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I/O psych and you.

PRIVATE SECURITY HAS BEcome a major part of everyday life in the United States as it begins to fill in the empty areas of public policing. Private security has become a corporate entity in and of itself, and its rapid development makes you yearn for guidance in obtaining and maintaining effective employees.

Through the use of industrial and organizational psychology, many companies, such as AT&T and Burlington, have developed methods in their hiring procedures as well as their maintenance programs to acquire and keep better employees.

Industrial and organizational psychology, or I/O psych, has developed simple methods employers can implement to offer better and more effective job atmosphere, identity, and social regard for their employees.

Since private security has an estimated 1.1 million personnel working in America, with it comes problems. These include recruitment, interviews, training, and performance appraisals. Although it will take industrial and organizational psychologists several more years before they become an integral part of private security, the principles and techniques learned in this field can be of great significance to both small and large security agencies.

Through the use of I/O psych, several essential functions in a private security agency can be restructured to benefit not only the employees but also the agency. These functions include recruitment, interviews, research and screening, testing, and training. The concerns that involve keeping employees are job satisfaction, promotions, and rewards.

Recruitment. The first topic of analysis in looking at private security agencies is recruitment. Two major aspects pose problems here-recruiting methods and realistic job previews.

There are many ways to recruit personnel. They range from advertising in the paper to attending local job fairs.(1) The most common technique is advertising in the classified section of the local newspaper. However, as one personnel manager mentioned, Too often, individuals recruited in this manner may have been passed over for messenger, building maintenance, or fast-food outlet jobs."(2)

In analyzing the field and the types of employees wanted, many alternatives exist besides advertising. The three most successful methods for private security recruitment are college recruiting, prior experience recruiting, and networking.(3)

In many cities, college campuses offer degrees in law enforcement and criminal justice. On graduation, however, many potential candidates for police work are denied jobs because they lack experience. Recruiting college students to work in an organization while they are still pursuing their degree provides them with the opportunity to gain experience, benefiting both the student and the organization.

The other advantage to college recruitment is that students work hard to build their portfolios of employment references. Recruiting from colleges is made more simple for organizations, too, since many colleges hold job fairs, (1) Margaret Magnus, "Is Your Recruitment All It Can Be?" Personnel Journal, February 1978. (2) Belden Menkus, "Eight Things to Know When Looking for a Commercial Security Service," Administrative Management, November 1986, p. 60. (3) Magnus. providing easy access to an abundant labor force.

Some students are interested in the private security field and plan to obtain full-time positions after graduating. This would be an added bonus to any security agency - to hire and retain a formally educated security officer.

Prior experience recruiting is another method that is standard to any hiring process, as security companies are always looking for experienced employees. However, the specific type of experience is often not considered. If the applicant has prior security experience, questions are raised as to why he or she no longer works for a former agency.

Perhaps the best candidates with experience are former military and police personnel. These applicants are seldom a problem once hired and already have the self-discipline needed to be security officers. Also, any type of former job experience that may not transfer directly may have entailed security tasks. An example of this type of employee is one who worked as a retail salesperson but was also responsible for catching shoplifters.

A third method of recruiting for the security organization is networking. If the organization offers an incentive for its favorable and competent employees already on staff to speak with relatives and friends, more successful applicants may be hired with sustained longevity.

This system is often used at fast-food restaurants with a high degree of success. Since the turnover rate is high and people have a psychological inclination to be around people like them, the mixing of these two factors can reduce the cost of training troublesome employees or those who stay only for a month or two.

One problem security agencies have in the recruitment phase is explaining job attributes to new recruits. One article notes that " applicants receive only minimal information on job attributes in the early stages of recruitment."(4)

A security officer's job description is generally vague and leaves out such facts as having to use one's own vehicle on patrol, working shifts of 10 to 16 hours, and being bored when working solo. The job description is generally left to the imagination and inferences of the applicant.

