New Pandemic-Spurred Training Programs for Security Personnel

As a result of COVID-19 the roles of security personnel have expanded prompting their training to change as well. Managing this while adhering to social distancing regulations have challenged our industry to innovate.
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This article originally appeared online for Security Magazine in October, 2020.

Since the start of the pandemic, the security industry has had to rapidly adapt to changing conditions. Companies have had to match employees to new roles and activities, and leaders are considering how to reskill and upskill their frontline staff to meet the needs of changing business models, while also hiring personnel to fill increased demand.

Security personnel are seeing their roles expand as they assist companies and communities in combating COVID-19. They are performing temperature screening, monitoring personal protective equipment (PPE) usage and physical distancing, managing building occupancy, controlling line-ups, and even assisting with contact tracing. To support new needs, and keep employees safe at the same time, security companies have instituted new training programs and methods given these changing conditions.

Adjusting training to address new needs

Frontline training continues to emphasize the most current recommended pandemic safety protocols, along with any state-specific regulations that may vary location to location. Security companies are instructing officers about workstation cleanliness and providing them with PPE along with instructions on how to use it, and how to properly enforce PPE protocols among customers and other personnel.

In addition to training on new health and safety measures, one major impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increased interest in the types of technology that will allow more processes and procedures to become touch free, with minimal human interaction and thus potential for the virus to spread. While there existed a growing need for the industry to increase the technology training of frontline workers even before the pandemic, it sparked these changes to occur more quickly. In addition to technology being used for processes that were in place pre-pandemic, security officers also must be trained on technology for brand new protocols such as temporal screening and contact tracing efforts.

As more businesses operate at reduced capacity, more security officers are working alone, often in remote locations. That solitude brings a host of challenges that operators have not previously had to consider as strongly. These conditions have encouraged employers to play a more active role in their employees’ physical and mental well-being. Workplace resilience and mental health awareness training is being added to frontline personnel training programs to combat these issues. Employees and prospective candidates will judge an organization by the way it treats them during the pandemic, and employers who want to emerge from this time stronger than before must take this into account when making their adjustments.

New training programs

Along with the changes in what needs to be taught, there have also been significant changes to how security companies are training employees. For example, any class previously taught indoors must now consider not only social distancing rules but also elevated levels of cleaning and sanitation requirements. In some cases, classroom training may have to be postponed altogether.

Like many companies operating in the “new normal,” security companies are analyzing their overhead costs and in some cases are reconsidering the real purpose of corporate real estate. In this industry, physical office space is most often used for training as well as for onboarding new hires. Yet, thanks to the pandemic, it will be a long time before people want to congregate in large crowds; in an office or a training center. Telecommuting will be the new normal, and companies are looking for new and innovative ways to train. With these changes, it’s possible that in the future security companies may not maintain as much corporate space as they currently do if they’re able to successfully shift many of these processes to digital.

When it comes to offering training in a digital format, there are two main ways to do so. The first, is through online learning management systems. Online learning management systems allow the educator to put together a curriculum that is delivered via an online course which employees and new hires can take on their own time, without interaction with the instructor or others taking the class. Alternatively, some companies are replacing in-classroom training with virtual training. Virtual training systems differ from online learning management systems in one major way. They allow for interaction as the training is led live with an instructor who can take questions in real time and facilitate discussion between multiple people in the class. The latter is typically the preferred method as many new hires in the security profession benefit from experienced trainers to prepare them for the job ahead.

These virtual tools are being adopted in areas where licensing requirements either do not prohibit virtual learning or where regulations for classroom training have been relaxed. Due to the pandemic, in recent months many states have pulled back their regulations around what types of security training can be done virtually versus in-person.  Virtual training can be conducted in a variety of ways as long as the student has the required equipment to participate. New hires can join remotely via their own personal devices (cellular, tablet or computer with webcam, speaker and microphone). Virtual training has its challenges, especially when it comes to testing and proving that the person taking the program or writing the test is doing it themselves. There can also be connectivity issues and not every security professional is computer literate.

Adapting training programs and improving employees’ skills and roles to the post-pandemic ways of working will be critical to the success of the security industry in the “new normal.”

Drew Levine

Drew Levine

As President of G4S Secure Solutions USA, Drew is responsible for the growth, client retention and profitability of all aspects of the North American Division.

Drew joined the then Wackenhut Corporation in 1987 as a Supervisor in the physical security department of the Miami, Florida, area office. In 1988, he was promoted to Manager, Business Development, to General Manager of our Broward County office in February 1991, to Vice President of the Florida region in 1995, to Sr. Vice President of the Security Services Division in 2003, and the position of President in 2005.

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