Training Your Team
Print Issue: February 2004
Whether the action is on the battlefield or the basketball court, you can be certain that the winning team owes its success in large measure to extensive training. Recognizing the importance of training to any team’s performance, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center set out to makes its own training program better.
The existing training program, which the director of protective services felt lacked specificity, consisted of one of the shifts’ veteran officers sitting with the new security employees and covering several department and hospital-specific policies along with administrative topics. Additionally, the new officers would be given several commercially produced security training videotapes to view, after which they were required to complete the associated tests. Following the completion of the tapes and review of the policies and administrative procedures, officers would go through brief hands-on training for certain subjects such as the use of force and pepper spray.
Once they completed these tests and training sessions, the officers would then begin their on-the-job training. Officers have historically stayed in the on-the-job phase of training between three and five weeks, depending on how quickly the officers learned and were comfortable with command center operations. When the officers completed their training program, they had to pass the protective services cadet training test as well as a test on command center procedures.
Training council. To help devise a better training program, the security director chose several members of the staff to sit on a training council. The group, which included the director, three shift managers, and the shift sergeants, met to discuss the current training program and what could be done to enhance it.
Through discussions with new employees, the council learned that the existing program was boring. The council wanted to revitalize the training to make it more interesting and more operationally oriented. The intent was to emphasize hands-on, performance-oriented training. The council also wanted to improve the testing phase so that the program results could be captured quantitatively to show the extent to which officers had increased their knowledge and acquired skills.
Phases. The council reorganized training into four phases: orientation, site-specific (including on-the-job), ongoing, and advanced. Under the new program, the officers now take a test both before training, to show their baseline knowledge, and after the training, to verify that they have acquired the subject matter knowledge; they must also successfully demonstrate the proper techniques to the instructors.
Orientation training. The orientation training phase begins with the new employees attending the hospital’s orientation during their first day at the facility. The security department’s training officer then sits down with the new officers beginning on their second day of employment. This training covers all of the basic administrative issues, including what the proper clock-in and clock-out procedures are, when shift-change briefings occur, and how the shift schedules and mandatory overtime procedures function.
The training officer also administers a preliminary test to the new officers that covers 12 basic security subjects including legal issues, human and public relations, patrolling, report writing, fire prevention, and emergency situations. New employees who have prior security experience normally score well on the test and do not need to view security training tapes on the subjects. The officers must receive a minimum score of 80 percent to receive credit for this portion of the training. If an officer receives an 80 percent in most topics but is weak in one or two subjects, that officer is required to view just the relevant tapes, followed by associated tests.
All officers, regardless of the amount of experience, review the healthcare-specific tapes and take the related tests for the specific subjects including use of force and restraint, workplace violence, disaster response, bloodborne pathogens, assertiveness without being rude, and hazardous materials. Also included in the orientation training phase are classes covering subjects such as pepper spray, patient restraint, defensive driving, and the hospital’s protective services policies.
Site-specific training. During site-specific training, officers learn what is entailed in handling specific security reports. The shift manager, shift officer-in-charge, or the training officer explains each of the reports and has the new employee fill out an example of each. Examples of reports covered in site-specific training include incident reports, accident reports, field interrogation reports, fire reports, motorist-assist forms, ticket books, safety-violation books, broken-key reports, work orders, bomb-threat reports, and evidence reports.
On-the-job training is also part of the site-specific training phase. The new employee works with a qualified security officer for a period of two to three weeks following the first week of orientation training with the departmental training officer. The new employee works through all of the various posts during this time. At least one week is spent in the command center. The site-specific phase of training culminates with both the security officer cadet training exam and the command center exam, which were also given in the original program.
Ongoing training. The ongoing training includes refresher training in which shift managers have their officers review selected films covering healthcare security and safety subjects. The training occurs during shift hours. The officers also receive annual refresher training covering topics such as using pepper spray and employing patient-restraint methods.
Another type of ongoing training, shift training, is conducted at least weekly. Managers conduct five-to ten-minute meetings during duty hours to refresh the security staff on certain subjects, such as customer service. These sessions are not designed to deal with complex topics. Managers can tie these sessions to issues that have come up on the shift.
Advanced training. Advanced training includes seminars, management courses, and sessions leading to professional designations and certifications. Qualified personnel are urged to attend seminars sponsored by several professional societies and groups such as ASIS International, the International Healthcare Association for Security and Safety, and Crime Prevention Specialists. Staff members are also encouraged to attain the Crime Prevention Specialist (CPS) certification, the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) designation, and the Certified Healthcare Protection Administrator (CHPA) certification.
