Routes to Learning: Training and Development in the Security Industry

Louise McCree

Louise McCree

According to a recent report published by Totaljobs, two thirds of employees have moved roles as a result of lack of training opportunities. In addition, nine out of every ten respondents wanted their employer to offer additional learning and development programmes. Quite clearly, writes Louise McCree, employees want more training, but they’re not receiving it and, as a result, appear to be ‘voting’ with their feet.

For its part, the security industry most certainly needs to work towards attracting new talent and retaining the employees it does have under its wing. One way of achieving this is by focusing on a Learning and Development strategy and identifying if, as a business, your organisation could in fact be doing more. Untrained staff are not only a liability if their knowledge is lacking, but they’re also likely to be less productive and motivated.

Once an employee has their Security Industry Authority licence, the dangerous assumption in some businesses is that the employee then knows what they’re doing because they’ve passed their basic training. Failing to provide additional support and development is short-sighted, risky and often very costly. Security personnel would benefit from a vast range of training, not to mention upskilling, mentoring and/or coaching.

Technology is constantly changing and, as such, training in this area is vital. Your people need to be aware of any new products and systems and how to use them successfully. Employees also need to be kept up to speed with ever-changing client processes and procedures on site.

Compliant with regulations

The security industry itself is also constantly changing and so it’s important for a business to develop its staff in order to avoid being left behind. In addition to this, it’s important that your business is compliant with all security industry regulations by making sure that the knowledge of your team is up-to-date. Training in this sense could take the form of informal on-site workshops or ‘toolbox talks’.

One of the main obstacles to overcome with training is time spent out of the business and the perceived cost attached, but the benefits always far outweigh any negatives. For example, Health and Safety training will not only help reduce claims, but also ensure that your sites are safer and more comfortable places to work.

It’s important to be aware of any resistance to training, which will be experienced in some organisations at a number of levels. Engaging stakeholders from the outset is imperative in order to garner support and achieve buy-in.

More than ever, security teams need to be confident in handling difficult discussions, calming anxious or worked up visitors and dealing with angry contractors. As such, workshops on ‘Conflict at Work’ are an ideal way to ensure that your employees have the tools needed to do their jobs. Staff need to know how to escalate things quickly, efficiently and professionally.

Part of handing difficult situations is about improving communication. Security officers need to be able to interact with a wide variety of individuals and communicate not only verbally, but also through their physiology and tone. It sounds obvious, but it’s particularly the case in the security industry that a smile, positive eye contact and remembering someone’s name goes a long way. This last point also impresses today’s clients who are now looking for an added value service.

Expectations of today’s clients

Clients’ expectations are ever-increasing. Nowadays, security personnel often double as receptionists or concierge staff. They’re expected to meet and greet visitors and act as the first point of contact. Officers should be able to act as ambassadors for the business as well as the client and so customer services training should be compulsory.

Prevention is always better than cure, and this is most definitely the case when it comes to the issue of diversity. As such, developing your people to understand that working within a diverse team makes them stronger will prove to be immensely valuable. It will also ensure that bullying and harassment claims are less likely.

A stronger and more robust training plan and a structured approach to Learning and Development will also help you attract the right talent, as well as assisting in the retention of those members of staff you do have. This then reduces turnover and spend on recruitment. Continued investment from the business means that your people will have improved motivation towards their work, in turn increasing productivity and profitability. It will also help to avoid competitors taking away your best employees as those training staff will be more eligible for internal promotions. This enables the client to have faith that security personnel harbour a complete understanding of their role, have the right skills set and know how to do the job to the very best of their ability.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Totaljobs’ recent training survey also found that 90% of employers identified individual training had a noticeable and positive effect on the larger team.

Delivering the training programme

There are various methods of delivering your training programme, with the approach you take determined by a number of factors. These include the size of groups to be trained, the length of the course, where your staff are based, what information and detail needs to be conveyed and whether or not any members of the team have disabilities and thus require a targeted learning approach. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach rarely works.

e-Learning, for example, is a relatively low cost, easy and quick way of disseminating information. ACAS provides some great online modules which are simple, quick and can be completed away from the workplace. They’re also free. In parallel, ‘on the job’ training is a great way of  sharing knowledge that’s already held within the business. You know who your subject experts are, so use them. Coaching is also a great way of developing your security management team. Some individuals may need support with leadership, others with delegation. The advantage with coaching is that there’s great flexibility for managers to be developed in a way that best suits them.

NVQs are a much more structured way of learning, but one which demonstrates your commitment and investment to your people, not only in terms of cost, but also the fact that the business is willing to invest time in their progression. Some of the most successful training programmes use a mix of all these methods and more.

Profile, values and strategy

The next steps would be to ramp up a dedicated and bespoke training programme which is matched to your company profile, values and strategy. Ensuring that you have a clear training policy which communicates to your people what your expectations are, but also what support they should expect from you, is also crucial.

A word of caution for eager businesses. Ensure that your training is accessible to all of your people and doesn’t accidentally omit one group or another. It’s easy to fall into this trap and many well-meaning organisations end up falling foul of this. For example, when it comes to external training, consider whether the rooms involved are accessible to wheelchairs. Does the trainer have facilities for those who have sight problems or who are hearing impaired? Is software available for PCs in order to enlarge fonts for anyone who needs this and has consideration been given to any learners who are dyslexic?

Those with autism and asperger’s can dislike loud noises and large groups so consider arranging one-to-one training sessions for them. If training always falls on one particular day (for example, a Friday) and this is when a certain member of staff doesn’t work, you could be accused of discrimination. Remember to make sure that all training is available to everyone.

Five key rules

Ultimately, there are five key rules to remember. One: Undertake a training needs analysis before you conduct any kind of training programme to ensure you understand which gaps need addressing and what you want to achieve. Two: Make sure the Board is on board. Buy-in from upper management is essential otherwise whatever measures you put in place will not work. Three: Ensure you know how much the training is going to cost, where the funds are coming from and the timeframes for delivery. Four: Make sure you record all training which takes place and consider whether you want to generate e-Certs and how you plan to capture and log the training that’s occurring.

Last, but not least… Five: Find a suitable way of capturing training feedback and evaluation to ensure that whatever programme of learning you put in place is fit for purpose, has relevant content and is delivered suitably for the delegates involved. If feedback tells you otherwise then determine to make immediate changes.

Louise McCree is Founder of effectivehr

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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