How to Effectively Deal with Workplace Threats or Violent Behavior

In the first of this two-part series, we explained the signs of a potential threatening or violent situation. Now, learn how to address these warning signs and next steps to take.

Last month, we discussed 36 possible warning signs of workplace violence. While none of the behaviors I wrote about are absolutes or mean the person exhibiting them will become violent, you should be aware of the signs. While every person and every situation is different, you need to be able to effectively and safely handle any people or situations that may need attention.

All threats or changes in personality or behavior must be taken seriously. If you notice any threatening behaviors, you should alert appropriate personnel and human resources, if your business has an HR department. Always treat the person with respect when talking with them. The goal is to avoid any escalation.

Employers have a responsibility to protect employees from outside threats as well as inside ones. No matter the size of your business, you should always:

  • Have a clear, written policy that communicates zero tolerance toward workplace violence in any form;
  • determine in advance what discipline will be taken against employees who threaten or take violent action in the workplace, and follow through if such threats arise;
  • create a management team trained to recognize the warning signs of potential violence;
  • alert your employees about what constitutes workplace violence, including destruction of property and implied threats of violence, and encourage them to report these incidents immediately;
  • have a reporting system (e.g., an anonymous hotline) to let management know about suspicious or threatening behaviors; and
  • learn to recognize employee behaviors that contribute to workplace violence, such as emotional disturbance and substance abuse.

How to address a potential threat

Workplace violence training can be helpful. There are firms, such as mine, that offer workplace violence training for managers and employees. Learning the warning signs and how to properly and effectively deal with them can mean the difference between a violent and a non-violent outcome.

Here are four tips for dealing with threatening or violent behavior.

Tip No. 1: Assess the threat. If you find yourself in a threatening situation, try to remain calm. Do not confront the person or try to be a hero. Does the employee have a history of erratic behavior? What was the tone of the threat? How specific was it? An employer should weigh all facts in order to assess the seriousness of the threat. If time permits, consider involving a forensic psychologist or an outside investigator.

Tip No. 2: Implement security measures. If a credible threat is identified, take steps to promptly implement security measures. These may vary depending on the circumstances, including preexisting security in the workplace, the nature and seriousness of the threat, and the employee's behavioral history.

Some immediate steps you can take include changing access codes, changing or adding locks, hiring outside security, contacting law enforcement, altering other employees, lockdowns, etc.

Tip No. 3: Remain positive and respectful. Your workplace environment and culture should be positive. Treat all employees with courtesy and respect. If you must terminate an employee, do so with respect, allowing them their dignity. You may want to offer outplacement services.

Tip No. 4: Help protect confidentiality. Provide a confidential way for employees to complain or to report any unusual or threatening behaviors.

If you do find yourself in a violent or threatening situation, try to signal to someone to call the authorities. Keep talking to the person and try to keep them calm. Look them in the eye and treat them with respect.

If you are the employee's supervisor, consider various levels of discipline depending on the severity of the threat. If the threat involved a weapon, the employee needs to be immediately removed, and perhaps fired and prosecuted. However, a less severe threat may warrant different action. For example, a trivial or minor statement not intended as a threat by one employee, but perceived as one by another employee, might be resolved by separating the two employees involved for a period of time. If you decide to terminate the employee but feel threatened, you can hire an outside firm to conduct an “armed firing” where they will come in and make sure the employee does not cause any problems while they are removed from the premises.

Following up

Following a threatening or violent incident, you should offer counseling services to anyone involved. People may be traumatized and they will experience a range of emotions, so mental health resources are important. Your insurance company may be able to recommend psychiatric resources to help cope with trauma. Depending on your policy, they may pay for treatment.

There are organizations that may be able to help, such as:

Being prepared and informed can go a very long way in preventing a workplace violent situation or lessening the impact of an actual threat.

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security Expert Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at mailto:info@sacsconsulting.com.


