AS STRONG AS ITS WEAKEST LINK
Developing Strategies for a Security Program
3. As Strong as Its Weakest Link • The Human Element
Whether we work in a university art gallery, public
library, science center, or research collection; whether we have
in-house security employees, student gallery aides, campus police, or
contract security; whether we rely on our collections staff and other
employees to uphold security standardsthe components of our
security programs are basically the same:
(1) staff, (2) technical systems, and (3) policies
and procedures, with training tying these components together.
As the operations director at the Huntington Library.
Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, my responsibilities include
security, facilities, and risk management. I have come to believe that
the risk management field too often fails to take into account the
crucial human element. If we have not managed people, we have not
managed risk. Although each element of our security program is
critical, I will focus on people, the potential "weakest link."
Specifically, I will discuss training, motivation,
and development (though there are many other components of the human
element, or the "people" issue, including hiring, mentoring,
counseling, and others). I may select qualified people
who have good work ethics, but if they are bored,
they will be weak links. I can have sophisticated technical systems, but
if my staff members are not trained to monitor and respond to alarms
appropriately, the systems are of minimal use. I may have the most
beautifully crafted policies and procedures, handsomely bound, but if my
staff cannot understand them and articulate what they are, why they
exist, and how to implement them, then those policies and procedures
are not worth the paper on which they are written.
So, how do we manage the people in our operations?
How do we keep our employees attentive, aware, loyal, and acting as
outstanding stewards of the institution's assets? And, how do we measure
the success of our efforts to train and motivate our staff, as indicated
by how well we serve our constituents?
Let us start by looking at what motivates those
responsible for the security of the collections and what creates an
attractive work environment and organizational culture. The United
States @ Work 2000 study, initiated by Aon Consulting's Loyalty
Institute, focuses on employee behaviors that define commitment. It
identifies seven key ways by which companies can build employee loyalty:
(1) enabling employees to fully develop their skillswith ongoing
training to enhance their ability to feel competent and well prepared to
do their jobs; (2) providing pay and benefits that truly meet employee
needs (although compensation is beyond the scope of this discussion, I
will address many intangible benefits we can provide our staff); (3)
building a sense of spirit and pridea sense of purpose,
self-worth, and belief in the institution; (4) helping employees
balance their personal needs and goals with job
requirementsthrough social interaction, a sense of community, and
belonging; (5) offering opportunities for personal growth; (6) giving to
employees the same commitment we expect them to give to the
organizationallowing them to take pride in the team and feel
acknowledged as individual performers; and (7) demonstrating the importance of
To begin, we can encourage professional growth
through ongoing training to enhance competence and preparedness to do a
job. Management should make sure training is an ongoing process for all
staffnot something that happens only during the first two weeks of
employment. We should create opportunities for security officers and collections
staff to share experiences. Huntington collections include art, rare
books, manuscripts, ephemera, and plants, so sometimes it is difficult
for security officers to recognize what objects and plants are actually
collections material. Encouraging conversations between security
officers and curators and conservators reaps benefits on both sides.
Another factor is staff participation in volunteer and docent training.
We should get officers involved in activities with volunteers. Not only
does such interaction provide an opportunity to talk about issues
related to collections safety and preservation, but it also raises the
profile of the security function.
Some of the best career motivators come from added
responsibility and opportunities for advancement. For example, ask a
security officer to head a task force to look at vacation scheduling.
Permit an officer to be responsible for a roll callto select the
topic, find appropriate materials, and present the topic or arrange for
a guest speaker to do so. We can also identify and post a different
training topic for each month, tying our selection of guest speakers
and activities into the theme. For example, during "collections" month,
discuss theft response, have a preparator talk about object mounts and
review collections movement policies, have your facilities staff
discuss temperature and humidity monitoring, and
invite the public relations staff to discuss the scope of the
collections from the point of view of institutional image.
