+1 800.648.4807

Training for a Globally Mobile Workforce

By: Joe Gleason, AHT

Few topics in the International Travel Risk Management and Duty of Care space elicit as much agreement as the need to train globally mobile staff and travelers. Beyond a general interest, many organizations struggle with the details: What’s the right content? Is online or instructor-led training better? Do all our travelers need Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT)? All great questions with the perhaps inevitable answer, “it depends” – further challenging even the most committed organizations. So, what types of training are out there? While not a comprehensive list, general categories include:

  • Awareness and individual skill building. Anyone traveling globally, especially those going to the developing world, should receive an overview of best practices in risk awareness, mitigation and emergency response. Often referred to as “travel security training”, these courses provide general security and safety guidance about a range of topics – risk awareness, accommodation and ground transportation, health and medical care, etc. Training is increasingly being provided for groups that may have specific risk concerns including female and LGBTQ travelers. Online Travel Risk Management courses, through companies such as iSOS and RSM, provide options that can be available virtually anywhere, any time. For the NGO and international development community, Disaster Ready hosts a wide range of security awareness training courses developed by leading organizations in the field, including Save the Children, RedR, the European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) and the UN. In addition to strong content, Disaster Ready is free. It’s tough to beat the convenience and trackability of online training, but the format is not always the right fit for everyone or every organization. Instructor-led courses allow for interaction and discussion, which can be invaluable to conveying nuanced topics or addressing the needs of diverse traveling populations. Instructor-led courses can also be tailored to meet organizational risks and include specific procedures and resources. It’s not an either/or when comparing online vs instructor-led training. In fact, some organizations conduct periodic instructor-led courses then “refresh” knowledge through online training or use an online meeting format for instructor-led training to draw people in from various locations.
  • Specialized training based on risk environment or role. For those headed to high or extreme risk environments, specialized training is important to build additional skills beyond those needed for general global travel. Curricula vary, but hostile environment focused courses, often called, Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) or Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT) , are designed to provide hands-on, experiential learning about a range of topics. Topics include: risk assessment, journey management, checkpoint procedures, reacting to crowd violence, direct and indirect fire, kidnapping/detention survival, psychosocial resilience and first aid. Tailoring these courses to specific locations, their risks and the measures in place by the organization enhances the value of this type of training. If close protection teams or other security resources are used in a location, they should be a part of the training, where possible. A number of global security and risk management firms provide options for hostile environment training, including Control Risks, Pilgrims Group and GardaWorld. Several organizations provide training focused on the NGO and international development community, including GJS, RSM and International Location Safety. These resources all provide a range of instructor-led courses beyond those focused on hostile environments – some also provide online training. At the HQ level, senior management should strengthen their ability to respond to events and support globally mobile personnel through Critical Incident/Crisis Management training – often conducted as a scenario-based, “table-top” exercise where a management team works to respond to a national incident impacting the organization. This training reviews procedures, roles and responsibilities as outlined in an organization’s critical incident/crisis management plan. Similar training should be provided to country management. At the country office level, driver and guard training is important given the essential role those team members play in staff safety and security.
  • Certification and professional development. Those focused on security, risk management and duty of care within an organization need training too. The American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) has been a leader in professional development within the security management community. For NGOs and international development organizations, the International NGO Safety and Security Association’s (INSSA) Security Risk Management Professional certification course is designed to strengthen skills for NGO security personnel (full disclosure – I’m on the board of INSSA). For a more holistic approach, the International SOS Foundation’s Duty of Care course provides IOSH certified training about building management skills in assessing and mitigating the risks associated with global operations.

So, what’s the right mix? That answer will depend on an organization’s risk profile – what they do, who does the work and where they do it. No, not every traveler needs HEAT training, unless they are all going to hostile environments. Scaling training based on need is important as is tailoring education to the environments in which personnel will travel and operate. While everyone may not need HEAT training, it’s essential for all travelers to get training about travel risk awareness based on global best practices along with destination risk information and any specialized training based on their role or risk exposure.