However, in many studies, such as one conducted by Suszko and Breaugh, "a realistic job preview enabled individuals to self-select out of jobs, helped them cope with stressful job demands, and fostered the perception that the organization had been open and honest with them."(5)

Through the use of realistic job previews, security organizations can hire people who are more interested in the work and adaptable to situations. This way they will not lose as many recruits because the employees feel they have been lied to.

Interviews. Interview techniques used by security agencies are generally short and unstructured. The questions are commonly a reemphasis of the application. Unfortunately, this has not proved to be a successful tool in assessing an applicant. It has been consistently found that "no matter how many times personnel psychologists report a lack of support for interviews, they continue to be used for selection purposes."(6)

The best type of interview for the private security agency recruiting security officers is a structured interview. This type of interview gives a consistent structure to the questions asked because "in order to standardize the procedure each question must be asked of each candidate."(7) Through the help of (4) M. Susan Taylor and Thomas J. Bergmann, "Organizational Recruitment Activities and Applicants' Reactions at Different Stages of the Recruitment Process, " Personnel Psychology, Vol. 40, No. 2, Summer 1987, p. 273. (5) Mary Suszko and James Breaugh, "The Effects of Realistic Job Previews on Applicant SelfSelection and Employee Turnover, Satisfaction, and Coping Ability," Journal of Management, Vol. 12, No. 4, 1986, p. 261. (6) Duane P. Schultz and Sydney E. Schultz, Psychology and Industry Today (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1986), p. 99. (7) John Flynn and Barbara Anderson, "The Development of Reliable Oral Interview Procedures for Promotional Candidates," Journal of Police Science and Administration, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1985, p. 322. I/O psych, an adequate interview question list could be developed, increasing the usefulness of the interview.

Research and screening. Personnel research and screening at many security organizations are practically nonexistent. If research is conducted, it is by the state or when the employee is causing problems, such as frequent tardiness or absenteeism. With a simple phone call, an employer can discover whether the employee has had the same problem or other problems at previous jobs. Such situations can be avoided if the organization researches and screens each applicant.

Police and security organizations "tend to rely on several sources of information about applicants, including aptitude tests, interviews, subjective background ratings, psychological tests, and biographical data such as prior education and prior criminal record."(8)

These are all common methods of predicting future performance, but it was found that "past behavior of applicants was the only type of selection criterion with substantial evidence that it predicted later job performance."(9) Accordingly, private security companies should concentrate more on past performance of their applicants to predict their later performance on the job.

Malouff and Schutte identify three effective ways to limit distortion by applicants."(10) These include * requiring applicants to provide documentary proof of any claim, * contacting family and former employees for references, and * explaining to the applicants their application responses will be checked.(11)

In a study by W. F. Cascio, applicants who were told that their responses would be checked lied much less, regardless of whether their responses were actually checked or not.(12) Using this information, private security agencies could effectivly increase their success at personnel research and screening.

Testing. Testing is perhaps one of the most widely used methods for (8) S. A. Abramson, "A Survey of Campus Police Departments," Police Chief, 1974, p. 57. (9) John M. Malouff and Nicola S. Schutte, "Using Biographical Information to Hire the Best New Police Officers: Research Findings," Journal of Police Science and Administration, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1986, p. 175. (10) Malouff and Schutte, p. 177. (11) Malouff and Schutte, p. 177. (12) W. F. Cascio, "Accuracy of Verifiable Biographical Information Blank Responses, " Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 60, No. 6, 1975, pp. 767-769. predicting future job performance. However, the only testing done at the majority of organizations is that done during classroom training and for weapons qualification.

Two areas of testing are intelligence/ personality and psychological/psychopathological.(13) Numerous intelligence and personality tests can be used, but the Wonderlic Personnel test, which tests spelling, grammar, and math, is perhaps the most effective and efficient for small private security agencies.

The clearest reason for its effectiveness is that "this group test has been useful in predicting success in certain blue-collar jobs such as police work. " As for efficiency, "it takes a mere 12 minutes to complete. "(14) This does not impinge on recruitment time or the economic status of the organization and gives a good prediction of future job performance.