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  • Next up: How to Find and Retain Rock Star Employees
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  • How to Find and Retain Rock Star Employees

    Solving workforce and talent issues is a puzzle a lot of entrepreneurs are trying to put together these days. How do I compete for rock star employees? And once I’ve found them, how do I keep them? These answers are definitely not easy to come by, which is why I was looking forward last week to sitting in on a session featuring speakers from COSE’s Strategic Planning Course who were prepared to tackle this issue head on.

    Solving workforce and talent issues is a puzzle a lot of entrepreneurs are trying to put together these days. How do I compete for rock star employees? And once I’ve found them, how do I keep them? These answers are definitely not easy to come by, which is why I was looking forward last week to sitting in on a session featuring speakers from COSE’s Strategic Planning Course who were prepared to tackle this issue head on. 

    It was a lively discussion and as it unfolded, I was able to pick out three key takeaways from the session that might be of some help in guiding your own workforce strategy.

    1. Recruiting

    How do you find those A-plus candidates for your business? Think about where your ideal candidate spends her or his time. For instance, it might make sense to browse LinkedIn groups for your particular industry to find potential candidates. Another option? Reach out to local universities or trade associations and put the word out that you’re looking for talent. Lastly, recruiting firms could be an option, but before you engage with one of these firms, think about what you need. Do you want the recruiting firm to handle everything from A to Z, or do you need the firm to simply provide you with a pipeline of candidates, and then let you filter out the prospects yourself?

    2. Interviewing

    OK, so you’ve got a solid list of prospects and now it’s time to start the interview process. Here are a few tips to help improve the interview process that were mentioned:

    • Check the applicant’s ability to follow directions by asking them to phone in the day before the interview to confirm.
    • Potential questions to ask during the interview include: “What did you like/dislike about your last position” and “How would you describe your ideal job?”
    • Lengthen the in-person interview. The longer it goes, the better the chance is you’ll see the candidate’s true personality come out and you’ll be able to ascertain how good an internal fit they will be to your team.
    • Consider putting the candidate through a program to judge their personality profile.

    3. Retaining

    Retaining solid employees is just as important as plugging gaps with new hires. Communication and transparency were two common threads that wove their way through this part of the discussion. For example, spark discussions with current employees by asking things like: Where do you want your career to go? How can we help you get there? What things do you want to be working on? And along those same lines, ensure you’re providing the right amount of feedback and keep a continual focus on coaching employees to be the best they can be.

    Obviously, over the course of the 2-hour session there was a lot more ground that was covered than this. If you’re interested in learning more, consider looking into the COSE Strategic Planning Course, in which issues such as workforce development and acquisition are explored in depth. For more information, contact Adina Magda at amagda@gcpartnership.com or at 216-592-2379.

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  • Next up: How to Grow Your Business from 2 to 200 People
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  • How to Grow Your Business from 2 to 200 People

    To call Cleveland custom apparel maker University Tees’ beginnings humble might be a bit of an understatement. Launched by a couple of college students from their dorm room at Miami University, the company, which specializes in providing clothing for college markets, today employs 200 people.

    In advance of his workshop focusing on employee retention, development and branding at this year’s BizConCLE, Mind Your Business had an opportunity to sit down with Nate Stansberry of University Tees to find out about the roadmap the company followed to grow from two to 200 employees. Read on below for the seven lessons the company learned along the way.

    Lesson 1: Recruit your customers

    The company learned early on that establishing natural recruiting pipelines is one easy way to find employees. One of these naturally occurring, organic pathways exists with the customers who already are fans of your product and understand what you’re all about. Not only are they already familiar with your product, if they’re customers that means they’re probably fans of yours as well. And if they are fans of the company, that means they’re also likely to bring a positive attitude to their work and help you build a positive culture at your business as well as helping you stay authentic to other customers.

    Lesson 2: You can’t force culture

    Speaking of culture, Stansberry cautioned that this is something that can’t be forced. The people you bring on board must live and breathe your company’s mission. Again, having a native pipeline as described above will help the culture at your business create itself. “Having customers within your organization is vital to growth,” he says.

