• Willy Allison

Is Your Surveillance Team Proactive or Prozac-tive?


"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results"- Winston Churchill


How do you measure the performance of a surveillance department? We know the key performance indicators for operational functions are usually tied to revenues, profitability and customer service. Table games use drop & hold ratios. So do slots. Hotel has room rates & length of stay. Food & Beverage have covers & consumption. All are pretty simple, black & white ways of measuring how a department is performing.


But staff functions such as Human Resources, IT, Finance, Legal, Marketing, Security and Surveillance can't really use revenues as a key performance indicator (sorry marketing). Staff functions are expenses against revenue. Operations run the business organization; staff functions exist to help these operators do a better job, every day.


So how do you measure performance in surveillance?


There is no universal performance measuring stick for surveillance. Different countries, states, cultures, laws, regulations and organizational structures dictate different priorities. Surveillance goals must be framed around these guidelines. I have learned over the years that one of the keys to surveillance management career survival when relocating to a different jurisdiction is to learn to adapt quickly. For example, if you're from Vegas and think, you can move to another state or country with a cookie cutter, one-size fit's all surveillance approach, think again. Remember: gaming is local.


I have also learned that Surveillance priorities are usually dictated by the person the surveillance director reports to. In my career as a surveillance director I have reported to various positions including a CEO, GM, Legal Counsel, Casino Manager, Private Owner, Audit Committee, Board of Directors and Asset Protection Director. My responsibilities were almost always the same but my directives and priorities wavered. Jokingly, I look back over my career and consider the best description for a surveillance director's function can often be summed up as "ass(et) protection".


I have strong views of what surveillance could and should be, but first and foremost I feel a surveillance director should aim to be a strategic advisor to those they report to, with a focus on helping them achieve the organizations goals. To be an effective strategic advisor, you must provide your boss information they don't already know so they can gain a unique insight that helps them steer the organization forward. The best way to do that is to learn and understand how the business works and train your staff to identify areas of risk and opportunity.


To achieve results in surveillance, I believe as a surveillance director you need to provide your team with the appropriate resources and the following 4 things; quality training, motivation, clear performance expectations and a culture that holds people accountable.


There are no standards in the way surveillance is operated throughout the world but one thing remains constant. There will always be reactive time and proactive time. Because CCTV is a very effective management tool, the surveillance department is often called on to respond to requests for reviews, analysis, recording security events and monitoring accounting processes as mandated by internal controls and regulation. The challenge is balancing time and workload to ensure the big picture is not lost. Generally speaking the balance should be around 80% proactive, 20% reactive.


Without clear management direction, surveillance operators can easily become more like call center operators. Instead of the 80/20 approach, observers become 100% reactive, or to coin a phrase I once heard from a surveillance room supervisor describing a less than productive surveillance observer - "prozac-tive". If not held accountable for obtaining expected performance levels observers can easily switch to autopilot.


When I first started in surveillance I was taught that "proactive" was using the camera system to constantly scan the casino, clicking from camera to camera in the hope something would jump out and hit you between the eyeballs. It was kind of like the Baywatch lifesaver using binoculars to see if they could spot sharks in the water.


As time has gone by I have discovered different interpretations of the term proactive, from the "watch what you want" approach, to an approach that involves a bit more management direction and focus. I prefer the latter approach, but have also expanded my own definition of surveillance pro-activeness to include "using any source of information I can possibly and legally get my hands on to get results". That means not limiting my resources to CCTV only, but also utilizing available electronic data and trusted relationships.


It starts with training


So it's your first week in your new job as the recently appointed Surveillance Director of Casino X and you want to review the training & performance logs of your newly inherited team. You soon learn that even though most of your staff have been in the Casino X surveillance department for over 5 years, there is very little documentation or data showing what training they have received or what incidents they have detected since they had been there. You find out through conversation that most of training in the past was conducted "on the job". Knowing there was no record of a trainer position ever existing in the department you ask a couple of your operators - who trained them? You find out that no one trained them. "On the job" in this property, apparently means after they started they were told to read some manuals, read the rules of the other games they didn't know and watch them until they understood them. If they had any questions on anything ask their supervisor.


OK, that's one way of doing it (I suppose). Here's my way. Surveillance training is like working out in the gym, just a little less sweaty. You need to know why you do it. How you do it. And then just do it. To obtain results you have to just do it over and over again. My point is over 80% of people who join the gym in January never make it through to the end of March. Training should be continuous.


Surveillance observers need to be well trained on how their casino operation works and how to recognize any potential risk. I believe the training and development of surveillance professionals should be focused on 13 competencies. These competencies are divided into three levels:



Surveillance competencies






Proficiency in each group of competencies should be demonstrated by formal testing procedures and on-job practical experience before moving on to the next level. I suggest every observer should have an individual training and development plan that documents and checks off all competencies obtained. Think of it as their Surveillance Passport to success.


Performance management


Obtaining high performance and results starts with aligning your expectations with your boss and with your team. If making sure no one is stealing from the organization is high on the list, it will probably be high on your list. If compliance is high on your bosses list then it will probably be high on your list. By the way, both those things should be high on every surveillance director's list even if it is slightly in-balanced in your boss's eyes. I worked for an organization once that swayed a little too one side. As a general rule when faced with this type of situation, my advice would be to make sure your integrity compass always points to the North. If you can't tell your Mom or your kids you should probably leave.


After aligning expectations it's time to formulate individual expectations. Setting performance expectations and goals for your team is important. Surveillance staff should know what is expected of them and how they can achieve it. Likewise they need to know what they can expect. They need to feel a sense of purpose. By setting individual targets you are ensuring the proactive time is focused on priorities. I believe everyone in your team should be on the same page and the best way to do that is to set monthly individual goals and targets. The focus should be on achieving results. Whatever the results you desire make sure everyone knows where the goal posts are.


Here's a tip for keeping everyone on track. Get everyone in surveillance to complete a monthly report. It sounds time consuming but it shouldn't be. If your internal reporting systems are halfway descent it should be a simple cut and paste of events on a simple template that includes your key performance indicators, targets and goals. The monthly report will provide a means of accountability up and down the expectations chain by providing a documented record of every ones performance. Here's another 5 reasons to have everyone do a monthly report:


1. Team Leaders can monitor and identify weaknesses and strengths of individuals and tailor training and development plans to suit their needs.


2. Motivational issues can be identified through trend analysis and comparison of monthly performance data.


3. Provides the surveillance director with information that could identify team leadership deficiencies.


4. Identifies talent for future promotions.


5. Provide valuable data for annual performance reviews or performance-based salary structures.



The Last Word on How to Achieve Proactiveness


Holding people responsible for results should be done in a positive and principled way. Make sure expectations are communicated very clearly but don't assume everyone is on the same page as you. Keep reinforcing your expectations by saying and doing things that don't leave any doubt on the minds of your people. Walk the talk and Follow up by inspecting what you are expecting. Finally, keep in mind that in the past we may have managed by telling people what to do and when to do it, but remember, we now live and work in the world of the Y-generation. If you can't tell them why, then Y should they do it?

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