Security but not as you know it

Security but not as you know it

Simon Martindill, G4S Head of Marketing examines how physical security plays a significant role in protecting critical assets

with the post-pandemic environment acting as a catalyst, security has moved on in the last few years, bringing the 378,000 licensed security officers in the UK along for the ride.

So, underneath the security bonnet, what exactly has changed and how is the modern security officer evolving?

Security - one size no longer fits all

One key driver is the dynamic and varied threat landscape.

Post-pandemic, the surge in violence and abuse towards frontline workers and the rise in anti-social behaviour has reinforced the need for core security skills, whilst social acceptance towards the ‘right to protest’ has seen an increase in civil unrest, meaning mediation skills have risen to the fore.

Meanwhile, a trend towards urban exploration and the use of filming and social media when interacting with security means that officers have had to adapt their skills.

Then, there is the changing legislative environment.

Whilst we await the introduction of the Protect Duty and what it means, we can be sure that organisations will be looking to ensure they have adequate measures in place to protect against the threat of terrorism and this will surely impact security officers.

But it is not just the threat landscape driving change, it is market dynamics too.

As businesses have begun to challenge what they want from security and how they spend their money, security contracts have moved into adjacent spaces.

As an example, more and more officers are being asked to perform customer service or front of house roles as part of their service delivery with skills needing to evolve in line.

Then, particularly in harsh or dangerous environments, the worlds of safety and security are coming together with security providing an increasingly important role in delivering medical assistance.

Moving upstream, with public funding under pressure, private security is taking on more of the work undertaken by emergency services, with the security officer needing to adjust to this increased responsibility.

As an example, G4S recently became the first and only UK company and non-police service to gain accreditation to allow specialist security officers to stop and manage traffic as they escort moving Abnormal Indivisible Loads (AILs) on the roads.

So, in summary, changing threat profiles and market dynamics are driving an evolution in the role of the security officer.

Consequently, the traditional association with low-paid, disengaged security officers who offer a limited set of skills and reluctantly perform (and manually record) a minimum set of daily tasks just does not represent modern security.

So how exactly is security responding?

Recruit, Recruit, Recruit and Retain

Given this evolution, working in security is much more exciting and varied than many people may think. It is important that we take this story out into the market, paint an exciting picture of what a career in security looks like and bring talent into the industry that is likely to remain.

Against a backdrop of low unemployment, the reality is that for job hunters a career in security often competes with online retail delivery work or working in a supermarket.

But security has so much to offer.

At G4S, we are working hard to share that message. Key staff are going into schools to help educate the young about careers in security and we have even had examples of exciting recruitment events, such as escape rooms, to help attract the right profile of candidate.

Engage, Train and Develop 

Once the officers are onboarded, the key to their retention is ongoing engagement, training and development.

From a development perspective, at G4S, we work hard to optimise the use of the Government apprenticeship scheme to provide a platform for staff to broaden their skills into new and different areas.

We have developed an Enhanced Security Officer course, which is often uniquely tailored to the vertical market or industry that the security officer operates in. This course was created to bridge the gap between a door supervisor qualification and close protection officer.

The course offers a number of modules that focus on the skills needed for security officers to operate effectively in their sector, including:

  • Conflict Management
  • Behavioural Detection
  • Threat & Risk Assessment
  • Incident Scene Management
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Emergency First Aid At Work
  • Sector Application

For the customer, the distinct advantage of the course is that it significantly increases the officer's skill set and overall performance, whilst clearly the officer themselves benefits.

Within our contracts, we actively encourage performance-related pay where the officer sees some reward for developing their skills - such as gaining this accreditation.

Remain Relevant; Be More Diverse

To remain relevant, it is critical that security effectively represents the communities that we serve.

The role that women play in our industry simply has to grow. According to the SIA in September 2022, women still only makeup 11% of licensed officers in the UK. We still even hear instances of the term ‘manned guarding’ which doesn’t set the correct tone.

We can always do more to drive a step change.

At G4S, we are currently working hard on a recruitment campaign to increase women in the industry, using insights from some of our female officers to dispel the myths and provide positive stories.

But the issue goes far beyond female recruitment.

It is critical that other diverse groups are adequately represented, supported and provided with an equal platform to use their talents. With this in mind, we are the only security organisation that is part of the Social Recruitment Advocacy Group - a positive movement looking to drive recruitment from underrepresented groups.

Remain Relevant; The ESG Ambassadors

We operate in an era where many organisations are committed to environmental, social and governance to support their corporate, social responsibility. Underpinning these programmes is a set of standards and metrics that measure impact on society and the environment.

Surprisingly, security has a huge role to play - particularly as an enabler for the security consumer.

Given that security provides valuable human resources on the ground, officers can undertake activities that support these programmes - like litter picking or avoiding unnecessary power consumption by providing facility checks.

What’s more, officers also have access through technology to record their activities, giving the host organisation powerful data which evidences their commitment to these programmes.

Therefore, the role of the security ESG ambassador is born.

So, we are operating in an environment where the threat landscape and market dynamics have changed, and security consumers demand a proactive, data-driven, intelligent, and informed approach to operational delivery.

Security providers must supply their customers with clear and transparent performance data in real-time, to drive better decision-making.

But it is not just all about the people - equipping them with the right tools is just as important.

Thus, the Connected Security Officer has emerged and is here to stay.

Significantly, this technology-enabled programme still operates with people at the core but uses technology to drive the service improvement and staff engagement that the modern environment demands.

The programme is already well embedded within some significant security operations, such as the UK’s largest public services department, where the programme has been rolled out to officers operating across 800 UK sites.

Importantly, the programme is just as relevant for small and medium-sized businesses, which require improvements to security, but on a much smaller scale.

So what is a connected officer?

Their appearance will vary depending on the environment in which they work. In some cases, wearable technology will be obvious to the public and for good reason. A first responder may appear bionic, given the multiple devices that they could be wearing, such as body-worn cameras with a visible screen. But in a corporate reception, where officers are expected to balance their security function with customer service, the officer may wear technology that is less apparent to the public, such as smartwatches, tablets and augmented reality glasses that look like everyday glasses.

What benefits does it bring?

Officer Engagement and Development

The programme uses technology to support the officer by providing simple and easy access to a network of colleagues and learning and development materials – driving more engagement and motivation.

Data-Driven Performance Insight

By using a handheld device to record activities, data is captured centrally. Information captured from officers operating across multiple locations can be consolidated into a simple reporting dashboard– all accessed from a central location, driving resource optimisation, and improved decision-making.

Security Performance Improvement

A real-time connection to a command and control function makes use of developments in artificial intelligence to identify potential incidents before they occur. Unusual motion and activity are flagged in real-time, allowing officers to proactively investigate incidents, armed with key information and the right equipment, rather than waiting till it is too late.

Security; the same only different

Security is changing and security officers are changing.

The post-pandemic environment is driving organisations to challenge their security design and expect new and different things from security officers. As a result, we are seeing a new profile of security officers emerge.

Today’s officer originates from different parts of our communities, goes far beyond the role of traditional security, receives career-long training and development, is engaged with their employer and remains for the long haul. Operationally, they use technology to underpin their role and provide transparency of their activities.

It is an exciting time to be a security officer and G4S is enjoying powering the evolution.

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