Every business faces a variety of potential threats. Many of the most unnerving threats are related to security and the well-being of your employees. That’s why your facilities are full of fire-protection devices and safeguards such as locks and security lighting.

But one of the biggest potential threats to your company’s safety and viability is one that many managers don’t notice, even when it walks right by and greets them. That’s the person who is visiting your facility, but probably shouldn’t be. Perhaps it’s a vendor’s employee who dabbles in theft. Maybe it’s the golf buddy of a competitor who is looking for a little inside information. Or it could be the estranged spouse of a valued employee, seeking a confrontation or revenge.

Most companies invest a small fortune in security systems and other technology to keep burglars from getting in. And every single day, they allow large numbers of individuals to walk freely into and around their facilities. If even one of those individuals is there with ill intent, the losses could be substantial.

Some companies employ visible protection that really isn’t effective. I visited a state government office recently and was stopped by a bored security guard. He asked me to sign the guestbook and then waved me to the elevator. He didn’t ask for identification, request my purpose in visiting the building, alert anyone that I was visiting, or take more than a glance at my face. Nor had he ever seen me before.

The simple fact is that very few organizations really think about who they allow into their facilities. They don’t know when people enter, how long they’re inside (or exactly where they are), and when they exit. They don’t know if any given visitor is a Sunday School teacher or a convicted sex offender (or both, for that matter). They don’t know if the visitor is proficient at removing wallets from employee purses or technology from desks. They can’t tell if it’s someone who is planning to violently settle a grudge against an employee. It’s even possible that the visitor has a connection to a competitor and wants to glean information that’s sitting out in the open — plans tacked to bulletin boards or proposal drafts on desks.

Even if you’re not worried about visitors representing a threat to your company, suppose there was a fire or some other type of emergency incident in your building. When the first responders arrive, they need to know exactly who is in the building and where they can be found. If you don’t have access to that information, you can’t share it.

If security is important to you (and it should be), it’s critically important to manage access to your facilities. You should have a record of when someone shows up at your door, who they’re seeing, what they’re doing, where they’ll be, and when they leave. Visitors shouldn’t be allowed to wander around your buildings unescorted. They should have some kind of identification, such as a visitor tag, so employees can tell that they have a reason for being there.

Thanks to technology, companies can use systems that automate many of those processes. For example, my company’s SafeVisitor system scans a visitor’s government-issued ID, instantly checks national registries for sex offenders and other specific concerns, and issues a temporary ID badge that must be scanned for entry and exit. If someone shouldn’t be allowed to enter (perhaps because an employee has a protective order against that person), the front desk is notified immediately. For vendor employees and other regular visitors, the system provides a precredentialing process and ID cards. Other companies offer systems that provide varying levels of automated protection.

The technology is extremely helpful, but it’s just a tool. It’s even more important to have a business philosophy that says you won’t let just anyone enter your facility at any time, and a policy that says your employees are expected to exert control over visitors while they are in your facility. Depending upon your company’s situation and needs, you may even want to consider issues such as whether visitors are allowed to bring mobile devices into your facility. A smartphone may seem innocuous, but remember that it includes a camera that can easily photograph proprietary plans that someone left on a conference room table or on a bulletin board.

Visitor control isn’t being paranoid. It’s being prudent — and it can protect both your employees and the health of your business.

Mike McCarty is CEO of Danville-based Safe Hiring Solutions 

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