Resilience and Sustainability: The benefits of partnerships and collaboration in 2024
Looking ahead to 2024, and the benefit of partnerships and collaboration to enhance resilience and sustainability in the security industry.
Having worked in the industry prior to the Private Security Industry Act 2001, I witnessed a lack of diversity; working conditions were not particularly good, with buyers wanting a deterrent rather than a trained and competent security officer. Remuneration did not reflect the risk, and the industry relied on self-regulation. Although many former police and military personnel did gravitate towards the private security sector as a second career, security was not a career of choice until the last two decades, when the 9/11 travesty changed the security culture worldwide.
More recently, lessons learnt from Brexit, the impact on globalisation and the skill deficit, followed by a catastrophic global pandemic, created a paradigm shift in working conditions, taking advantage of online studying, communicating with others, and seeking more advantageous partnerships.
Collaboration and partnerships
The last decade has witnessed the once-segregated private, public and government sectors making progress in sharing information, mainly since the 2017 terrorist attacks [see Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament – The 2017 Attacks: What needs to Change] and the Manchester Arena inquiry, meaning today’s security culture is very different to that of the past two decades.
There is no doubt that such incidents have catapulted security personnel to the forefront to be the eyes and ears on the ground, significantly contributing to public safety. Ultimately, this means the UK will have a workforce of capable guardians to protect the vulnerable (individuals and communities), which will be invaluable for the embedding of Martyn’s Law [see Martyn’s Law three tier approach: “Martyn’s Law” - What you need to know | ProtectUK] otherwise known as the Protect and maintaining safe spaces for everyone to live and work in.
Risk resilience is multi-dimensional and relies on coordination and beneficial alliances to prevent the development of silos and stove pipes; this requires a solid conceptual basis for evaluation purposes and an element of change management. For a more succinct approach, I use four main cornerstones in practice and align them with the SMART goals philosophy: this assists in capturing evidence and identifying areas in need of improvement, with a significant focus on public safety within the post-incident analysis phase [see SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound https://www.mindtools.com/a4wo118/smart-goals]
Resources – do we have enough resources to deliver expectations?
Yes; data from March 2023 confirms the Security Industry Authority issued 466,825 licences, which is over and above those working in the sector who do not require an SIA licence: government personnel, armed forces, or emergency services. It also excludes personnel from disaster management, family assistance and translators. [see Security Industry Authority Annual Report 2022/23 Security Industry Authority Annual Report and Accounts 2022-23 (publishing.service.gov.uk)]
Communication – how do we communicate our needs, achievements, and failures?
The public and businesses alike have access to a broad range of open-source intelligence from multiple government agencies and various membership bodies: research papers plus a number of free publications. Internal communications will need to be more succinct and in layperson’s terms by limiting jargon to support understanding and objective decision-making.
Time – where to prioritise time?
Providing time to prepare, deliver and analyse a plan is essential; this does come at a cost, but regular training to test plans and recruiting for knowledge, skills and growth where required are vital.
Finance – affordability, accessibility, and relevance?
Finance is vital to the activation of all plans –costs to the business to improve resources, recruit skills, research, and train are a necessity.
Significant change – silos and working holistically
According to the Harvard Business School a by-product of the pandemic was the significant shift in the use of virtual communication within the silo community. [See Increased communication within silos: Silos That Work: How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Collaborate – HBS Working Knowledge]. The challenges previously associated with sharing data and intelligence to decrease the risks to the business from known knowns and unknown knowns improved, which undoubtedly improved preparedness measures when it comes to risk.
Nonetheless, silos have not, and will not totally disappear as we navigate the pending change to employment law with the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023, which received Royal Assent in July 2023 but is unlikely to be enforced until mid-2024. [see Pending Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 – Parliamentary Bills – UK Parliament]
At this point, the status quo of the traditional work environment (office-based) will legally change. The Act will provide employees and other workers with the opportunity to request a variation to current working conditions. This change will increase the need for preparedness, amendment to the risk register, and updates to business continuity and resilience plans. Consequently, a more holistic approach will be required to reduce the potential for insider risk and the protection of data for home workers.
Furthermore, a dedicated person will be required to ensure compliance is maintained, to enforce the security culture outside the office, and prevent the former style of silo working from returning.
The need for a better work-life balance, work conditions, and remuneration is apparent and should be encouraged from within the industry and across sectors to educate the buyers of security services. We also need to look at the bigger picture.
