Developing a culture of security

May 2003 News

Developing a culture of security within a corporate environment depends on a lot more than just physical security measures. It relies on company core values, ethics, leadership and focused communication as key factors to play a role in creating an awareness of the detrimental effects of intra-organisational criminality.

This is the view of Mariaan van Kaam, executive director of VoiceIT South Africa, and an associate of corporate security management company GriffithsReid. "A culture of security implies the adoption of new ways of thinking and behaving when using and interacting within a company, be it in the boardroom, operational or backroom support units," Van Kaam says.

Only an approach that takes due account of the interests of all employees, the nature of their work, the sociopolitical pressures and an awareness of the corporate-wide importance of security, will deliver the fullest possible benefit to an organisation. "Employees have to be made aware of their personal responsibility for ensuring security," she says. "They must not only be aware of the relevant security risks and preventive measures, but be actively encouraged to assume responsibility and take steps to enhance the security of the company."

Programme of awareness

How then, is this to be achieved?

"Firstly, a conscious programme of awareness raising has to be implemented," Van Kaam says. "Awareness of the implications of intra-organisational criminality amongst employees is the first line of defence in corporate security. Employees must be made aware that criminality harms them directly in terms of lost opportunities, lowered salaries and so on."

Secondly, a programme should be instituted whereby employees are treated as responsible adults and tasked with the responsibility for preventing crime. "Employers we deal with are amazed time and time again at how positively employees respond when they are asked to take an interest in the well-being of their company," Van Kaam says. "There is a wealth of untapped goodwill out there, which just needs to be activated.

"Too often, management is hesitant to go down this path, thinking that all that employees want is more money. While this can of course never be discounted as a factor, our practical experience shows that when put to the test, financial rewards alone are not the dominating driver when employees discuss their working environment."

Thirdly, a suitable response mechanism must be put in place through which employees can report criminality. "This could be done through the provision of hotlines, anonymous tip boxes or direct contact, whatever the employee feels comfortable with," says Van Kaam. A report-back channel is critical to the success of any programme designed to counter intra-organisational criminality.

"Practical experience has shown that employees respond well to being given responsibility for security; on this must be built the fourth element of the creation of a security culture, namely an understanding and propagation of a culture of integrity, values and ethics throughout the company," says Van Kaam.

"Employees, from the management downwards, must be seen to be respecting the legitimate interests of others, as the very first guide in a culture of ethics. Once they realise that their action - or inaction - may harm others, crime will become a self-limiting exercise."

Security plan

The next step in building a security awareness culture is for management to design and implement a professional security plan. This could include physical preventative measures, but must also include elements of the staff motivational aspects discussed above. "Only a holistic approach to the problem will deliver a sustainable solution," Van Kaam says.

"Finally, a comprehensive security management team must be in place to ensure that all the carefully laid plans, ethics, guidelines and communication channels are actually maintained and implemented," she says. "This includes forward-looking responses to emerging threats, prevention, detection, and response to incidents, systems recovery, ongoing maintenance, review and audit."

"Included in this should be a continuous process of reassessment, where the effectiveness of policies can be reviewed and appropriate modifications can be made wherever necessary, in response to changing environmental issues," Van Kaam concludes.

For more information contact Mariaan van Kaam, VoiceIT South Africa, 011 954 1067.

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