Seetan Varsani, Regional Operations Director at Corps Security, on the evolving role of the security officer
As we all know, the role of a security officer is a far stretch from what is generally portrayed in fiction: a heap of muscle, placed at a doorway to intimidate visitors or sat before a bank of CCTV screens. Effective security is vastly more complex than manning doors, and in the current climate, the role is becoming even more multifaceted.
The number and nature of security incidents are increasing, meaning that officers need to be prepared for anything. The global impact of terrorism has brought real threats close to home. The traumas of 7/7 and the devastating attacks on London Bridge and Borough Market have changed the way security is implemented across the world, especially within high-risk capital cities.
The rapid development and falling costs of technology are changing expectations. Smart devices are able to report data in real time, changing the nature of accountability and deployment. Not only is the role of a security officer evolving, the nature of deployment itself has changed. Where once there may have been officers at every door to a premises, cameras and smart sensors can now be used in combination with fewer more highly trained officers.
Officers also have access to real-time workforce apps that provide a platform to raise concerns, communicate with management, and access HR information at the click of a button. This facilitates knowledge sharing, connects the workforce and streamlines processes.
Adoption of technology isn’t universal across the industry, but it’s getting there. It’s a game-changer, but only if implemented properly. You can’t simply replace officers with sensors and cameras. Officers need to work alongside technology in an integrated way, with the specialised training to manage this and adapt to all situations.
Security officers’ roles are changing in other ways, with security often blended with front of house services. Security officers may act as a first point of contact for members of the public, for example manning a reception desk or giving directions at the entrance to an office building. Poorly trained and unhelpful officers can reflect badly on a client’s brand image.
This is why it’s important to ensure that guards are all licensed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) and have completed extensive in-house manned guarding training to the highest industry standards. This ensures that customers receive a level of service that always meets their exact requirements.
Corps Security provides comprehensive security and premises training. Each officer also completes client induction training so they can successfully present themselves as brand ambassadors by embodying the client’s values. Officers need to be able to adapt their presentation according to their client.
Security personnel working at a high-end boutique, for example, will present themselves differently and fulfil a different role from those working at a hospital or an events venue. Every client demands something unique. Some merge security and reception roles and require someone highly personable. Other clients prefer a more traditional, quiet and somewhat imposing officer.
In popular tourist destinations, officers should be able to assist the public with knowledge about local attractions and amenities. We ensure such officers have access to multilingual tourist information and maps in pocket site guides.
The security role has, in a sense, become threefold, combining traditional security with enough technological expertise to integrate manned guarding with smart security and a front of house role. Sadly, the industry has not attracted a broad talent pool in recent years, partly because the pay for officers is relatively low when considering how much expertise is increasingly required.
Legislative changes in other sectors have driven wage increases. Wages have not risen as much in the security sector, which can make the profession less attractive. Manned guarding can also require officers to work unsociable hours and with a degree of risk involved. When security companies find the right person, it’s important to value them all the more.
In addition, the sector as a whole faces challenges: margins are being squeezed and there is ever-present pressure to demonstrate value for money. When security is working well, nothing happens. There is nothing to show the client because there have been no serious incidences and no disruption to the business. This means that the value of security work is hard to quantify and can go unnoticed. Without hard data, some clients remain to be convinced of the value of their investment, regardless of the quality of their personnel.
New threats are emerging, technology is developing and dropping in price, and officers are filling broader roles. The security industry has to adapt to all of these changes, but it has always been agile. Security providers need to nurture teams of loyal people with talent and a willingness to learn, adapt, and evolve.
The SIA is the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry in the UK, reporting to the home secretary under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. Its main duties are the compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities, and managing the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme.
For more information visit www.sia.homeoffice.gov.uk