We should consider a "formal" certification for
completion of a set of programs. Programs could include
videos to watch, one-on-one training with a supervisor,
presentations by collections staff, and so on. Programs can be
self-directed and should be based on an assessment of what competencies
are important to the protection of the institution's assets.
Recognize completion of the certification path by
presenting the officer with a lapel pin to be worn on the uniform.
Do your officers understand how to move up in the
organization? Do they know what skills are needed and how to acquire and
demonstrate them? You might initiate a "mystery shopper" program with a
sister institution. Have a new security officer observe officers
at the other institution anonymously from the visitor's or scholar's
perspective. Provide guidelines on what to look for in behavior and
deportment, what to ask, and what to do. Debrief your officer on the way
security officers behaved at the other institution. Discuss the skills
that enhance performance.
In building spirit and pride and belief in the
institution, we can encourage our staff to feel part of the mission in
several ways. Staff members should understand the institution's mission
and be able to articulate it. Do you have related mission statements
for security and preservation? If not, how about developing such mission
statements with your staff, to create focus and buy-in to the mission?
The Huntington and Getty museums' security mission statements are such
examples. At the Huntington,
Adhering to the highest ethical standards, the security department
provides for the security and safety of the visitors and staff and
protects and preserves the collections and other assets of The
Huntington. We facilitate an enjoyable experience for all visitors and a
pleasant work environment for staff. Acknowledging the theme of
education in The Huntington's institutional mission statement, the
security department recognizes its duty to inform and educate staff and
visitors about security and safety issues in order to sustain and
promote the continuing welfare
of the institution and its collections. The department provides these
services with diligence, efficiency, thrift and politeness. The
administration of The Huntington supports and encourages the security
department in its pursuit of the goals put forth in this mission
The Getty's mission statement promises a commitment
"To safeguard and protect the visitors, staff, collections, and
facilities of the Getty through a combination of security and emergency
procedures, technology, and trained personnel."
We must provide information about the institution to
security officers to help create buy-in to the organization. Invite
guest speakers to your roll calls or department meetings. Consider
inviting those inside your institution, such as curators for exhibition
previews, educators for new family programs, the president of the
institution, and the public relations manageras well as those
outside the institution, such as the local fire chief or the
construction foreman working on a project at your institution. Relay
monthly attendance statistics, visitor and staff accident information,
and updates on construction projects. Beware the attitude of the
telecommunication's organization supervisor who said, "We know that
communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it
with the employees."
The Ritz Carlton, in another example, emphasizes the
positive power of words in dealing with clients. It is important to
view both visitors and staff as key clients. What impression do you get
when you hear that "Our policy is . . ." versus what you feel when told,
"I apologize for the inconvenience?" How about, "I am not allowed to .
. .," versus "How can I help?" Keep in mind what words say about the
department's philosophy toward dealing with its many clients.
Balancing personal needs with job
requirementsto build social interaction and a sense of community
and belongingstarts with the fact that "All work is sociala
fact of work life that people ignore at their peril." So says Lois P.
Frankel, a business coach and senior partner at Corporate
Coaching International in Los Angeles, California. "Establishing good
working relationships can help us secure the cooperation of the people
we need to accomplish our tasks. If we delay building good relationships
until we really need them, it will be too late." Some of her favorite
techniques include dropping into someone's office once a day for a
ten-minute talk or greeting security officers by the timeclock for a
chat about their families or vacation plans. Casual conversation helps
build friendly relationships that can withstand stress. When people talk
to you, listenput everything else on hold. Begin conversations
with small talkso people know you care about them, not just their
We should acknowledge that our staff members have
private lives. Consider rewards that appeal to a staff member's leisure
time activitiesmovie tickets or restaurant gift certificates.
Sometimes sending a card to the staff member's significant other is
appropriate. Do not be the shipping executive who asked an employee to
reschedule her sister's funeral to a day that "would be better for
Whenever possible, schedule all-staff activities at a
time when officers can attendright before their reporting time,
for example. Otherwise, consider rotating attendancefree up two
officers this time, two different officers next time.