    Lesson 3: Engage employees for referrals

    You can continue to try to enhance your candidate pipeline by surveying existing employees for referrals (if you decide not to promote from within) when a position becomes available. “Your best people are going to bring in their best people,” Stansberry says.

    Lesson 4: Internships are important

    Internships are another good pipeline companies should consider for growth, he says. It’s also a great way of elevating people to other positions throughout the organization. This demonstrates that there are growth opportunities at your business, which is both a great employee recruitment and retention tool.

    Lesson 5: Find the right fit

    When thinking about advancing the company’s campus managers, it seemed like a natural fit for University Tees to integrate these workers into its B-to-B sales division. Turns out, though, that wasn’t the case because the jobs were too different. Take time to think about the unique talents the members of your staff have and what positions you have available internally to help them build on these strengths.

    Lesson 6: Perfect the interview process

    It’s important to have a consistent process in place when bringing in job candidates. Here’s the template in place at University Tees:

    • First, look in house for potential candidates before opening the door to referrals and a general external search.
    • During the initial interview, dig deeper into the job seeker’s experience and give that person a sense of the company culture and what you’re all about.
    • Next, have the hiring manager perform a “technical” interview that focuses on the job itself.
    • If possible, conduct a “shadowing” session where the candidate meets the team and sees how their role would interact with other roles at the company.
    • Perform a personality assessment, if desired.

    Lesson 7: The first three days are important

    Once the new hire is made, your job isn’t over yet. Give your new employee a tour of the facility. Ensure they’re all set up with access to servers, their desk is clean and their email is ready. Then, consider matching them up with an in-house mentor from preferably another department who checks in with the new hire to ensure everything is going smoothly.

    Learning about how you can perfect your hiring process and efficiently grow your company is just one of the topics that is going to be explored this year during BizConCLE. Click here to learn more and secure your spot today.


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  • Next up: How to Handle HR Situations Without Having an HR Department
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  • How to Handle HR Situations Without Having an HR Department

    If you have even one employee, you may need to deal with human resource issues. How does a small business effectively do that in the absence of a formal HR team? Follow these three steps.


    As a small business it is entirely probable that you don’t have a formal HR department. So, how do you best handle complaints of inappropriate behavior without having an HR department to turn to?

    Step No. 1: Understanding and learning the best ways to deal with inappropriate behavior in your workplace. Inappropriate behaviors can include harassment, bullying, intimidation, unwanted sexual behaviors and more. If you are a small business do not make the mistake of thinking that you are immune to these issues. In fact, you may be even more susceptible to them due to the fact that your employees work very closely together, often in a casual company culture where workers are friendly. Remember, while it is good to be casual and friendly, it is also very important that everyone understands that the friendly, casual nature does not give them license for bad behaviors. Seemingly acceptable behaviors can easily become an issue if a comment, a joke, or a friendly gesture is misunderstood or unwanted.

    Step No. 2: Creating a written policy. When a small business does not have an HR department, often the CEO or President takes responsibility for monitoring workplace behavior, keeping up with changes in the laws, and communicating to their employees. This is in addition to running the business so it is not surprising that often a written policy slips thru the cracks and never happens. Not having a written policy manual in today’s volatile business climate can become a serious issue if there is an incident. Sexual harassment, bullying and other inappropriate behaviors can be costly and destructive to a workplace culture and a company’s bottom line.

    Small businesses are as liable for their employees' and their supervisors’ actions as much as large businesses are. For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on sexual or other harassment. It doesn’t matter the size or type of the business, if there is a complaint or incident, appropriate and immediate action must be taken. This means that any claims need to be thoroughly investigated, whether you have an HR department or not.

