be performed prior to designing instructional material.

A needs assessment is a systematic examination of current job performance and a desired set of job skills. It compares what an employee should be doing in the assigned tasks to what actually is being done by incumbents of a position.

A needs assessment can assist in identifying deficiencies and introducing new procedures required on a job. A needs assessment can also be used to

* gain the support of top management,

* identify training topics needed to improve job performance,

* gather data for program evaluation,

* develop competence in new operational procedures, and

* develop cooperation from each segment of the force.

To perform a needs assessment, the manager can use one or several of the following methods:

* interviews

* questionnaires

* group discussions

* document reviews

* feedback

Interviews. A simple approach to obtaining material for a course is to ask those individuals who will be affected by it. By talking to them, the security manager can determine possible problem areas, solutions to performance discrepancies, and procedures to improve security services.

For an organizational viewpoint concerning the type and content of an instructional program, the executive with the ultimate responsibility for the security operations should be interviewed. This person can provide suggestions relating to the mission of both the company and the security operation. By integrating the two functions, security can guarantee training will improve the service it provides the company and at the same time allow other individuals to feel they have a stake in the overall security plan.

By including the top manager in the formation of training programs, the security manager can define the role security plays in the company's mission as well as obtain commitment from the top executives for future security-related functions. Also, human resource development professionals strongly believe training will have a better impact on the organization if manager and executive support is obtained throughout the needs assessment phase.

Others who can contribute to the course design are those who work with the employees targeted for the training. If the program is directed toward security officers, supervisors should be involved in supplying proposed course content. They can provide an accurate picture of what skills are needed to improve performance and what topics can be presented to enhance officers' overall knowledge.

Conversely, if the instructional program is being developed for supervisors, security officers can be interviewed to obtain information regarding topics to enhance supervisors' performance. Both groups can identify possible discrepancies between current and desired behavior.

The final group that can offer suggestions for training consists of those individuals who will receive the training. Whether these employees are interviewed individually or as a group, they can tell what they need to perform their job.

If the size of the security force prohibits interviews, basic information to design a questionnaire can be obtained through interviewing a sample group. The questionnaire, in turn, can be used to solicit information from the entire body of personnel.

Questionnaires. Questionnaires can be used to reach a large number of people quickly. If written correctly, they allow the respondents an opportunity to take time to think about their answers before responding. The procedure provides the manager a chance to analyze the respondents' suggestions before designing the program.

Developing and using questionnaires requires some thought. The following suggestions should be considered:

* Write a cover letter explaining the purpose of the questionnaire.

* Provide clear and specific instructions on the questionnaire.

* Ensure the document is easy to understand.

* Focus questions on the needs of the respondents.

* Write questions directed toward training issues and related matter.

* Allow respondents an opportunity to provide additional information concerning training issues.

Questionnaires are an excellent mechanism for collecting and interpreting information from a large number of individuals. They permit the manager to survey the thoughts and feelings of the entire security force rather than a small sample. When used correctly, this method provides the manager a solid foundation on which to initiate a training program.

Group discussions. After obtaining recommendations for training through interviews and questionnaires, clarify the data collected by using a discussion group.

In addition to refining course content, group discussions can be used to promote cooperation among the security force. By instilling an attitude of cohesiveness among the participants, an understanding can be developed that the training is directed toward enhancing the entire force's performance.

A by-product of the group effort may be the creation of a relationship with those individuals who will be directly involved in the upcoming changes and a continuing commitment to provide support for future training issues.

To ensure positive results, the manager should prepare for the discussions. Planning for group interaction should include developing a clear and concise agenda, projecting the proper size for the work group, ensuring the group represents the entire force, and ensuring results of previous inquiries are available to participants.

Discussion groups can elicit many ideas for developing a training program. However, while using this approach, the manager must be conscious of some possible problems.

For example, one or two individuals should not be allowed to dominate the process. Every person attending the activity should have an equal chance to provide input. The manager must also be alert to the interactions of group members to prevent a debate over issues. While a certain level of disagreement is healthy, actual conflict is counterproductive to the goals of the meeting.

If conducted properly, group discussions can be beneficial to designing a training program. The procedure allows for the synthesis of several viewpoints, provides a method to build support for training, and gives those who are to receive the instructional material a partnership in the program's development.

Document reviews. Documents such as incident reports, accident reports, previous training statements, and other similar material can provide a manager with a wealth of information for training program development. Because these documents reflect real-world activities, a manager can gauge the efficiency of the security force, analyze the officers' competence, and provide input on potential training topics.

To use this information correctly, the manager should examine the documents to see where improvement can be made through training. Since these documents are readily available and obtaining the data is inexpensive, the manager would be remiss if he or she did not use this needs assessment method.

Feedback. The needs assessment phase of program development should include feedback to those individuals who assisted in it. Discussing the results of the assessment provides several important benefits.

First, each person will feel he or she is an active participant in the overall training program to improve the performance of the security operation. Second, information sharing allows those individuals who fund the programs to take an active role in reviewing the efforts of the security department. Finally, these individuals will support future training endeavors.

Training programs are designed to improve employees' ability to carry out their job responsibilities. Whether a program is developed to improve or correct current performance or ensure a new operational procedure is performed appropriately, security managers must ensure efforts are directed toward that end.

The temptation to provide instructional materials without conducting a thorough needs assessment must be avoided if relevant and needed training is to be provided. The time it takes to administer a needs assessment is well worth the effort when compared to a training program that has not improved employee performance.

Training goals, whether in the form of learning or program objectives, are the cornerstone of any instructional endeavor. Unless they are clearly delineated, there is no way for the manager to determine if the program has been successful. Therefore, it is the security manager's responsibility to ensure a needs assessment is performed prior to any training program.

John E. Glorioso, Sr., is chief of services for a security force with an agency of the Department of Defense.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Glorioso, John E.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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