To create opportunities for personal
growthanother important element in staff engagementwe
should strive to make the work more interesting. A career as a security
officer may very well seem inherently boring. To fight that, try rotating
posts through and within buildings. Rotations can occur within a
single day, day to day, week to week, or even less frequently, but give
people something different to look at and a way to fight the tendency to
become immune to their surroundings. As an added benefit, new eyes
looking at the same area may result in suggestions for improvements.
If you have regular meetings or roll calls, hold some
of them "in the field," at construction sites, exhibit installations, or
tricky access points. During training sessions or roll calls, get out
the grab bag. Have your security officers write down questions they are
most frequently asked. Take other questions from complaints or
suggestions on comment cards, the communications or public relations
department, receptionists, and visitor surveys. Write a single question
on each slip of paper, creating as many slips as you want and putting
them into the grab bag. During training sessions, have a security
officer draw, read, and respond to the question, and then follow with a
helpful critique from you and from officers present. Instead of slips of
paper, the Getty uses laminated flash cards, color-coded by topic, that
can be used by supervisors with officers, or as self-study aids. The
flash cards can be used for training exercises that test the officer's
knowledge of steps to take in a specified situation.
Role-playing, too, can be a useful training device.
Develop and stage brief scenarios (thirty seconds to two minutes)
relevant to your environment. Use your enthusiastic problem-solvers (your
security officers, volunteers, or others) to create scenarios and to
perform in them. For example, pretend a visitor tries to take a flash
photograph in the manuscripts gallery. Create a situation in which
everyone winswhere the security officer stops the visitor from
taking flash photographs, but the visitor retains his or her dignity and
good feelings about the organization. Focus on the "win-win" scenario,
but show "losing" scenarios, too. Consider videotaping sessions for future
To keep hourly employees engaged and alert, it may
help to rotate staff members to other departments for a half-day.
Have a security officer spend some time in the stacks, and rotate a
collections staff member from the stacks to a bag checkpoint.
A scavenger hunt can be a fun, effective, and quick
way to ensure that security officers remain knowledgeable. One natural
area to focus on is the location of visitor-service-related
subjects, particularly for new staff orientation: where visitors can
fill out comment cards; where the X exhibition is; where restrooms and
drinking fountains are located; where Y special painting is located;
where to go for information on Z; and so on. Have security officers
retrieve a marker from each location to prove they found the right
destination. Or, scavenger hunts can focus on the location of fire
extinguishers, emergency exits, or water leak response kits.
We need to find ways to give to employees the same
commitment we expect them to give to the organizationan ability
to take pride in the team and also feel acknowledged as individual
performers. In the Denver Museum of Natural History's customer service
department, staff members found that their services were well rated by
visitors, providing them an opportunity to take pride in the team. As a
result, the staff decided to aim higher, to put a fine polish on those
services by improving staff morale and job satisfaction, focusing on the
individual performer. The underlying assumption that happier people are
more effective and make better representatives for our institutions
works from a security perspective. Staff members who enjoy their work
and take pride in it make more invested and alert guardians of the
collections. The museums efforts included involving staff members in
crafting their own job descriptions and evaluation criteria and in
providing more frequent, informal evaluations of those staff
It is important to find opportunities for public
recognition through staff newsletters, roll calls, and department meetings.
The "Practical Supervision" newsletter from Professional Training
Associates recommends starting each week with a list of your employees.