    It is crucial to have a written policy that covers all these issues and includes a basic overview of the law and a strong definition of what constitutes each type of harassment.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits unfair employment practices and discrimination based on sex, in addition to unfair treatment based on other non-job-related factors, such as age, color, national origin, race and religion. The definition of discrimination based on sex includes sexual harassment, which consists of unwelcome conduct and behavior of a sexual nature that creates an uncomfortable and often hostile work environment. If you have at least 15 employees, your company is subject to this federal anti-discrimination law.

    Your workplace policy should cover the two types of sexual harassment—quid pro quo and hostile work environment. When an employee, usually a supervisor with the power to make employment-related decisions, demands sexual favors from an employee in exchange for job security, promotion or a raise, this is quid pro quo.  A hostile work environment is when an employee repeatedly makes demeaning sexual comments and engages in offensive behavior and conduct. Be sure to cover both of these in your manual as well as possible punishment for committing each one.

    Step No. 3: Offering employee training and a reporting process. Use proactive as well as reactive measures to prevent and address issues. Develop a policy for each type of offense. This is being proactive. Reactive measures include defining who in the company to take complaints to. Usually this is the boss, CEO or the highest-ranking company leader. Both measures should also be included in writing and distributed to all employees, management and staff. 

    Small businesses are just as liable as large business when it comes to the law on these issues. Protect yourself and your company.  Don’t skimp on written policies or on employee training.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.


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  • Next up: Digital Roundtable: How to Hire Millennials
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  • Digital Roundtable: How to Hire Millennials

    One-third of the job market today is comprised of millennials, who have leapfrogged past Gen Xers to become the biggest force in today’s labor pool, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Sounds like a potential employee base you should get to know, right? But do you know what it takes to make your business attractive to these young, eager potential employees?

    One-third of the job market today is comprised of millennials, who have leapfrogged past Gen Xers to become the biggest force in today’s labor pool, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Sounds like a potential employee base you should get to know, right? But do you know what it takes to make your business attractive to these young, eager potential employees?

    We (digitally) sat down with four HR experts from our COSE Expert Network to find out what it takes to recruit this generation, how to make your business millennial employee friendly, and how to retain these employees once you have them on board. 

    Taking part in this digital roundtable are:

    • Tim Dimoff, SACS Consulting and Investigative Services Inc.
    • Julie Sumner, Monarch Endeavors LLC
    • Tameka L. Taylor, Compass Consulting Services LLC

    Q: For a business that wants to find millennial staff, does it make sense to turn to social channels?

    Dimoff: Yes, social channels to recruit millennials is very effective. They believe if you are utilizing “Their forms of communication” that it also exists in your company culture and work processes. Secondly, you also have a much greater number of millennials that you will make contact with and therefore have a bigger pool to choose from.

    Sumner: Yes, it makes sense to turn to social media channels because that is where millennials seem to spend most of their time. However, most employers stick to the more professional social media websites, such as LinkedIn. This is recommended as there is a great deal of information that can be garnered from a typical personal social media profile that could put an employer at risk for claims of discrimination. For example, a quick look at a Facebook profile will potentially reveal a candidate's gender, race, age, marital status, whether the candidate has any children, whether the candidate has a disability, veteran status, religion, etc.  These are all protected characteristics that employers cannot use to make hiring decisions, so just by uncovering that information, they may be putting themselves at risk for claims of discrimination or unfair hiring practices.

    Taylor: First, let me just preface this by saying this is not stereotyping millennials, but rather, just thinking about potential patterns. Yes, businesses looking for millennials have to go to where millennials are and not wait for them to come to you. You need to be on the latest social channels because once millennials see other generations on social channels they often turn to other channels.

    Q: How do you make your business “millennial friendly?”

    Taylor: Millennials like other generations want opportunities to grow. It's important to provide them with opportunities for growth and learning.

    They want to be taught new skills so they continue to grow professionally.

     If it's classes or workshops it doesn't have to happen in person for them.  Provide them with opportunities for them to try new things and be in charge of projects.

    They want to make a difference in the business and the world.  Millennials want opportunities to be socially conscious and active.

