When you put millions of people out on the street after their savings have been dramatically reduced, you have a situation where physical and electronic security, regardless of how good it is, will be stressed to failure. The exposures we will see in 2009 and 2010 will likely make everything else we have seen so far look like a cake walk. I think it is time to bring the employees in and make them part of the solution.
Employees at Risk
From Canada, where a laid-off employee shot up an office and killed the CEO, to Silicon Valley where three were killed, violence already appears to be escalating and the year isn't even over yet. The job market is bleak, and these people who are losing their jobs are seldom given the tools needed to deal with their anger and sense of betrayal when the companies they have toiled for no longer need them.
Armed violence is only one of a number of responses that could include vandalism and theft. In one instance, the laid off employees actually held the company that laid them off hostage.
These actions don't just do damage to the people that are attacked; they can cause the company to fail and certainly destroy the lives of the attackers, as well. Who wants to employ someone who, even if they didn't shoot a coworker, has a history of responding inappropriately to being fired?
In any case, feeling secure in 2009, whether it is job security or physical security, will be vastly more difficult to achieve and may have more to do with how well trained the employee is than anything else that can be done to mitigate the exposure. That is particularly true since in most cases there probably isn't enough money to provide the level of physical security the firm might want.
Rethinking Security and Applying Social Networking
Putting lots of people at risk over an extended period of time will force changes. Certainly some of these changes, like an increase in gun sales, will likely not turn out particularly well. But as the world moves to address these exposures I think we'll end up with a more comprehensive view of security that includes the employee as part of the solution instead of a major part of the problem.
While I've often thought this might be company-driven, I'm slowly coming around to the idea that social networking sites might begin to fill the gap. Those who are directly affected by these crimes can share what to look for and inform others on what did and did not work.
These sites covered other major issues like the U.S. election rather well, building consensus and helping drive a level of participation that, at least in the U.S., was unheard of in recent years. The end result is that people are talking to each other en masse through these sites. Perhaps they could be used as a defense, and to talk down people who are going over the edge. This should transform the sites into a combination early warning and support structure that should repeat a similar trend for those struggling with health issues.
I still believe this massive increasing security exposure will force us to start engaging employees and putting in place policies and procedures so that these employees know what to do in a related crisis and know where to go to report unusual events that may precede one. The end goal in all of this will be to feel safe, however, and social networks either in place or specifically designed for this purpose will rise to the challenge. Until now, social networks have been more of a security problem, and having them become part of the solution should be a positive part of 2009.