Why investing in people and technology will enable us to ride out the ‘perfect storm’
While consumers are feeling the pinch with rocketing costs of living, businesses too are faced with something of a perfect storm of challenges. Inflation continues to rise and shows little sign of abating, energy bills are soaring, and tax hikes have been imposed in the form of increased National Insurance premiums. Meanwhile, the UK minimum wage has gone up to £9.50 an hour, with the Real Living Wage also rising to £9.90 per hour and £11.05 in London. All of this is having to be absorbed by businesses across virtually every nook and cranny of the economy.
In the support services industry, as with many others, we are also faced with an acute labour crisis. Across the UK, there are currently around 1.1 million job vacancies, many of them in service-led sectors that have been unable to offer career stability as a result of the prolonged periods of restrictions and lockdowns seen since 2020.
Labour shortages are in turn driving up wages alongside the so-called Great Resignation, which is being fuelled by a combination of older workers seeking to retire earlier and younger people choosing to travel, remain in education or set up their own businesses. And with migration numbers falling, skills gaps continue to widen.
A two-fold solution for security enterprises
Amid these surging costs of doing business, the temptation for many firms is to either cut salaries or headcount. However, if we are to reverse the perception that our sector is rarely a first-choice career, then adopting a socially driven mindset is a must.
Corps Security stands proud as a leading social enterprise in the security sector. A key part of this is operating as a Living Wage Recognised Service Provider, which guarantees decent pay to all employees in the company. Our colleagues are part of a people-first culture that centres around support structures, learning from experienced security officers and leveraging the latest technology to advance their skills and ultimately do a better job. The latter is especially important. While we appreciate that security officers will always be the core of our service, integration of smarter technological solutions into our offering can open up a range of opportunities.
From enhancing the quality of service provided to clients to plugging some of the labour shortages we are faced with, technology has a key role to play in navigating through the perfect storm. What’s more, if deployed effectively, tech-based solutions can generate significant cost savings that can free up funds to improve the salaries of employees.
Technologies to keep an eye on
The security sector is already making moves. According to a recent report by Mintel, the adoption of next-generation security systems and the replacement of legacy systems with newer, interoperable technology has been a long-term market driver. Furthermore, during the pandemic, uptake of such systems has increased.
So, what sort of technologies are driving these trends?
As businesses have adopted remote and flexible working models, the demand for CCTV and intruder and fire alarm monitoring solutions have increased. Indeed, sites which were previously monitored overnight and at the weekends may now require monitoring around the clock, seven days a week. This has given rise to a blended approach to security, where tech complements security officers and responds to the individual business security needs of each site.
Fully integrated building management systems (BMS) are key to making this work. They enable the creation of a smarter type of premises that securely controls access and egress, with integrated AI for monitoring specific risk points at all hours. The data generated by these systems can also be harnessed to inform risk management strategies. Within these setups, Bluetooth-enabled key safes and smart response systems are useful tools which allow the nearest authorised person to access keys, all while recording a precise audit and data trail.
Customer-facing dashboards like Corps Secure, meanwhile, can illustrate a full security operation in real time, covering anything from live incidents and site visits to security officer shift patterns and training records. Additionally, web portal and smartphone applications such as Corps Connect provide a simple point of access to key security personnel data. This includes shifts worked, holidays and absence records, pay information, uniform orders, and details on health benefit schemes.
These types of joined up solutions are about to become even more relevant over the coming years. Currently, the security industry is preparing for the switching off of the UK’s public switched telephone network (PSTN) in 2025. This will affect anything running off PSTN or ISDN lines, including CCTV, faxes, EPOS machines, and alarm and door entry systems, meaning companies need to act now to ensure their systems remain functional when the switch from PSTN to digital happens.
Improving the human experience
Alongside key operational benefits, technology also has the potential to enhance the experience of security sector employees. Smart solutions offer the opportunity for upskilling and afford the means for security officers to provide a superior service to customers.
The way in which training and development itself is carried out is also being enhanced by technology. At Corps, for example, we have now completed a highly successfully trial of virtual reality training modules and intend to roll it out across the entire organisation. Whether it’s patrolling, managing protests, or dealing with dangerous packages (and many more scenarios in between), we have built a training course which excites our officers and gives them a genuine feel for some of the situations they might be presented with.
It is yet another way that technology can complement the human experience. According to Glassdoor, two of the top 10 reasons employees resign revolve around a lack of clear pathways to success and outdated machinery and equipment – this sort of investment in VR training can help to counter these trends.
By adopting a two-fold proposition that enables a blended approach to security, our sector will be firmly en route to futureproofing itself and emerging stronger from today’s challenges.