    It's important for there to be conversations about the communication norms and guidelines within the company.  For example, when is it appropriate to email, text, use social media, etc.

    Also, flexibility is helpful for millennials. That flexibility includes when, where and how they perform their jobs. Sometimes those of us who are not millennials decide that the things need to be done a specific way or our way and that's not necessarily true. As long as the task or job get done timely, effectively and efficiently then it doesn't matter if it's done our way or not.

    Sumner: There are several things a business can do to become more "millennial friendly,” such as using Twitter and other social media accounts to reach the millennial audience. The types of posts do not always have to be related to open positions. Many millennials care if their employer is environmentally conscious, involved in the community, is trying to reduce its carbon footprint, etc. Employers can use social media to show millennials that they do these things. Employers can also post jobs on social media sites; however, given the caveats above, the candidate should then be directed to an application site or process that does not permit the employer to obtain information about protected characteristics.

    Dimoff: You need to have a more in-depth understanding of what attracts, motivates and keeps millennials at your company. They are highly motivated and expect certain criteria in their work environment. If these aspects are truly understood, you can create one very powerful millennial workforce and the opposite also can happen, which is negative. Next, sit down with your current millennials at your worksite and ask them to help create a stronger and more attractive millennial work environment. This rarely takes place in many worksites who need to make these specific transitions. Lastly, there are outside consulting services now that can help you put this total millennial package together.

    Q: When it comes to the retention of millennial staff, what should small businesses keep in mind?

    Dimoff: Once again, you need to have a more in-depth understanding of what motivates and keeps millennials engaged at your company. They are highly motivated and expect certain criteria in their work environment. If these aspects are truly understood and provided you can create a millennial workforce that wants to remain and help themselves and the company both grow and prosper. Millennials feed off having “ownership and input” in each and every aspect of their workplace involvement.

    Taylor: They need to be provided with opportunities to grow and develop. Also, they should be provided with recognition and feedback. They need to understand the value that the small business sees that they bring to the table while contributing to the organization. So, they like all other employees need to be and feel included, valued and respected within the organization.

    Sumner: More than ever, millennials seem to be more concerned about work-life balance than the salary they are making. This can be advantageous to small businesses because, although they may not be in a position to pay the most (or even a competitive rate), they may be able to offer other incentives that will be attractive to millennials, such as telecommuting; flexible work schedules; volunteer opportunities; environmental initiatives; opportunities for leadership, collaboration, and advancement; and one-of-a-kind experiences (such as sky-diving, rope courses, scavenger hunts, etc. and other company-sponsored activities where employees can bound over trying something new and unique). One of the biggest things to remember is that millennials do not just want to punch a timecard and go home at the end of the day. Most want to be passionate and inspired about what they do and feel as though they are making a difference. Fuel that fire and you'll have a better chance of retaining the heat for years to come.

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  • Next up: How to Implement Your Medical Marijuana Policy Without a Full Time HR Team
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  • How to Implement Your Medical Marijuana Policy Without a Full Time HR Team

    In this recap of a recent COSE WebEd Series Webinar, our expert explains the necessary policies and procedures involved in an effective workplace drug policy.

     

    Last month, COSE hosted a free webinar outlining the five simple steps to implementing your medical marijuana drug policy. Presented by Cheryl Perez, Founder and President of BIGHR, information covered in the webinar included the specifics and details of exactly what you need to do in order to make sure that you have the proper policies and procedures in place as we embark upon a new age in drug workplace policies. Participants left with the practical knowledge of how to implement what they need to keep their business running the way they want it to, even in the absence of an HR team.

    To start off, Cheryl identified the five steps for implementing medical marijuana policies in your workplace.

    Step 1: Just because it’s legal it doesn’t mean you don’t have a choice. Ohio law does not require employers to embrace the medical marijuana law at your workplace. You have the choice to either be a drug-free workplace with accommodations for medical marijuana, or to take a zero-tolerance drug policy. However, if you have federal contractors or have safety-sensitive positions, among other things, you must take a zero-tolerance policy.

