Security – what does good look like?

3rd April 2017

By Mark Jones, Director South 

Today’s security industry is very different to the one I joined over 20 years ago but it still revolves around people. So, what does good look like?

Staff Care

A member of staff who feels valued will go that extra mile. We must treat our staff with the utmost respect and care in order to get the best from them. We remain passionate and determined to look after staff and my team sets this as one of the highest priorities every day. This must be driven at all levels as the worst thing for an officer is to find out that the CEO visited site and didn’t bother to visit the security team or say hello.

It’s the simple things that boost the morale of a security officer, whether remembering their first name and where they have just been on holiday or asking how their child is,  knowing they were sick last week. Paying on time still remains key and if a mistake is made, we must ensure it is rectified quickly and clearly communicated to the staff member.

Uniform and Appearance

I am a still a firm believer in what you see is what you get. Presentation matters a lot; a smart, alert officer will deter and represent the customers’ business, but in isolation this is not enough.

The uniform of officers has changed over the years, from jumpers with epaulettes, shirt tie and peaked caps in the 1980s, to more formal blazers in the 90s and suits in the noughties. Today, the customer needs its security provider to match its own staff dress codes or practices and as security providers, we need to adapt to this.

It is important to take a flexible approach to match the client’s own workwear style and invoke better engagement with staff. For example, at a current WJ site, the client’s staff don’t wear a tie or suit to work so we introduced an all-black officer uniform of polo shirt, combat trousers and soft shell jacket. The feedback on day one was amazing as the same staff were seen as a new team that fits with the client culture of appearance on site.

Working Hours & Conditions

A work/life balance is essential for everyone. There are unfortunately still numerous security providers who expect staff to work excessive hours. WJ pioneered the drive towards working time compliant rosters and hours as this provides proven benefits for everyone.

Yet, there are still excessive shifts and rosters where security staff are expected to work over 12 hours in a shift or 7 shifts in a row before a break. We need to wake up to poor practices and as an industry be willing to walk away from clients who push for such regimes to be operationally and socially acceptable.

 In order to attract and retain the best staff, pay rates are key to success. How far people have to travel to work must be considered to ensure the most alert staff. Clients who are willing to pay at low levels and then expect the security staff to be attentive and happy need to be educated. A gradual increase to wages each year is essential to demonstrate to the teams that they are respected and wanted by all. Any additional benefits or recognition schemes should also be driven in partnership.

Training and Development

We are always looking for new initiatives in training but it must provide value to staff members and clients alike. E-Learning platforms are a relatively new initiative and allow for staff to maintain training in key areas without the need to enter a classroom. All staff need to be given the chance to develop their skills and move onwards and upwards in the industry. I still feel it is better the devil you know and will always look at promoting from within before I consider external candidates. This may mean extra time spent developing and honing skills of an individual but on the plus side existing employees will then see a potential career progression plan is available for everyone, if the skills and drive are there.

Management Support

An area or contract manager cannot be expected to run 30-40 contracts and provide an appropriate level of support to the teams on site. It is crucial to develop staff at all levels into the managers of the future as they will then understand the real issues and how to react. My advice is to prepare for growth and don’t react too late when managers are exhausted or overworked.

I also believe that high wage rates does not always mean better people. Good leadership and staff care creates a better person to deliver the quality service needed to survive.

 Honesty, Integrity, Open Communication and Relationships

Being honest with your stakeholder base and staff should be standard for all security providers and is essential at all levels. How can you expect your clients to trust you if you hide mistakes made by a security officer and then trust your teams with £millions of assets each and every day? Being open isn’t as easy as it sounds but if both parties are honest, a true partnership can begin. This will drive continuous improvement and the willingness to learn from mistakes.

Emails are often misunderstood and I prefer face to face meetings, although technical solutions like Skype and Google Hang Outs are becoming more popular and should be embraced where best fit.

Relationships cannot be developed overnight and need consistent work to provide the best service. Having a clear mapped client communication strategy which is layered will provide resilience and develop confidence within a widening stakeholder base.

 Security Industry Authority (SIA) – Approved Contractor Score (ACS)

Security providers need more appropriate measurements to be judged against. The SIA ‘Approved Contractor Score’ is a good metric and should be used by clients or procurement teams as the very minimum standard of consideration. A step in the right direction would be to stipulate a minimum ACS score when choosing a security provider.

Technology

Drones, CCTV cameras, analytics, interactive building management systems, vein readers for access control and numerous other solutions are available but what really adds value? The key to success with technology is being user friendly whilst still providing value to the client. Choosing the correct item, software and support can often be a minefield and it is important to provide unbiased advice on which supplier to be used.

Intelligence

In a world where most people ‘Google’ more quickly than reading the news directly, we must be in a position where intelligence reports are quick, accurate and applicable to the respective security teams and client.

Develop custom information suitable to the client’s needs and you will become an essential and integral part of the overall managed security delivery for your client and not just a resource provider.

Partnerships & Forums

Get involved in local business watch schemes, leading if required. Use these platforms for setting easy ways of sharing information or security alerts across a network of sites. Work with partners to provide security awareness sessions on a variety of the latest subject matters with well-known speakers.

 One Team Approach

Inspire and encourage working with other suppliers, drive and create a ‘one team’ environment to provide a unique resilient service to the client. Whether this means cross training on some positions across suppliers or inviting others to training sessions, it can only improve service and the reputation of all concerned.

 Social Networking

The use of social networking in an industry like security used to be frowned upon; now it is essential. In a control room, the ability to share information via social network or across numerous sites provides one of the quickest ways to communicate to all. Most officers will possess and hold a mobile smart phone whilst on duty, so use this to your advantage under control to enhance communication. Setting up like minded groups for the same purpose can also drive service levels.

It’s still about people

In summary, good security is still a very complicated matter but it is controlled by people. When a balance of all the factors I have listed is maintained correctly, the client, staff and supplier will benefit from a long term and open partnership that delivers the highest level of service.

Please feel free to get in touch with me should you wish to discuss any matter in more detail: mark.jones@wilsonjames.co.uk