Closed Circuit

By Eric Barendsen

The Security and Emergency Management and the Strategy office have teamed up to assess WA PA’s security culture. They will release a survey this month to gauge employees’ perceptions of where improvements in security culture are needed. 

The survey will provide a snapshot of the current culture. It will also identify gaps and shape future initiatives by pinpointing opportunities to promote the health of WAPA’s security culture.

“We need feedback from all departments and regions,” said Director of Security and Emergency Management Bruce Watson.

“Security culture” refers to the norms, values, attitudes and beliefs that support a safe and secure workplace for all employees. Like the broader work culture, misunderstandings and conflict around values and prioritization can negatively impact the security culture.

“To promote a culture that makes WAPA a great place to work, we need to ensure security of all of WAPA’s assets – our people, our facilities and other physical assets,” said Acting Chief Strategy Officer Stacey Decker. “Through that, we’re ensuring mission success, we’re ensuring the security of the national grid and we’re creating a secure and healthy work environment for our employees.”

Watson and Decker selected focus areas and attributes used in assessing WAPA’s successful safety culture to define a heathy security culture. The upcoming survey will assess similar attributes to measure how WAPA employees see the organization’s progress and identify where more work is needed.

Taking ownership

“To have a strong security culture, everyone needs to see their ownership in it,” Decker said. “Do folks see themselves as owning and contributing to the culture? Just like our safety culture, we all need to take personal accountability.”

One aim of the survey is to gauge awareness of the part each employee plays in ensuring a vigorous security culture.

“If there isn’t that personal commitment to everyone’s security and the buy-in that everybody plays a role, the culture won’t be healthy,” Watson said.

According to Watson, when employees are committed, programs such as these are more successful. He used the example of the random security checks at Headquarters, which were designed to protect people through increased screening for weapons and other banned items.

“The support and understanding of what that program does, what it means and everybody’s roles and responsibilities makes it more effective,” Watson said.

“Another piece is ensuring we have the psychological safety so that folks are confident in bringing forward security issues,” Decker said.

Employees need to feel safe to speak candidly, without fear of retribution, for security culture to evolve.

“Risks need to be known about, and they need to be mitigated,” Watson added.

For example, when it comes to security systems, assumptions that equipment such as security cameras are performing at their original specifications may not be true. OSEM is working with Maintenance and Information Technology to identify system shortcomings and schedule repair and replacement in a reasonable timeframe.

Leadership’s role

Building alignment across all of WAPA can help ensure the success of OSEM’s critical role in enabling the broader WAPA mission.

“A healthy security culture helps enable the visions and goals of our leadership,” Watson said. “By keeping people and assets safe and protected, Security is available to do that.”

The analysis of the survey results will look at various functional groups across WAPA to better understand their opinions across a range of attributes that contribute to security culture, such as clear expectations, accountability, teamwork, mutual respect and the effective resolution of reported problems.

After analyzing the results, OSEM and Strategy plan to brief the Senior Leadership Team and Extended Leadership Team in late summer or early fall. They will then identify strategies and actions to close any identified gaps, with an emphasis on WAPA-wide initiatives.

“Clearly defining what our desired security culture looks like and developing a strategy to get us there will help ensure leadership across WAPA is aligned on what we are working toward,” Decker explained. “As leaders, we are responsible for championing these efforts and modeling the behaviors that make for a healthy security culture.”

Building trust

WAPA customers also own a stake in the organization’s security. Fixing vulnerabilities in a security system requires funding. When WAPA invests on behalf of its customers, Watson explained, the organization has an obligation to make sure these systems operate as designed.

Securing sufficient funds for lifecycle management of security systems requires establishing trust that the dollars will be spent wisely, he said. It also depends on the ability of functional groups across WAPA to reach consensus regarding their roles and responsibilities in maintaining and enhancing the organization’s security culture.

OSEM and Strategy ask that employees take a few minutes to support this effort when the survey becomes available.

“Let’s analyze this in a methodical way and see what areas WAPA needs to work on, areas that may not be as healthy,” Watson said. “Through a healthy security culture, we can further mature the effectiveness of our security program.”

Note: Barendsen is a public affairs specialist.

Last modified on March 5th, 2024