1. Present the overall significant findings of the research to both SIG associates and persons with an interest in airport security.
2. Present specific critical results from the combined ethnographic, interview and survey that have a direct bearing on security decisions.
3. Lay out the potential managerial and operational implications of the findings to enhance overall airport security.
A short introduction laid out the framework of the project and stressed that despite the fact that airports as complex social organisations where security decisions are driven by formal administrative sets of rules, regulations and protocols, about one-quarter of employees bend or break the rules in making their security decisions. Most have never faced a real threat and think most threats are false alarms.
This Introduction was followed by what we considered in the project as the major challenges in airport security. Are airports simply an industrial process or a service organisation? Is technology a facilitator or a singular solution? These issues were raised in the context of the emphasis of BEMOSA on human factors and its impact on security decisions.
Building on this, we laid the foundation for examining airport security in the context how both employees and passengers can be viewed in what was described as "the human risk system". This allowed us to support the notion that humans – both employees and passengers – are an integral part of the overall risk system where both real and perceived risks play a crucial part in the management, design and execution of how risks are transcribed in security decisions.
At this point, findings from the data analysis were presented which demonstrated the large extent employees were involved in the definition of risk. The first set of findings focused on the fact that nearly all security decisions were based on group and not individual decisions. We detailed these results and implications, stressing that the combined results of the ethnographic, interview and questionnaire surveys supported this clear pattern of behaviour. The immediate implications on training programs which focus on individuals were pointed out.
After a short break for coffee and networking, the presentations focused on findings that had immediate impact on the level of security in the airports.
The fact that employees bend and break the rules was confirmed from the combined data set. This contrasted to the assumption that employees automatically comply with the rules and protocols. The data clearly showed that group based decisions were deeply involved in complying with the rules and protocols; group based security decisions tended to be more in line with the rules than if made by individuals. Applying this to the distribution and arrangement of the physical proximity of employees encouraging interaction therefore will have a direct impact on rule compliance.
The session on technology was particularly pertinent given the nearly total reliance on technology as the basis for airport security. The analysis of the data clearly demonstrated that reliance on technology is very problematic. We discovered that technology is viewed by employees from two basic perspectives: as the ultimate answer to security issues or as the best means to thwart a threat. In the first case we found employees complying with the rules while in the second tending to bend the rules. This result helps explain why rule bending occurs even among those who rely on security technology as part of their job description. It also opens up the possibility that the training regime in the utilisation of technology must take into consideration these two opposing attitudes.
The next presentation dealt with how security information affected compliance with the rules. Our data showed that the vast majority of employees saw security information as a cornerstone for making their security decisions. As two major communication networks exist side by side in the airport: the formal administrative networks based on the bureaucratic structure and the informal networks that emerge through social interaction among employees, we were not surprised to discover that employees utilising informal sources (friends, co-workers, across department acquaintances) were much less compliant in enforcing the rules while security information from formal sources (boss, orders) affected decisions that were compliant with the rules. Apparently both access and "trusting" sources of security information must not be left an open issue and certainly can be managed to increase compliance.
The final presentations focused on employee profiles and came in response to the large degree of variations in security decision making we found. A sophisticated analysis of the data showed that the airport employees could be profiled into three basic categories by the degree they complied or not complied with the security rules. The Compliant Bureaucratic who followed rules; the Social Decision maker who needed opinions of others before deciding and the Adaptive Employee who bent or broke rules if the situation called for it. These profiles were strongly related to many of the other characteristic security decision behaviours that allowed us to actually predict who would comply or not with the security rules and protocols. The implications of this finding could easily be translated into recruitment policies as well as the placement of employees according to the sensitivity of the task.
After the presentation to participants joined together for an informal lunch and continued discussions of the practical implications of he findings.
The next BEMOSA workshop will be held on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 and it will focus on the Managerial Implications of the Conclusions and Recommendations of the research. During this workshop, specific case studies will be presented on the implications for, among others, airport security operations, group decisions, false alarms and manager-employee relations.