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Training that triumphs.

A strong training program is critical to good organizational performance. But all training programs are not created equal. To provide the tools for security employees to improve their skills, managers should consider scenario training followed by an auditing program.

Scenario training. In scenario training, managers attempt to create the exact workplace situation in which the employee will perform. Unlike classroom training or testing, scenario training allows managers to observe and reinforce appropriate behaviors.

When implementing a scenario training program, managers must first determine what type of behaviors or performance they want to establish or change. They can then build training efforts around those issues.

Training sessions should use real-life scenarios. Managers should use lifelike locations as well. For example, when training a receptionist or command post guard, managers could use the actual location to stage a training exercise. The designated trainee, or group of trainees, serves as the main actor and responds to situations presented in a scripted scenario. Other employees or trainees should be enlisted in the effort to play the part of customers, contractors, visitors, observers and evaluators.

The contract security manager charged with protecting Intel Corporation used a scenario training program in 1995 to improve customer service skills among security officers. A team leader led the exercise for groups of five to seven employees. Managers experimented with groups of varying size, but found this configuration to be optimal because it gave each trainee a chance to participate.

As each group of employees underwent the training, remaining trainees watched and evaluated the performance. This approach allowed all of the trainees to observe and learn to handle each situation without suffering the stress of the situation.

Advance planning was important to the program's success. Among the factors that had to be dealt with in the planning process were the development of good scripts and the selection of appropriate locations. The most successful scripts were brief and targeted a specific behavior, such as checking badges, arranging escorts for visitors, or just being polite.

West Teleservices Corporation, a Nevada-based company, uses a similar type of training for its customer service telephone operators. Their training sessions involve highly controlled environments simulating various scenarios operators encounter on the job.

During the exercises, trainees are told how to respond to each customer scenario through prompts on a computer screen. These same prompts serve as helpful guides when trainees graduate to the job because they appear on the computer monitor when employees encounter similar scenarios with real customers.

Written scenario testing can offer the same benefits as the more complex physical role-playing discussed previously, but without the cumbersome detail and arrangements. With this type of training, security provides employees with written scenarios and elicits their responses to them. The trainer then provides employees with immediate feedback, both positive and negative.

At a Kmart distribution center in Sparks, Nevada, for example, security managers use written training scenarios to train their officers. The scenarios are created from real situations and are presented in a written text. The officers are asked to read the scripts, evaluate the situations, and decide what action should be taken. After the testing session is over, officers are told how they should have responded and why. Since the training was implemented in early 1998, the program has resulted in a drop in complaints from customers and accolades from other Kmart employees.

Auditing. Companies need to assess whether training is achieving the desired results. Audits go beyond simply testing employees to determine what has been learned to observing actual job performance. These audits need not be complex - they can entail a process as simple as observing employees on the job.

For example, Intel developed an auditing process that provided insight into the performance of its lobby officers. External investigators were hired to perform access penetration audits. These inspections consisted of recorded attempts by investigators to access the facility and test whether the officer on duty was performing his or her duties.

The same two issues stressed in training were highlighted in the testing. First, auditors determined whether the officer visibly inspected visitors and employees or asked for their badges when they entered the facility. Second, auditors checked whether the officer inspected the contents of briefcases and other bags when associates and visitors exited the lobbies. The program provided a precise and objective audit of performance because the auditor was given specific criteria for passing or failing the officer. After each audit, the results were tallied on a pass-or-fail basis. These audits offered a measurable and reportable way to determine the success of training. Employees were informed of their scores, and future training sessions were based on the outcome of the previous audit.

Auditing can be used in other situations as well. Other types of validation include observing a single event and examining whether security personnel are performing correctly. For example, a manager could observe alarm responses, customer service calls, patrols, telephone operations, or report writing. Such tests can be applied to both in-house and contract employees.

Methods of creating audit programs are endless. One often effective idea is to create an internal audit team of employees who work with security to examine company preparedness. Much like an emergency response team, this audit team would test security and report its findings to the security manager. The manager could provide the topic to be audited and the location. Then the audit team could determine the circumstances of the audit. The results should be quantified over a period of time if possible. For example, at Intel, more than eighty audits were performed over a one-month period. This approach provided a substantive, reliable view of overall performance.

Organizations rely heavily on the performance of security employees. Managers cannot afford to allow this important asset to go undeveloped. And one of the best ways to improve employee performance is through a comprehensive scenario training and auditing program.

Eric M. Dominguez, CPP, is the loss prevention and safety manager for Kmart Corporation in its Sparks, Nevada, distribution center. He serves as vice chairman of the Nevada Chapter of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:training of security staff
Author:Dominguez, Eric M.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1999
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