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Key visitor management questions for essential services organizations

Key visitor management questions for essential services organizations Photo

If your company is considered an “essential services” organization today, you’ll still need to have a visitor management plan for your typical visitors - contractors, service providers, or vendors - that are critical to maintaining operations in your active facilities. While under current conditions the primary goal of a visitor management system (VMS) is to ensure employee safety and help prevent COVID-19 transmission through access control, its features that protect the organization in other ways still needed to operate and be organized.

A good way to maximize the effectiveness of that operation is to break down a visit into discrete stages and identify the one or two most important requirements for each stage of the visitor management process. Doing this exercise will not only contribute to achieving your business goals – automation, compliance, and speed – but will help to ensure the safety of employees, visitors, and facilities.

A visit comprises several stages, each with their own priorities.
These stages are:

  • Pre-registration
  • Arrival
  • Check-in  
  • Meeting 
  • Check-out 
  • Post-visit

For each stage of the visitor management process, we’ll go through the single most important question essential services organizations should consider to help identify the variables that will have the most impact.

Pre-registration

Pre-registration includes the initial invitation and registration by the guest in the visitor management system. At this stage, the key question to ask is:

  • Can I protect the organization before the guest even gets close to the perimeter?

It’s important to identify if the visitor meets your organization’s safety, certification, and essential visit requirements before they arrive on site. This “invite-first” approach and approval workflow can contribute to the security of the organization through access control procedures like automated checks on internal and third-party watchlists, and help the security team provide oversight for upcoming visits. This allows the organization to protect itself early in the visitor management process.

Arrival

Arrival extends from the moment a guest crosses the facility perimeter to the time the guest begins the visitor check-in process. This doesn’t need to be idle time. There are opportunities to minimize delays, streamline the visitor management process, and help achieve the goal of the visit faster. The key question to ask at this stage is:

  • How can I maximize the value of time on-site?

Many meeting invitations lack travel and parking details and have insufficient details regarding where and how to meet the host. This creates uncertainty, delays, and confusion. Setting up invitation templates on the visitor management system so that those inviting guests can include location maps, meeting details, reserved parking spots, and host notifications ensure that every visit is as efficient as possible.  It also means that a visiting contractor’s billable time is spent delivering value and not working out logistical details in real-time. This saves the visitor time and your company money, while providing certainty to all.

Check-in

During visitor check-in, the guest meets reception or facility security personnel, completes forms, reviews and signs all required documents, and awaits a host that will accompany him or her throughout the company’s restricted areas. At this stage of the visit, the most pressing question is:

  • How do we ensure multiple department requirements are addressed?

It’s crucial to have an account of all of the stakeholders involved in a guest’s visit. The number of departments involved may be surprising. Legal, security, environmental health and safety, IT, compliance, and even sales and marketing all have an interest in how a visit is conducted. We’ve written extensively about this before. To illustrate, visitor check-in is the perfect point of contact for legal to have waivers (including those related to health or travel history) and non-disclosure documents signed, for compliance to execute a cross-check against watchlists, and for environmental health and safety to show required safety content.

Meeting

During the meeting — which includes the time the host picks up the guest, movement through restricted areas, and the carrying out of the visit’s purpose — the host must be able to focus on the task at hand while feeling confident that nothing is falling through the compliance cracks.

Ensuring this means answering the following question: 

  • How do you ensure compliance during the time on-site?

This starts at the end of the visitor check-in. Compliance during the meeting stage typically involves having processes that ensure guests don’t access restricted areas unaccompanied and that identification is clearly shown. Many regulated organizations require visitors to be escorted by the host employee at all times. This requirement is hard to enforce and is even more complex to provide proof of execution for.

  The Escorted Sign-In step in the visitor management process can require a host to scan their unique barcode as they meet the visitor, associating their ID with the visitor and creating a trackable record in the VMS. If an escort is not required, the VMS can generate a badge that shows identification information and indicates the purpose of a visit. Having a guest display this badge allows employees to clearly distinguish when a person has privileged access and when to confront someone to ensure they aren’t inappropriately accessing a sensitive area. This can all be done automatically and behind the scenes, so compliance is achieved with minimal burden on your visitor or host.

Check-out

When the guest departs the facility, it may seem as though visit-related functions have finished. There is actually an important element left, revealed by asking:

  • Can guest check-out information contribute to safety?

When departure information is recorded in the VMS, it can help the environmental health and safety department determine who’s on premise at any given time. This means that in the unlikely event of an emergency, when the moment demands good information and quick thinking, safety professionals have a real-time view into who’s safe and accounted for and who remains in the facility, allowing them to organize an evacuation, communicate instructions, or provide a full account to first responders.

Post-visit

This visit’s final stage is appropriately called the post-visit. This stage is less about this visit, and more about the next. The question to ask here is:

  • How can our organization benefit from visit data?

From knowing who was on site at any given time, to having a track record of visitor’s previous travel, to managing security and reception staff, visitor data can help improve and streamline facility operations. At this perilous time in particular, using visit data in ways that can minimize risk, help keep employees safe, or if need be, support contact tracing within the organization should be of utmost importance.

Breaking down the visit into discrete stages, identifying the most impactful elements through one refined question, and working with our award-winning support team to identify the best ways to configure Traction Guest will go a long way to creating a highly-finessed visitor management process that satisfies security and safety criteria.