In recent years, courts have called for preemployment psychological testing to be conducted on all law enforcement officers.(15) The private sector of law enforcement has yet to come under any such court mandate, but as a predictor for future job performance, such testing is important.

The test that has "received much research attention in law enforcement [has] been the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI).(16) The MMPI "contains 550 items classified by the respondent as true, false, or cannot say.(17)

Use of the MMPI can show "personality traits [which] include the following symptoms or conditions: hypochondriasis, depression, hysteria, psychopathic deviate, masculinity-femininity, paranoia, psychasthenia, schizophrenia, hypomania, and social introversion."(18) (13) Elizabeth Shusman, Robin E. Inwald, and Hilary F. Knatz, "A Cross-Validation Study of Police Recruit Performance as Predicted by the IPI and MMPI," Journal of Police Science and Administration, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1987, pp. 162169; Gerald Gruber, The Police Applicants Test: A Predicitve Validity Study," Journal of Police Science and Administration, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1986, pp. 121-129; George E. Hargrave and Deirdre Hiatt, "Law Enforcement Selection with the Interview, MMPI, and CPI: A Study of Reliability and Validity," Journal of Police Science and Administration, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1987, p. 110117. (14) Schultz and Schultz, p. 145. (15) McKenna v. Fargo, May 25, 1978, United States District Court, New Jersey. (16) Hargrave and Hiatt, p. 110. (17) Schultz and Schultz, p. 151. (18) Schultz and Schultz, p. 151.

Although no "preemployment psychological screening program can predict how each candidate will later behave as an officer, preemployment identification of individuals with a high probability of 'unsuitable' job behavior can save any hiring institution administrative time and monies."(19) it would be impossible to hire any individual as a security officer responsible for life and property if he or she had any of the personality traits mentioned above.

Training. Training security officers is perhaps one of the most controversial functions of the organization. The state often trains officers, and the courses offered are generally short and lack detail.

Analyzing attributes to look for in a security service, personnel consultant Belden Menkus states that before going on their initial assignment, these individuals, at least, should know how to use basic fire-fighting equipment, provide first aid, deal with bomb threats, and handle severe stress."(20)

Although the state is supposed to handle training in these basic areas, it never goes in depth into this type of security knowledge. At the majority of security agencies, firearms training is the only training that is continuously encouraged. However, it is just as important to be able to handle a variety (19) Shusman, p. 169. (20) Menkus, p. 61. (21) Suszko and Breaugh, p. 261. (22) Barry Gerhart, How important Are Dispositional Factors as Determinants of Job Satisfaction? Implications for Job Design and Other Personnel Programs," Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 27, No. 3, 1987, p. 366. (23) Gary Blau and Kimberly Boal, Conceptualizing How Job involvement and Organizational Commitment Affect Turnover and Absenteeism, " Academy, of management Review, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1987, p. 288. of security situations and comprehend the law as it is to shoot well.

Additional training must be provided in-house. Security officers need to be taught standard operating procedures and laws regarding the different sites the agency serves.

Since the state does not or cannot cover all the topics a security officer should know, training should be the security agency's job. Through the use of I/O psych, a program can be tailored to fit the budget constraints of any security agency.

Low-cost training programs can include workbooks on topics such as physical security and locks. These workbooks could be given to security officers to complete at work or on their own time. The rewards and benefits for the employee can include promotions, ribbons, pay incentives, and time off on weekends or holidays. The rewards and benefits for the employer are better-trained security officers and a reduction in employee stagnation problems and liability risks. ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT TASKS an organization has is not hiring its empoyees but keeping the ones it already has. Job satisfaction is the key to keeping a security officer from quitting, and it can start when an individual applies for a job.

As mentioned previously, one survey found that a realistic job preview helped employees "cope with stressful job demands, and fostered the perception that the organization had been open and honest with them.(21) Employee motivation can be maintained in several ways. For example, rotating job sites and hours can keep the tedious work of security interesting.

