When device data can’t tell the whole story, asking people for their opinions can yield insights


Even in the age of Big Data, where too much information is as likely to be a complaint as too little, stores or LP teams may not know what to make of certain safety or security issues. Technology can often be implemented to provide visibility, but even though stores are inundated with IoT devices, there isn’t a sensor for everything. Business value stems from an ability to sense, infer, and act, but what if you can’t take that first step?

Several years ago, when the Obama administration commissioned a task force to examine the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, its main recommendation in the resulting guidance for colleges was: “The first The step to solving a problem is to name it and know the magnitude of it – and a climate survey is the best way to do that.

It’s a viable option for retailers and LP teams whenever they want to address a security risk, but don’t have a full understanding of its magnitude or aren’t clear about the issues that arise. surround it. For example, not all verbal threats or incidents of customer harassment are likely to be reflected in a retail database, so a climate survey can be an important addition in an effort. to reduce employee exposure.

It is also a useful tool for forging a better understanding of an atmosphere that may precede loss events or security issues, but which is not captured in routine data collection. For example, in a recent survey of companies, 9% of which were retailers, employees said they felt increasing pressure to compromise their organization’s ethical standards. “In 2020, employee pressure was at its highest in the United States since 2000, and had more than doubled since 2017,” according to The Ethics & Compliance Initiative’s 2021 study, “The State of Ethics & Compliance in the workplace: a look at global trends.

Climate surveys can also highlight a disconnect in the perception of risk between those responsible for developing security policy, those involved in its implementation and those whom the policy is intended to benefit. Unequal perceptions of risk have serious consequences for working relationships, affecting how employees perceive their work and, therefore, their performance. Inconsistent long-term perceptions can cause companies to downplay serious risks or ignore them altogether.

Climate surveys can be useful beyond providing insight into the extent of a security risk. They can be used for:

  • Identify gaps by analyzing survey results against incident report data.
  • Find out how risk perception differs by department, employee level, time of day, store location, and more.
  • Focus security awareness on the issues that surveys show are most important to associates. For example, if employees identify that working alone at night is their top safety concern, you can focus employee training on this issue and promote safety procedures designed to protect these workers.
  • Indicate whether employees are unaware of specific security policies or programs.
  • Indicate the extent to which various aspects of the security program are implemented.
  • Demonstrate the company’s commitment to addressing the specific subject of the investigation, as well as the safety and well-being of employees in general.
  • Promote aspects of the safety program. For example, asking employees if they’ve ever used the company’s security app reminds them that you have that resource.
  • Establish a baseline against which the LP department can measure future progress.
  • Raise awareness of security risks and your efforts to combat them.

Climate surveys are essential to the development of safety programs, but it’s not always easy to know what to ask. The government’s report on sexual assaults, for example, acknowledges that colleges avoid conducting them, even though they think it might help, because they don’t know “where to start, how to investigate and what questions to ask. “. Many of his best practice tips and insights from safety managers who have conducted perception surveys can help LP teams or retail stores design safety climate surveys that provide better insight.

  • Set time periods. It’s common to ask about the prevalence of certain issues in safety climate surveys, but for an accurate measurement, the survey should clearly define the time period the question is about.
  • Define terms. In the past, clumsy academic surveys asked students if they had been “raped” without defining the term or acknowledging that some people may be reluctant to identify themselves as rape victims. Instead, in a workplace violence survey for example, a survey should design questions that describe specific behaviors – being “screamed at”, “verbally threatened”, etc.
  • Measure the context. The unique value of a perception survey over automated data collection is the ability to gather information about how events happened and their context. This can be difficult as some people may report more than one victimization or experience and asking questions about each incident can take time. One solution is to ask participants to answer follow-up questions by choosing the most serious or recent incident. If they ask about, for example, a case of verbal abuse by a customer, store associates can provide circumstances or answer about when it last happened.
  • Measure knowledge of policies and knowledge of resources. Research shows that people aren’t always good at estimating or understanding what they know about a topic, and people often think they know a lot more or a lot less than they do. As such, questions that directly assess employees’ knowledge are better than asking them whether or not they know something.
  • Ensure representativeness. For the data to be useful for global decision-making, the sample of participants who provide information in the survey must closely resemble the broader employee population. A plan should be made to attract groups of attendees in all key categories, such as gender, shift, location, etc.

Sometimes audits and data can indicate that security is adequate, but if employees’ perception of risk is greater than the actual risk, you still have a security problem. This suggests that you’re failing to make employees feel as safe as they are – and making employees feel safe is certainly one of the goals of safety.

Climate surveys can also give the security department insight into employees’ attitudes towards security in general. This is important to indicate whether security breaches committed by personnel may be the result of security procedures or policies that conflict with the workflow.


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