    You have the ability as an employer to decide how far you’re going to enforce your drug policy. State of Ohio law does not trump you and your own internal law. This approach is designed to make sure you still have ability to decide what happens at your business.

    Step 2: Your policy does matter. With dispensaries opening, this is a good time for you to go through your drug policies. What you stand for and what you decide to do needs to be explicitly spelled out in your policy. It is important that you have a component that talks about prescription drug use including medical marijuana. You should also consider encompassing other drugs that could impair your workers on the job.

    What does this look like? You can be a drug free workplace but will make accommodations for those who have prescriptions or are in certain positions. However, even if your company does allow for accommodations, there are some reasons why you might need to explicitly forbid it in some cases. If you have positions where people are driving or operating heavy machinery, for instance, you will want to explain that these positions are zero-tolerance. Desk positions and others that are not safety-sensitive might be fine for allowing for accommodations. Make sure this is all spelled out in your documents and that your policy is up to date with appropriate language for prescription drugs.

    Step 3. You need to have the procedures in place to go along with policies. When a situation arises where you have to address a violation of policy, you need to have the process and procedure to turn to. If results are positive and it’s that person’s first offense, maybe you’ll give a warning then termination. If you’re zero tolerance and there’s positive results from testing then you’ll probably be moving forward with termination from the beginning instead of a warning.

    How do you get started? Here are some guidelines:

    • Make sure you have a solid relationship with a good drug testing facility. You can set up an account online with many of these places. If have a suspicion of drug activity or there’s been an on-the-job accident that occurs, you want to make sure you can send the employee right away for a drug test instead of scurrying to figure out what to do.
    • You must involve managers and supervisors on these procedures as well so that everyone is on the same page. Concerns about an employee being under the influence can come from coworkers, clients and others before you as the manager even notices. It’s imperative that you do not rely on hearsay or gossip, so you need a concrete complaint procedure.
    • Decide in advance how you will go about starting an investigative process. Make sure you as the employer can determine if the behavior is new or has happened in the past, and train other managers or supervisors to do the same.
    • Isolate the employee and observe his or her behavior. This is sensitive information so be sure to remove the employee from public areas. If you see any of the signs then you need to send them off for drug testing.
    • Have arrangements in place for transportation to the drug testing facility. You do not want to be liable for anything that could happen to them or someone else while they are on their way.

    Step 4. Take action in the event of an accusation. First-hand observation should be made by two members of your management team; it’s beneficial for you to have two different witnesses immediately upon notice of the concern. The first thing you should do is go to that employee’s office, desk or other area and look through the trash can. Observe from afar as well and document in writing everything you observe.

    A good procedure will proceed as follows:

    1. A complaint is received, you suspect intoxication or an accident has occurred.
    2. Observe the employee and document the observations and assess everything.
    3. Meet with the employee and if you have several signs checked off, proceed to implement sending him or her to drug testing. Make sure you know how far away the testing site is so you know how long it should take for the employee to arrive.
    4. Suspend the employee (with or without pay) while you wait for the drug testing results. It’s good when you have an online account with the testing facility because then you can receive and view everything online.
    5. Implement the discipline or termination procedure included in what your policy says it’s going to do.

    Step 5: Clear communication with your employees and leadership team is crucial. Transparency and consistency are two very important characteristics of an effective plan. You have to actually review with your employees what this policy looks like and how it is documented in your employee handbook. You should also conduct a separate training for your leadership team members so they know what steps are and what is expected from them. The worst thing you could do is be in a reactive position when faced with this type of situation—all of your employees should know upfront what the expectations are, the details of all policies, and the procedures that will be followed. These policies and procedures should be followed in every instance of suspected drug use within your company; no employee should ever be treated differently—consistency is key.

    For more details, including the necessary forms for implementing a drug and alcohol policy and help crafting policies and procedures, listen to the full presentation.

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