A study conducted by Barry Gerhart found that "changes in situational factors such as job complexity are important predictors of job satisfaction.(22) However, this type of change too fast and often can cause a reduction in motivation.

Keeping job absenteeism down is another benefit of job satisfaction. "The (24) Blau and Boal, p. 288. (25) Schultz and Schultz, p. 291. (26) Schultz and Schultz, p. 163. (27) Barbara Malinauskas and Ronald Clement, "Performance Appraisal interviewing for Tangible Results, " Training and Development Journal, Vol. 14, No. 2, February 1987, p. 75. (28) Malinauskas and Clement, p. 79. (29) Schultz and Schultz, p. 303. (30) Schultz and Schultz, P. 302. costs of turnovers and absenteeism to organizations are well documented; such costs are one reason why much effort has gone into understanding the causes of these variables."(23) if an individual is happy and motivated in his or her job, then he or she will perform well and keep absenteeism low.

Through past empirical research . . . job involvement and organizational commitment complement one another as predictors of turnovers and absenteeism."(24) With the use of I/O psych it is possible to determine what these various motivations are and how jobs and working conditions can be designed to satisfy them."(25)

Once an officer is hired, the routine is much the same at most security agencies, with an occasional pat on the back-no formal performance appraisal, no goal setting. Holding a structured performance appraisal "is vital not only for the growth of the organization but also for the growth of the individual employees."(26)

Through an interview, information on the individual's performance and the organization's performance can come about. New ideas can be heard, and people come to understand their own self-worth rather than gauging it through monetary means.

Malinauskas and Clement view the performance appraisal as a "face-to-face meeting between manager and employee held primarily to exchange ideas. Neither party should actually conduct the interview; both need to experience it."(27)

They explain that the manager must work hard on verbal and nonverbal skills to get the most information out of the meeting. "The interview must be approached not in a vacuum but within the overall climate of the organization."(28) If all security agencies implemented these I/O psych performance concepts, security officers would more than likely maintain job satisfaction and longevity.

The other key to the success of performance appraisals for both the employer and employee is to develop a goal-setting program. Goal setting "will produce substantial increases in employee output."(29)

Establishing goals for people helps them to be motivated and feel as if they are working toward more than just another raise. Private security companies could easily implement such a program by giving security officers goals to work toward, such as becoming licensed for private investigation work or attending law enforcement classes at local community colleges. There they could move on to an associate's degree and then a bachelor's degree, with an emphasis in private security.

The agency, however, must be careful since "goals that are so difficult as to seem impossible to achieve are worse than having no goals at all.(30) Through the help of I/O psych, private security agencies could benefit in increased motivation and efforts from their security officers.

The goal of this article was to accumulate evidence that I/O psych can be implemented into a private security agency. One way to increase the validity of this research is through future research aimed at private security as opposed to public police organizations.

I/O psych can be a great benefit in both the recruitment process and maintaining job satisfaction and performance in employees. Research supports the benefits and expertise of I/O psych, and with the policy implications, private security agencies could restructure their organizations, giving them a more effective job atmosphere regarding employee satisfaction, identity, and status and the many social rewards for both the organization and the security officers. About the Author .....Willard M. Oliver of Radford, VA, is a graduate student pursuing a master of science degree in criminal justice. He also works as a sergeant for a private security company in northern Virginia and is a second lieutenant in the US Army Reserves Military Police Corps. ADDITIONAL READING Gilbert, James N. Criminal Investigations.

Columbus, OH: Merrill

Publishing Company, 1986. Spitzer, Stephen, and Andrew T. Scull.

"Privatization and Capitalist Development:

The Case of the Private

Police. " Social Problems. Vol. 25,

1977, pp. 18-29. US Department of Justice. Report to

the Nation on Crime and Justice.

Washington, DC: Government

Printing Office, March 1988.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:industrial and organizational psychology
Author:Oliver, Willard M.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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