Home Opinion Are security officers taken for granted?

Are security officers taken for granted?

by Brian Sims
Michelle Farrelly

Michelle Farrelly

With an average current staff turnover rate of approximately 34% across the security sector compared with the national average of 14.6% for all business sectors, Michelle Farrelly suggests there needs to be an understanding that perhaps today’s security teams do not feel ‘engaged’ and maybe perceive that they’re taken for granted.

If I asked whether or not you (and your organisation) take your security officers for granted I’m sure you would respond with absolute indignance. However, can it be said that, to a certain extent anyway, we all take our security provisions for granted at some point?

According to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary, to ‘take for granted’ is to expect someone or something to be always available to serve in some way without thanks or recognition and/or to value someone or something too lightly.

The trouble with providing good security for any host business is that the end result is a continuation of the status quo. There are no incidents to report. There are no sensational headlines. It’s just day-to-day business as usual.

We can become almost oblivious to the threat of potential dangers as they remain firmly hidden under the safety blanket of a quality security provision on site. It’s only when things go wrong, and our peace is disturbed, that we’re suddenly aware of the true value of our security teams.

In fact, is it not often the case – and somewhat ironically so – that the mitigation of threats through a quality security provision can lead to the questioning of its very validity?

Cutting back on security provision

Decisions around cutting back or scaling down on security provision can often backfire and incur greater costs for the host business in the long term. Sadly, it’s at this very point that the realisation of the value of the original security regime becomes all-too-evident. The monotony of the status quo would be welcomed back with open arms and the solemn promise made of not taking the service for granted ever again.

Our aforementioned definition of taking something for granted states that this is to expect availability and service without offering thanks or recognition. Surely, then, we do not take security for granted as most companies are now rewarding their people though recognition schemes, reward programmes and even full-scale awards ceremonies?

Highlighting of the excellent role security teams play raises awareness of the extreme challenges they face on a daily basis. However, most awards schemes recognise acts of bravery and highlight what’s often a reactive response to an incident. High profile incidents will of course bring plaudits and raise awareness outside of the normal daily routine.  However, if you’re not involved in an outstanding act or in a position to showcase your response capability, is it the case that your diligent efforts as a security officer are then overlooked?

With a current staff turnover rate of approximately 34% across the security sector compared with the 14.6% national average for all business sectors, we need to understand that perhaps our security teams do not feel ‘engaged’ and maybe perceive that they are indeed taken for granted. How, then, do we engage them?

Benefits of employee engagement

There’s no longer any doubt about the benefits of employee engagement. We all know them:

*Employees enjoy their work more if they feel valued and listened to, knowing full well that they can make a tangible contribution to the success of their own area and also the business as a whole

*For their part, employers derive better performance from the workforce. High levels of engagement mean that employees will impart the extra discretionary effort that results in improved performance

*Customers receive better service. Employees enjoying their work are encouraged to be innovative, leading towards high levels of performance which results in enhanced service to the customer

We also recognise the consequences of low employee engagement from within a workforce. It certainly results in lessened morale, diminished vigilance and weakened customer service, in turn leading towards a ‘Why bother? attitude that can come to haunt even the most conscientious of employees.

Do members of the public recognise this lack of engagement? I would say they do. How often do we witness the grimacing face of a stressed shop worker and consider quietly to ourselves that a smile costs nothing?

Negative public perceptions of a disengaged security officer will only lead to future generations questioning this career choice and looking for alternative occupations. Indeed, there’s much work still to be done if we’re really going to make this industry a ‘Go To’ sector. Rest assured that we all have a part to play in making this happen.

Does money result in engagement?

Does increased remuneration result in greater employee engagement?

The new Conservative Government has announced that, from October, the National Minimum Wage for adults will increase by 20 pence to £6.70 per hour. This represents a wage increase for some in the security sector.

Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement in the Summer Budget that the National Living Wage will be set at £9.00 by 2020 has received a mixed response. As a firm believer in raising the profile and perception of our industry as a career choice, we at Unipart Security Solutions welcome any positive steps taken towards this worthy goal.

Turning towards theory for a second, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs determines that pay (‘safety’) comes somewhere beneath the individual’s overriding desire for ‘belonging’, ‘esteem’ and ‘self-actualisation’. This suggests that, in truth, increased employee engagement is fostered as a direct result of confidence, achievement, respect of (and by) others, creativity, problem-solving and inspiration.

Therefore, it can be said that, in order to increase engagement, we must stop taking our security officers for granted. Instead, we must reward them for their efforts with something other than an increased pay packet.

Financial reward will always be a ‘positive’, of course, but inviting members of staffs’ contributions and offering them an environment in which they can unlock their potential will go much further in creating a satisfied and engaged team. Once we’ve arrived at this happy place, it’s fair to say the true benefits of an engaged team will be evident.

What does reward look like?

What does the reward look like? It can come in the form of a shiny award recognising the brilliance of security teams within challenging environments. It can manifest itself by way of a team supporting officers with dedicated training and advice. It can be sitting down and asking officers how their particular site’s security might be improved. It’s about involving them in the decision-making of their safety. It can also take the form of a simple: ‘Thank You’.

Whatever the reward may be, it should recognise every aspect of the security officer’s role and highlight the dedication and expertise that results in the smooth day-to-day running of a well-oiled security machine.

In conclusion, the message is a simple one. Welcome and recognise the hard work behind the achievement of your ‘status quo’ and the security team members who provide it will never again be taken for granted.

Michelle Farrelly is Head of Human Resources at Unipart Security Solutions

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