What a year! In 2016, the world saw many events that had global implications. Among them are:

  • Outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil and southeast Florida
  • North Korea launching long-range missiles; testing nuclear weapons
  • Hundreds killed by bombing/attacks in Brussels, Lahore and Istanbul
  • Military coup fails in Turkey
  • Brexit: England votes to leave the European Union
  • Real Estate mogul Donald Trump elected President of the United States; many protests follow

Right now, companies are planning for 2017. Often, corporate security planning is addressed toward the end of the process, but we believe that it should be part of every conversation. This post will look at major elements of an annual plan that have direct impacts on your organization’s security.

Budgets and priorities

Clearly, the biggest element in any annual plan is the budget. Teams will look back to determine how the company did financially, how funds were spent, whether the spending achieved the desired goals and then look at what the financial pictures looks like for the coming year. If a company looks ahead and predicts a more profitable year, the security team should be ready to advocate and plan for additional spending based on key elements that may not have been put in place due to budget constraints.

Kurt Norrigan Region Managing Director | West Coast & LATAM explains: “Company security leaders need to determine what was on their wish list last year that did not get implemented, ” says Norrigan. “The new budget will not be a blank check. But if extra resources are available for security elements, do you know what the company’s priorities should be? That is critical to map out now so you are ready if/when more funds are available.”

Norrigan also says corporate security officers have to understand what did and did not work last year. “Perhaps you tested new technology or methods. Did they work? How do you know? What is your plan for expanding the tests? How much will it cost? What is the benefit? And if something didn’t work, it’s important to know why and if the effort needs to be adjusted or eliminated.” Budget cuts are also possible. It is important that security officers have a priority list of elements that must be part of the company’s security plan versus those that provide additional layers of organizational security but are not “mission critical.”

Norrigan says, “Security teams have to be ready to do more with less and that can be a troublesome predicament when lives are being protected. They need to know the priorities ahead of any budget cuts.”

Industry trends and the threat landscape

At the early stage of annual planning, a close look is taken of a company’s industry and where it is headed. Years ago, retailers had to consider that online sales were going to be a growing part of their business and that it would have an impact across the company. But it did not just affect retailers. Related companies such as delivery services also had to plan for increases in their business, especially during peak times of the year. And the impact of this type of industry change trickled down to many other industries/businesses.

This kind of wide-sweeping industry impact applies to corporate security as well. Now is the time to predict and prepare for what is ahead. “The threat landscape for any industry is constantly changing, ” says Norrigan. “But right now it is important to focus on where the industry is heading and what major impacts that will have on security. Threats may rise with changes but what are the risks to your company and its employees? Are you vulnerable? If so, where and what needs to be done to mitigate the impact?”

Expansion can result in higher risks

You’ve reviewed your budget and the future looks great! Expansion is on the immediate horizon. New locations. Expanded operations. New markets. New industry verticals. All of this is good news, however…security issues must be at the forefront when these decisions are turned into actionable plans.

Norrigan warns, “Any time a company expands its footprint in any way, security has to be reevaluated. Perhaps a new market is being considered. What are the inherent threats in that region? What risks are there to employees? Will the company’s current security protocols work there?”

As the Risk Wheel graphic below highlights, security planning for businesses should take a holistic view that considers multiple impacts that new company elements may have. Taking into account each area of risk is critical as plans are created to assure safe. For example, expansion into a new facility in a new market with new employees could create risks around a construction site (Hazard and Event Risk), workplace violence (Operational and Physical Risk), increased computer hacking opportunities (Technology and Informational Risk) and local backlash to the new operation (Market and Economic Risks).

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Pinkerton has developed the Risk Wheel Index so that you can get a global look at risks that exist for wherever you are considering expansion. We caution that even this report and its interactive map, detailed as they are, can only give you part of the picture. It is important that you have up-to-the-minute intelligence that will allow you to make informed decisions about future plans.

Hiring and layoffs

Once you’ve determined the company’s overall plans, security officers will need to adjust to expected hiring and/or layoffs. Each comes with risks that can be mitigated with advanced security planning. During expansion, you may put some people in charge who are already trusted company employees, but it is likely you will need to hire new people. Utilizing the latest employment screening tactics is a start but will your existing processes work in a new area?

Knowing what you can, and cannot, ask during an employment hiring process is a good start. You must understand the employment laws that apply to the country, region, state, and county in which you are going to operate. Employee background screening is a key employment tool, but it too has to be used with consideration for the applicable laws.

For example, can social media be used as factor in determining whether to hire someone? We wrote a blog post about that titled “Social Screening: What Can You See?” There are key practices that have to be done carefully so that the company is not put at risk for discrimination. “When expansion happens, it can sometimes mean there is a need for a significant increase in staff, ” warns Norrigan. “While that’s good news, it also means the company is more at risk with new people coming on board. If the work to screen these people isn’t planned and budgeted for upfront, it could result in cutting corners and hiring people with questionable backgrounds.”

On the other end of the employment spectrum are layoffs/firings. Most companies have had to face this negative task as some point. Like hiring, it has to be done within the framework of the law while having the added pressure of mitigating the public relations backlash that can come with major employment changes.

“Former employee retaliation can come in many forms, ” cautions Norrigan. “The priority is keeping current employees safe. All security personnel need to be made aware of individuals who may act out negatively if they lose their position. If public backlash is expected, a plan needs to be put in place so that everyone is protected.”

This time of year is one of reflection and planning. Companies may have ambitious plans for next year or may be faced with downsizing to be fiscally prudent. In either case, and the multitude in between, it is critical that security be considered at the forefront of the annual planning process.

Published November 20, 2016