As soon as you notice an employee doing something that merits
recognition, make a note beside the person's name. Add a big check mark as soon as you
congratulate the person for his or her accomplishment, something that
should be done right away. Pay special attention to people who still do
not have a check mark by Thursday, and find a contribution to
The Science Place in Dallas, Texas, launched a "Wow!"
program. When a staff member goes above and beyond the call of duty, the
person who recognizes the achievement gives the staff member a coupon
redeemable for small prizes and an employee-of-the-month recognition
(provided through the organization). Both the recipient and the giver
are appreciated for values honored by the organization: innovative
ideas, creative problem solving, honoring of cultural diversity, superb
communication, and so on. Likewise, the "Shining Star" program at the
Shedd Aquarium provides a pin and recognition breakfast for high
If your security officers already wear name badges,
add an indication if they are bilingual (e.g., "Officer Jones, Yo hablo
Espanol"). The officer is proud of his or her extra capabilities, the
staff recognizes that special skill, and visitors receive appropriate
assistance. Other ways to emphasize staff teamwork include taking an
annual department photograph to post or to distribute to other staff
online; providing opportunities for a public round of applause, such as
at staff holiday lunches, all-staff meetings, and department meetings;
and asking people what rewards are meaningful to them. Go straight to
the source to find out what motivates your staff members.
It is also important to show commitment to retaining
employees by communicating that the institution values high-achieving
employees. Assess staff turnover to see how successfully you are
retaining those staff members. Does the rate of preventable terminations
exceed that of other departments or the institution as a whole? Does it
exceed last year's figures? Does it exceed an industry benchmark?
We have looked at ways to keep our staff motivated
and attentive. Now, how do we know whether our efforts are paying off?
How do we measure success in meeting our organization's objectives
through an invigorated staff? At the Huntington, the security manager
and I jointly determined who the security department serves and what
those constituents want. We then crafted some basic security
objectivesthe fundamental responsibilities of the security
functionand agreed on ways to measure progress against these
objectives. We developed five broad objectives for our security organization
and established ways to measure our success:
(1) The Huntington experiences no collections,
buildings, or property damage or loss that reasonably could have been
anticipated or mitigated by security actions. This is measured by loss
(2) Huntington staff membersand also readers,
volunteers, and othersperceive that the security department adds
value to their work life and work environment. Added value is measured
by discussions with staff members or surveys of staff attitudes, reports
to the safety log, and incident reports. Elements here include the
Staff members feel safe and secure at work.
Staff members receive appropriate and reasonable
assistance from security officers, consistently and promptly.
Staff members perceive that security-related
policies and procedures are reasonable and fair.
Staff members perceive that the security of the
institution is rigorous and appropriate for the people and
(3) Huntington visitors perceive that the security
department adds value to their visit. Visitor reactions are measured by
discussions or surveys with visitors, and by comment cards. We want to
visitors feel safe and secure on the property;
visitors feel welcome; and
visitors receive accurate and helpful information
from security officers.
(4) Senior management of the Huntington perceives
that the security department is efficiently, effectively, and credibly
led by security management staff. Leadership is measured by turnover and
retention ratios, through observation of the general ledgers on a
quarterly basis, and through discussions with principal security
officers. Our goals are to ensure that:
High-achieving security officers are retained.
The combined operating and salary budget in the
security department is consistently within 1 percent of the budgeted
Senior management perceives that it is valuable to
involve security officers in discussions, problem-solving, and response
to emergency situations.
Senior management can see that the security department
handles both day-to-day operations and special
programssuch as exhibits, events, and
lectureswith a high degree of professionalism.
(5) Security officers perceive that the Huntington
adds value to their lives and that they in turn add value to the
organization. Such staff perceptions can be measured by discussions or
surveys with security officers. We expect our discussions to reveal the
Security officers feel they are well trained. They
clearly understand and can articulate their job
Security officers feel they have opportunities
Security officers feel they contribute to the
organization and are respected and appreciated for that
In our discussion, we have not yet used one key
wordjudgment. We build employee commitment through training and
organizational philosophy so staff members understand what is expected
of them and why. Then, we must let our employees exercise judgment
within those parameters. This is crucial"the institution has
trained you well and trusts you to act in its best interest." The effort
to strengthen the human element of our security programs can never ebb.
It must be our constant mantra, for people can easily be our greatest
asset, rather than our weakest link.