The risk process is a cycle of preparedness, the activation methodology, and post-incident analysis, which is where we learn what human intervention or response has worked, what could be improved and what did not work.
Lessen indecisiveness and inequality and recognise that the skills and knowledge required and the behaviours we seek as an industry may not always be from a security practitioner to fulfil the business need.
Wellbeing and self-care
Since the pandemic, we have witnessed an explosion of self-care. The World Health Organisation states, ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity;’ and at long last, the industry has stepped out from the shadows to become far more accepting of such issues. [See World Health Organisation Mental health (who.int) (October 2023)]
Businesses and individuals are becoming more open-minded rather than it being a taboo subject, with an increase in mental health awareness training and Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace. This increase is not only advantageous for the workforce but also for dealing with any vulnerable and at-risk members of the public; and should be included within the scope of what ‘good’ looks like for the industry and nurture alliances with specialist organisations; for example.
- Security Minds Matter (supported by the Security Industry Authority) [SIA Licence Holders are required to submit mental health reports as specified in the SIA licensing conditions – see GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)]
- ToughEnoughToCare [see Tough Enough To Care – Supporting People, NOT labels (October2023)]
- PTSDResolution [see About Us (ptsdresolution.org) (October 2023)]
- Consortium for the Prevention of Suicide [See Prevention of Suicide – CPS (suicidepreventionconsortium.org) ]
Security, the career of choice – are we there yet?
Security is a transient profession. People move regularly across different sectors according to their needs, and the lack of career information and how to start that journey hinders choice, although work in this area is gathering momentum. Input from special interest groups, membership organisations, training providers, academia, and industry is vital in the identification of transferable skills, knowledge, and primary behaviours for personal and professional development to achieve a more holistic approach to better support inclusiveness, which in parts remains elusive. Apprenticeships [Professional Security Operative level 2 apprenticeship and the Security First Line Manager level 3] are currently available, with the level 4 apprenticeship (title TBA) currently being developed. academic study, vocational training, and continuing professional development (CPD) activity will gather momentum in 2024 to support the development of tangible career pathways.
Preparing for 2024
As an industry, our journey is not complete, which was apparent in September 2023 at the Security Industry Authority (SIA) National Conference “20 Years of the Private Security Industry Act: Building, Learning and Adapting to New Challenges in Supporting Public Safety”.
The SIA defined its position within the sector as leading and enforcing regulatory requirements and influencing change by preventing stagnation. It also became clear that the SIA is undoubtedly the lynchpin between the government, leading organisations, and membership bodies by encouraging consultation from the bottom up and top down to improve standards through licensing and scoping out training needs.
Thereafter, contrary to belief, the quality of training remains the responsibility of the awarding organisation. The SIA also underpins a second fundamental area of development: the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) introduced in 2006. The ACS is a stamp of recognition to buyers that the business is fit for purpose and invests in the development and deployment of a competent workforce.
The ACS endorsement is evidence of what ‘good’ looks like when purchasing services by providing buyers with a level of commitment to governance, intelligent foundations to grow a viable business, a business with a culture of safe practices, a healthy work environment, and openness to auditing.
Of course, there are other routes to evidence competence; achieving one of the BSI ISO standards to reduce risk to become more sustainable is one example of how to influence those who buy security services and improve the quality of industry providers.
Unquestionably, this area of development is likely to gather momentum in 2024 and beyond as security requirements increase and the procurement of internal and external supply chains increases.
With 2024 just over the horizon, we can reflect on the last two decades and appreciate the trajectory the sector has followed to improve the protection of society and the business community as a whole. There is no doubt that we are an industry of competitors with varying levels of experience, knowledge, skills and influence; we are also critical stakeholders in fulfilling the UK security requirements.
Collaboration and partnerships will increase to provide an array of services. Excellent leadership will be at the forefront to work at pace and align security measures with the ever-changing threat landscape. Risk resilience will be more efficacious with layers of protection for the intangible assets associated with cyber and the more tangible assets aligned with physical security, with a greater understanding of convergence between the two. We also need to be better informed on the perception and concerns of the public and involve lay people in consultation going forward.
2024 will see the sector rise to the challenges to take security to the next level.
Angela Vernon Lawson MSc CSyP FSyI SFHE
Chartered Security Professional and Fellow of the Security Institute
Senior Fellow of Higher Education
Principal Consultant – Research and Bespoke Training