Michael Stroberger, CPO, CSS, CPP
December 1, 2000
Reprint Protection News

So, now what? A little over a year ago, you rolled out a comprehensive continuing education program for your officers. It was the culmination of months of research, hours of writing and editing, days of negotiations with upper management and even a healthy dose of budgeting for a consultant to assist in certain complex areas. Now, with that first year of the program under your belt, you are left with a grim reality: only 10% of your staff have utilized this program. You know, as well as I do, that management will question the viability of the program for the future, and, indeed, even the wisdom of funding it to begin with. What was wrong with the program? What did you forget to include?

Nothing. At least not from the content aspect. From the angle of motivation? Everything.

We have all been there ourselves, or been closely associated with a similar issue. The best product in the world is completely useless if nobody is interested in it. So, then, how do you develop such an interest? There are many aspects of this challenge which must be understood.

Humans, as a whole, have certain basic motivators which are inherent to our underlying nature. As individuals, these motivators are mixed and matched in subtle ways, on a case-by-case basis, yet are almost always present to some degree. These motivators include: a need for individual recognition, monetary gains, increases in status, the desire to gain knowledge and, of course, the desire to provide for our food, shelter and livelihood. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but will be the main motivators which this author will address. In order to effectively encourage a given individual to partake in any training activity which is presented, these basic motivators should be addressed, and utilized.

As stated earlier, specific motivators are not always strong considerations for a given individual. Unfortunately, these motivators are not qualities which can be "grown" easily within an individual, and therefore must be utilized as they stand. One strong recommendation can, however, be made on this topic:

Hire officers who have an innate desire to learn! For those of us who have the luxury of utilizing a pre-employment personality assessment tool, ensure that this is a specific trait which is referenced. If you can focus on those individuals who already desire to increase their personal level of knowledge, anything else you do to encourage them to utilize continuing education resources will be greatly magnified in effectiveness. This cannot be stressed enough. The right officer will seek out such opportunities, even outside of those offered by their employer, and they should be constantly encouraged to do so.

This key point aside, let's get down to motivating those who might not have this trait so strongly in their hearts. The following is a list of some key motivation tools which should be considered. I will not rank them in effectiveness, for the simple reason that each one has the possibility of being the "most effective" tool in your specific training environment. Again, it is based entirely upon those individuals who make up your target audience.


  1. Create a system of recognizing the achievements of officers, within the training program. This could take several different forms. As an example, take the case of certificates of completion and/or graduation, consider presenting each recipient with two copies, so that one might be installed on a specified wall of the security area, alongside those of the previous "graduates." Another approach might be recognizing the individual in a newsletter, which might be distributed to the entire company, or local facility. This could even be utilized to recognize persons who reach "milestones" in a given training program, to encourage them to continue. The most important aspect of such a program is that those who are made aware of the achievement must understand the importance of it. To tell a member of senior management that Officer Smith just received word that she has been granted the designation of CPO, when the manager has no clue what a CPO is, will never bring the kind of honest respect that Officer Smith deserves. On a final note: some individuals actually react negatively to public recognition. It is essential that this be determined prior to making any formal announcement, or public presentation.
  2. To some, the old question of "What do I get out of this," is the overriding consideration in everything they do. For those individuals, there is a simple tool which, hopefully, is already built into your company. This, of course, is the salary increase system. It might be yearly, based upon officer's date of hire or a set anniversary of the facility, it might even be more or less frequent than yearly. Regardless of how often it occurs, if you achieve management's buy-in, it can be utilized to motivate the officers to train. As an example: if your specific location is expecting to give a maximum of a 5% salary increase in the next fiscal year, determine if management will allow you some flexibility in assigning the actual increases. Develop a listing, or schedule, of points which are assigned to specific classes or training programs. Once this list is completed, and, of course, allows room for the unexpected training opportunity to be proposed in the future, calculate the maximum number of points which can be accumulated by any given officer. Of the suggested 5% increase, base the first possible 3% on the basics of performance and compliance with the goals, philosophy and standards of the company. Base the remaining 2% on the number of points which the individual accumulated during the previous year. It could be as simple as a 0.5% increase per point accumulated, up to a system where the first three points are not referenced, but each point thereafter is a 0.5% increase for the next year. Work out the specific course and program values and corresponding increase progression in advance, then post this and read through it in departmental meetings and shift information exchanges. You might even find that management is willing to exceed the previously formulated maximum increase, once they are advised that it will be directly related to increased training, on an individual basis. Increased training, after all, means increased efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Another strong consideration, in departments which have significant possibilities for rank advancement, is to require certain training or certifications be achieved prior to a given officer being considered for promotion to a certain position. With each successive promotion, the skill level, or difficulty and complexity, of the required training/certification should be increased. This should be a cumulative listing of requirements, to ensure that the requirements for ranks below their current position continue to be maintained. Remember, never ask a subordinate to do something which you are not willing to do yourself. This is basic to training motivation, and departmental morale. At the same time, the requirements which an officer will have to meet for their next possible promotion should be made available to them the instant that they achieve a new rank or position. Ideally, the requirements for any and all positions should be documented in the officer's training manual, or a similarly distributed document, so that they can plan well in advance for a series of promotions, if they so chose. Beginning to sound like a career? Good! If you have an officer who plans out this many steps in advance, you know they have a level of dedication which you can count upon in the future.
  4. The final approach which I wanted to touch upon is also potentially the most difficult to enact and enforce, if it is not handled properly. This approach is basically one of "You are required to undertake this training if you want to keep your job." This is an uncomfortable approach, for all parties involved, and should be avoided if at all possible. No one likes to be told that they "Have to" do something, but in some cases, it will be required. A prime example of this is observed in my sub-field of the security industry, the hospitality realm. Officers under my employ are required to be CPR/First Aid certified. As a result of our working environment, it is only prudent that this be the case. On the positive side, it is also clearly reasonable to those who are being required to undertake this training, and therefore does not present itself as an undue burden. If any training is to be presented in the form of a mandatory requirement, ensure that its is this basic, and a clear necessity which is understood by all involved.

Hopefully, the above suggestions have given you some food for thought. Obviously, this is by no means an attempt at an all-inclusive listing of strategies, but rather, a sampling of basic concepts out of a vast field of possible concepts. As I mentioned earlier, never ask someone to do something which you are not willing to do yourself. Well, my friend, there are numerous texts and courses available in how to develop and implement a training program. I encourage you to avail yourself of one, or more, of them. Which bring up my final point.

Who Pays? The obvious answer, in cases of required training, is the employer. It is clearly a burden, in the eyes of both the employee, and the reasonable outsider, to expect one to pick up the expense of a program which their employer has told them they MUST undertake. In the case of those programs which they are encouraged to undertake? Look for possible ways to register your staff in large numbers to get a "bulk discount," have a senior officer become certified as a trainer in a given program, offer tuition reimbursement or simply offer to sponsor their training, if they are so interested. It might be a gamble, but if you have properly hired, grown to know and encouraged your officer, it will be a gamble worth trying.

Believe in your staff, and they will grow to trust you more every day.