Additional Considerations for Workplace Violence Prevention Training
Establishing and nurturing an effective WPV/APR Program demands organizational resolve combined with a multi-disciplinary approach. Organizations who are committed to a truly effective program should consider the following:
Getting Executive Leadership on Board
One of the biggest challenges safety and security professionals face is the need to help their senior leadership understand the importance of having a robust WPV Prevention and Intervention Program that includes comprehensive awareness, prevention, and response training. WPV program initiatives typically compete with a myriad of other priorities, and executives are often forced to make difficult decisions with limited time and resources. As such, it can be helpful for action officers to put themselves in the shoes of the executive leadership team and present information that makes a strong business case for a program that also includes prevention and response training. Cost avoidance and mitigating liability are two powerful ways to help senior leaders understand the importance of a strong program, and two examples of such information might be statistics like these:
- Currently, retribution settlements for “actual violence” (i.e. “physical violence”) in the workplace average $500,000 for out-of-court settlements and $3,000,000 for jury awards.
- The potential impact of a workplace violence-related crisis, such as an event involving loss of human life (e.g., an active shooter incident), on indirect aspects of an organization (such as brand and reputation) are estimated to run as high as 100x -200x the measurable costs of the tragedy.
WPV subject matter experts are increasingly providing eBooks and articles that provide this type of data and perspective as a way to help with WPV Prevention and Intervention Program advocacy.
Creating an Integrated Team Approach
In many organizations, the challenge isn’t so much a lack of awareness about WPV prevention and intervention as it is about specifically what should be done and how the organization should go about doing it. In general, there are often two independent and different groups within organizations that are striving to chart a best way forward.
- Safety/Security professionals who approach the challenge of prevention and intervention from a risk management and emergency response perspective. This typically leads to an approach that’s focused on negative incentives, which means concentrating on deterring, preventing, detecting, and punishing misbehavior. Training programs designed solely from this perspective have the potential to feel punitive in nature, since the focus can often seem to center on “looking for what’s wrong.”
- Human Resources and Learning & Development (HR/L&D) who tend to focus primarily on positive incentives such as employee engagement, connectedness, and support as a way to nurture prevention and enhance early intervention. Training programs designed solely from this perspective can sometimes feel overly optimistic and unrealistic in pragmatic application.
In truth, however, each group brings unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to their approach to the issue of workplace violence. Forming a partnership between HR/L&D and Safety/Security is essential in addressing the issue of workplace violence from a more holistic approach, facilitating balanced deterrence and comprehensive intervention and response.
Utilizing outside experts
Organizations often hire outside professionals with years of experience to augment their internal efforts, such as retaining a Certified Threat Manager to help train as well as guide their Threat Management Team through “real-world” cases. In other instances, the organization may reach to entities that can provide a wide array of services “on demand” in order to assist in the development, implementation, and ongoing maintenance of their Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention Program. Given the inherent complexities related to workplace violence, it can be helpful to reach to long-time professionals with deep subject matter expertise in such things as a) WPV policy development and coordination, b) behavioral threat assessment, c) behavioral analysis to include profiling assistance and guidance in such things as high-risk terminations and/or difficult personnel actions, d) critical incident after care to assist in bridging individuals to proper long-term mental healthcare following a potentially traumatic event, and e) any other emergent issues related to WPV.
WPV Prevention Training Tools and Best Practices
Highly effective WPV/APR programs don’t just happen. Providing the right knowledge, empowering people to take appropriate action when needed, and creating a culture where people commit to “looking out for one another” requires careful planning and execution. Those responsible for choosing program components can get a good start by familiarizing themselves with essential building blocks and best-practices, including the following:
Video-based tools - Video examples can be among the most effective and easy-to-digest additions to any WPV prevention and response training program, provided they are relatable, and not overly graphic. The best videos make people mindful, not fearful; they increase awareness of all types of workplace violence, familiarize employees with their options should they witness concerning behaviors, and model actions that can improve a person’s odds of surviving an extreme violence event.
Note: In the area of extreme violence response training, organizations that have previously adopted the Department of Homeland Security’s “Run-Hide-Fight” instruction, may want to select videos that reflect this verbiage versus alternatives.
Manager-Specific Training - In general, workplace violence training advises people to bring concerning behavior to the attention of their manager or supervisor, HR, or Security. But employees typically approach their managers first. Therefore, it’s important that WPV prevention training provide instruction for managers designed to help them become more aware as to whether or not an employee might be on a path toward violence. This type of training enables managers to have a deeper understanding and a greater confidence in recognizing potential signs of trouble at their earliest stages, when intervention methods are most effective. The more aware and comfortable managers are in recognizing and understanding the potential of workplace violence, the better able they are to create a safe and respectful work environment; one in which employees readily adopt the I’ve-got-your-back mindset and feel comfortable coming forward with concerns.
Facilitation Tips – When selecting training materials, organizations should consider a provider that acknowledges the sensitive nature of this topic and provides supplemental facilitation materials on how to handle complex situations, especially when covering extreme violence response. Common Questions like “Why are we having this training, has there been some kind of threat?” can easily derail a planned training session before it starts.
Infographics offer a quick-reference visual tool to enhance knowledge about issues related to workplace violence —awareness, prevention and response—graphically putting definitions and key statistics front and center. In many instances, infographics also serve as point-of-need job aids, providing employees with reminders about when and how to report concerning behaviors.
Hands-on interactive tools ensure that experiential learning becomes a part of workplace violence prevention training. Online quizzes and assessments are entertaining and illuminating methods individuals can use to learn the facts on this topic and embrace the role they play in prevention and response.
Refresher Training – Studies show that learners can forget as much as 50-80% of acquired knowledge within 24 hours. Refresher training can help fight this trend by ensuring that the most important aspects of prevention and response are kept front of mind. For WPV training, these refreshers could include supplemental courses on the fundamentals of verbal de-escalation, the corrosive emotional impact of workplace incivility, domestic violence and its potential impact on workplace safety, and how concerning behaviors can also be indicators for the risk of Insider Threat and even employee suicide.
Flexible Deployment Options – Particularly in big companies, deployment of training can pose a significant challenge. e-Learning solutions don’t always make it to all employees, especially those on assembly lines and in warehouses. In many cases, supplemental facilitator-led training is needed to reach certain groups of employees. WPV prevention training providers who offer an assortment of delivery options can help ensure a consistent training experience throughout the organization.
The Future of Workplace Violence Prevention & Intervention (and a Brief Look at the Past)
The best way to understand where workplace violence prevention training is headed and why, is to first reflect a little on the past. A quick review of this topic’s evolution shows a progression from being focused primarily on incidents of murder and serious physical harm to a focus on all forms of incivility, abuse, and violence.
The Problem Emerges….
Violence within the workplace is probably something that’s always existed at some level. However, awareness of an emerging problem didn’t really enter the public consciousness until the tragic August 1986 Postal Service shooting, where a part-time U.S. letter carrier shot and killed 14 people before turning the gun on himself.*
Even though there had been several prior shootings at U.S. post offices, with one going back as far as 1970, the 1986 incident marked a new phase where heightened media attention pushed the issue of violence in the workplace to a new level of societal awareness. These post office incidents led the FBI to initially define workplace violence as murder or other violent acts by a disgruntled employee against coworkers or supervisors. Since then, of course, the concept of workplace violence has been evolving and expanding.
*It was through this incident that the expression “going postal” was coined. Unfortunately, it’s still possible to hear this phrase quipped in conversation today even though in the year 2000 the United States Postal Service noted that the term is a “misnomer,” citing a commission report, which showed that postal employees are less likely to be homicide victims than are employees of other workplaces.