In any service-oriented business it’s important to teach values. It’s particularly crucial for organizations that do not offer a product.
AlliedBarton supplies contract security personnel to secure the people, property and intellectual goods of several thousand customers at several thousand sites daily. The company operates in more than 100 cities across 45 U.S. states. One might say AlliedBarton is, essentially, in the business of trust.
To reinforce the high level of performance required throughout the organization, Richard Cordivari, vice president of learning and development for AlliedBarton Security Services, said senior leaders with operational responsibilities regionally and locally must demonstrate company values and lead by example.
“Our brand is based on doing what we tell people we’re going to do, and it all starts with hiring, screening and the on-boarding and orientation process,” Cordivari said. “The values that define our business are called ‘dare to be great’ — that’s our challenge to everyone in this company. It’s built into every class from pre-hire through on-the-job training through annual retraining. But it’s the example of the folks who are managing our business that reinforces an accountability- and performance-based culture.”
“Dare to be great” — or the blueprint for success — was developed by AlliedBarton’s employees about five years ago. The little blue book is constantly updated, and all employees are responsible not only for knowing and memorizing it but for living it.
Because it’s easier to reinforce integrity than teach it, Cordivari said recruitment screening is critical, but value reinforcement can involve discussions about customer expectations and legal limitations as well as spreading the notion that customers are always watching and may place higher standards on people in positions of authority.
Regular training sessions in advanced customer service that build in this complexity also help reinforce values, but Cordivari said constant audit and inspection ensure employees do what is required. AlliedBarton has more than 1,100 account managers with responsibility for running the P&L side of the business as well as maintaining performance at job sites and meeting client expectations.
“On a regular basis, we inspect personally,” Cordivari said. “We do management blitzes where we bring in folks from other accounts to try and get past the gate, try and buy your way past the door, try to talk your way into a building or offer a favor. We also use secret shoppers where we hire outside organizations to do third-party tests of not only basic security systems like access control, but integrity testing as well.”
Cordivari said that especially in a large company, it is the job not only of the learning organization, but of HR, the legal group and other leaders to spread the word that there is an expected code of conduct — and there are consequences for ignoring that code. Slip-ups of the “head” — mistakes involving trainable skills related to daily job execution — receive immediate post-incident training. Mistakes related to a lack of integrity often result in employee removal.
“We use a leaders-teaching-leaders model a lot,” Cordivari said. “Training isn’t just the responsibility of the training group or me. My job is to help folks who have development responsibilities learn how to train and develop.”