Staff members are urged to pursue special interests by obtaining instructor certification such as in the use of pepper spray or the use of force. This encouragement has already paid off for the hospital. For example, the department’s security systems administrator has trained officers on each shift in how to exchange door lock cylinders, a task that would previously have required a contractor. Officers are currently being trained to troubleshoot and repair CCTV, access control systems, and fire alarm equipment problems.
Training methods. A special computer-based training program was developed to help quantify and track the success in each of the training modules. Additionally, a program was developed to present training subjects during shift changes.
Computer training. Security used off-the-shelf software to create computer-based training modules and included them in the site-specific training and ongoing training phases, both of which occur during shift hours. The training council tasked each shift with creating computer-based training modules for the various security officer assignments on the hospital’s main campus and off-campus sites. These training modules cover life safety, the research desk, the emergency department, exterior patrols, foot and vehicle patrols, and the command center.
The training council asked officers to participate in the creation of the computer-based training modules. The officers produced the training modules during their respective shifts when it did not interfere with other responsibilities.
The group participation paid off. For example, the officers who created the command center and the emergency-department training modules not only spent several hours discussing what information should be included in the modules, but then allowed their creativity to flow by using the software to make these modules interactive. These particular modules include test questions of the material, and the program will respond appropriately to the employees as they answer the questions correctly or incorrectly. The volunteers also created tests for before and after an officer goes through each of the computer modules to track the effectiveness of the training.
Shift-change training. A major question with ongoing training is how to fit it into the officer’s routine. For most industries using shift work, difficulties arise when trying to carve out enough training time without creating overtime. The training council decided to take advantage of downtime that occurs as officers come to work ready for their shift to begin. They are required to show up six minutes before the shift. This time is now used for training.
The shift-change training is used to cover specific topics—already covered in some of the training phases—that can be easily encapsulated into a six-minute program. For example, some topics include departmental policies, radio communication procedures, command center refresher sessions, self-defense subjects, confronting hostile people, proper report writing, and temporary restraint training. By implementing the shift-change training sessions on a weekly basis, the department created an additional five hours of training per year for each officer.
One of the security supervisors created a six-minute training binder to house all of the lesson plans. Each shift supervisor uses the same lesson plan so that the training is consistent across the shifts. As with all other training, the before-and-after tests are given to quantitatively document changes in subject knowledge or skills.
Results. After implementing the training program, the training council wanted to check the initial results to see whether the training was effective. There were numerous quantifiable measurements that the council could use to evaluate the new training program, such as tracking the rate of disciplinary actions from the previous year to the current year. However, since the council desired to have a quick assessment of the training program changes, it decided to compare the after-training test scores to the before-training test scores for the computer-based training modules as well as the scores of the six-minute training tests.
To the council’s surprise, the initial tabulated scores resulted in an average before-training test score of 93 percent and an after-training test score of 95 percent. The council also found in many of the officers’ tests that they missed the same questions on both the before and after tests.
Based on these results, the council decided to make several changes. First, the test questions were reviewed and tougher questions were added. Based on the preliminary test score, the council felt that the questions were not challenging enough and might not indicate how competent the officers were with the subject matter.
The training council assigned each shift the task of revising the tests for their computer-based training modules as well as the six-minute training tests. The goal was to make the tests more challenging and to obtain more accurate assessments of the effectiveness of the training program.
The training council also reviewed how the different shifts were conducting the six-minute lessons. Managers noted that the shifts initially followed the schedule of the six-minute subjects from week to week, but then they began to conduct their own lessons without an accepted lesson plan or to forgo training altogether.
To avoid this problem, the training council determined that the training program needed to be more structured. The group created a schedule to indicate which class would be covered each week. One of the shift supervisors volunteered to take over the six-minute training program and formally structure it so that each shift would conduct training in a consistent manner.
The training council has plans to further hone the training program in the near future. The council plans to analyze the program using other quantitative evaluative instruments such as an employee survey and a comparison of disciplinary action data from previous years.
In battle, it is said that an army fights as it has trained. Thus, commanders know the value of training. In the businessworld, though the stakes are different, training is no less critical to the success of the mission.
Ronald J. Morris, CPP, is senior director of protective services at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Dan Yaross, CPP, is manager of protective services. Colleen McGuire, CPS (crime prevention specialist), is sergeant of protective services. Both Morris and Yaross are members of ASIS International.