You take pride in the way you control access to your building. Your employees wear badges that double as access cards. When salespeople show up, they’re required to sign in and have to be escorted back to an office. Your receptionist is a tiger when it comes to enforcing those rules.
So who just walked past your office? Oh, it’s the fire extinguisher guy, doing his monthly inspection. Takes him a couple hours to work his way through the entire building. Or maybe it was the Bobby the plumber, who’s here to fix the leaky valve on that urinal. Could have been the guy who restocks the vending machines -- you’re always amazed at how much candy and how many soft drinks your team goes through in a week.
You make sure employees are identified and you keep an eye on those occasional visitors. But to me, it looks like maintenance and other service people wander anywhere they want without a second thought on your part. Oh sure, your receptionist would never let them past her desk without getting a signature and clipping on a visitor’s pass, but once they’re in the building, nobody pays much attention.
Does that make you nervous? Not really? You’re giving these people who you may not know all that well unlimited access to your entire building. They stroll into important areas, past tables and desks loaded with proprietary and confidential information, and around cubicles where employees leave purses and expensive technology. They’re free to interact with any of your employees. They have access to restrooms, stairwells, and other out-of-sight places.
You’ve known Bobby for better than a decade. He’s the most reliable plumber you’ve found, and you hope they guy never retires. Bobby brought a helper today. You don’t know his helper, but Bobby would never hire anyone unreliable. If you knew more, you’d learn that the helper attends Bobby’s church and was hired at the pastor’s request because he needed some guidance and support. He’s 23 and has already done four stints at the county jail. Handful of thefts, narcotics … stuff like that.
The fire extinguisher guy is pretty quiet, but very diligent and efficient. You haven’t noticed that he has an eye for the ladies, particularly the young, friendly pair in customer service. You trust that the fire safety vendor has vetted him thoroughly, but their bargain background check missed that arrest for a sex offense that his attorney pleaded down to a lesser charge.
If you looked in the empty cases the vending machine guy wheeled back to his truck, you’d notice they’re not always empty. He hasn’t taken anything really valuable … well, not yet … but he thinks it’s okay to help himself to things. What your employees assume they’ve misplaced has actually been stolen, and it’s been happening for years.
What kind of screening do your vendors perform when hiring someone? How often do they take a closer look at their existing employees? If you can’t answer those questions, you have no idea whether your business and your employees are safe from those friendly service people. You’re simply assuming that your vendors are as careful about hiring as you are, and I think that’s a pretty dangerous assumption.
So what can you do to protect yourself? First, find out exactly what your vendors and service providers are doing to ensure their employees deserve your trust. If their vetting process does not make you completely comfortable, perhaps it’s time to initiate a process of your own. One possible approach is to use our SafeVendor visitor system, which requires vendors to register before they enter your facility and allows us to perform a background check so you know if there’s a reason to be wary. It also issues badges and tracks who’s in your facilities (which is handy if an emergency occurs).
Second, give serious thought to limiting access for those vendors or service people. That may involve assigning an escort to bring them to the area where work is being performed and possibly even remaining with them while they handle their tasks. Or it may be that you allow them to occupy specified areas for specified time periods. If the plumber is making a repair in the first-floor men’s room, he shouldn’t have any reason to be upstairs.
Letting vendors and maintenance people wander freely through your building is like creating a big safety net and cutting large holes in it. You and your employees deserve better.