It's difficult to imagine the devastation that took place last week in Manchester, Connecticut, when an employee shot and killed eight co-workers . People are speculating whether or not this was race related or if this was the result of a disgruntled employee, who went crazy. I'm guessing we will never know what happened the day that life changed forever at Hartford Distributors.
But here is what we do know. Companies can greatly reduce the likelihood of this happening in their organizations by taking preventative measures.
1. Do a thorough job with your hiring process. I'm not talking about hiring someone because you have a hunch they will be good. Do your diligence. Bring candidates in for interviews and involve others in the organization in the hiring process. Ask questions that will enable you to discover patterns that exist in everyone. Do thorough reference checks, which means not giving up when someone says they can't tell you more than name, rank and serial number.
2. Provide your employees access to an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) before they reach the end of their rope. This is a place where employees can confidentially discuss issues that are weighing them down. Already have an EAP? Great, now let people know this, as most employees haven't got a clue this resource is available free of charge.
3. Take all accusations of harassment seriously. If need be, call in a third-party to investigate so that all parties feel heard.
4. Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure employees know they can approach the owner or President with their concerns, without going through the chain of command that often stops people in their tracks.
5. Talk to your employees. This event has shaken up many people, who used to feel secure at work. Give them an opportunity to discuss their fears in a safe setting. Discuss the measures your organization is taking to beef up security in your workplace.
We hope and pray this will be the last incident of workplace that we read about. However in situations like this, prayer isn't enough. Take action today to secure the future of your workforce.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions  and author of the forthcoming book, Suddenly in Charge! Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, January 2011). Visit Roberta's Blog on the Generations at Work  or her Linked-in Group Suddenly in Charge!  Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.