A Few Good Men

By Jackson, Fred J.; Locklear, Jeanne M. | Security Management, September 1997 | Go to article overview

A Few Good Men


Jackson, Fred J., Locklear, Jeanne M., Security Management


In 1996, the security department serving the 1,737-bed Bames-Jewish Hospital and the 235-bed St. Louis Children's Hospital faced reengineering efforts. In the ensuing year the security program was completely reengineered, including a budget reduction of more than $1 million, a staffing reduction of approximately thirty employees, and numerous modifications in security services. These changes forced security to do more with less. One result was a new approach to preemployment screening and security training. Though the new screening, training, and certification of security officers costs the organization money - in fees and officer time - the results create more competent employees who are better able to deal with the situations they encounter. The department has also seen lower turnover and fewer complaints about improperly handled situations.

Today's security officer must handle functions that are increasing in complexity and scope. These expanded duties require a higher caliber candidate who already possesses the necessary skills, or one who is capable of acquiring them quickly. The hospitals' new selection process is targeted toward finding those candidates.

Applicants first fill out the employment form. Staff review applications to determine which candidates meet basic criteria, such as a threshold level of college courses. Qualified candidates are then interviewed. Security conducts background checks on those chosen to proceed from the interview stage.

Several items are confirmed during the background check, including previous employment and references. Security also investigates whether the applicant has completed the requisite thirty hours of college course work. The candidate is not required to have a college degree or to have acquired credits in security-related classes. The requirement serves first as a gauge of an applicant's competence - completing the course work gives an indication of the individual's abilities. The educational prerequisite also improves the overall quality of the applicant pool. Hospital security managers have found that basic communication skills are higher among those who have completed some college courses.

The security director selects the best candidate among those who have performed well on the interview and have met all criteria and gone through the background check without any problems being uncovered. That final candidate must pass a battery of tests to assess personality characteristics, thought processes, and skill levels as the last prerequisite to a formal job offer.

One test given is the Nelson-Denny Reading Test, which ranks a person's reading rate, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. Another test, a motivation questionnaire prepared by a psychological testing company, assesses the energy with which a person approaches tasks and identifies the situations that are likely to increase or decrease an individual's motivation. It also provides a chart that helps determine how well an individual might fit into a prevailing corporate culture.

The Thurston Test of Mental Alertness contains both verbal and numeric problems. The test takes into account the speed of response and is designed to measure the ability of an individual to acquire knowledge and skills and to use these in problem solving.

The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is next on the list. It consists of a series of exercises that require critical thinking skills. The exercises include problems, statements, arguments, and interpretations of data similar to those a person might encounter in daily life.

The last test, the California Psychological Inventory, examines those characteristics important for social interaction. Some of the qualities measured are self-confidence, maturity, social ability, flexibility, and integrity. It also contains scales that measure truthfulness in the applicant's answers.

The various companies providing the tests train hospital management to administer them. …

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