What sets the professional apart from the practitioner?
Who is a professional? Can everyone be a professional, or does that mean that the term then becomes meaningless?
First, let’s look at the security profession. Are we a profession? The answer is… yes. We may not yet have a professional body in the UK which holds Chartered Status; however, we do have The Register of Chartered Security Professionals which is owned by the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals and managed by the Security Institute.
There are currently 70+ Chartered Security Professionals earning the prestigious post nominal of CSyP.
Most security professionals will agree that our industry is difficult to define. There is a huge range of business types, roles and responsibilities that come under the umbrella of “security”. The work of other “professionals” such as doctors or accountants, for example, are clearly understood, but it is not so well defined for a security professional. This is likely to be due to the fact that the security industry is diverse with many facets such as physical security, cyber security, risk, resilience and such like. Perception of what security actually is also becomes a factor, as it is perceived to be limited to physical security such as CCTV or uniformed security officers.
When we look at academic achievement and career development we can make similar parallels. For an accountant and a doctor it is clear what the required level of academic achievement is. Chartered Accountant is a term that people understand and accept as being someone who has achieved a recognised level of competence in their chosen profession.
The way that business is conducted in both public and private sector organisations has changed significantly over recent years. Statistics and research have identified that procurement is generally motivated by either “pain” or “pleasure”. The “pain” they may incur if they don’t or the “pleasure” they may gain if they do procure an item, solution, product or service. Unfortunately, the motives for procuring security-related solutions and products is based upon “pain” and therefore it is the responsibility of us as security professionals to ensure that we are able to communicate effectively with key decision makers in order to advise and support them on key issues surrounding security.
Traditional or entrepreneurial
Some of the issues stem from the way that security professionals approach their own roles, which can be defined as traditional or entrepreneurial. The former view their job as being aligned to a service function and a cost to the bottom line. This lends itself to a situation where simply reducing the amount of money spent on security becomes a key objective. Conversely, those in the entrepreneurial category see security as a discrete supportive function that supports each area of a business, enabling it to conduct business effectively whilst underpinned by proportionate security practices and measures; it also requires an integrated interdepartmental approach. For example, human resources and security professionals work together to implement adequate pre-employment screening of staff and contractors. Many current security professionals view themselves and their peers within this category and businesses are now starting to recognise the benefits that the role of the security professional brings to an organisation.
All too often security is perceived as a ‘grudge’ purchase rather than an integral part of a company’s strategy. This is due to misconceptions on the part of senior business decision makers combined with the fact that too few security professionals are able to present ideas in a way that is based upon a broader understanding of the business needs. It is this broader more holistic approach to work and business that sets the true security professional apart from the practitioners. There are key business practices, disciplines and knowledge bases that differentiate professionals:
Historic Perspective gives individuals a sense of the journey that has been made to reach this point in time. Understanding and appreciating the past informs decisions and allows learning to avoid repeating mistakes and to replicate best practice. Without an appreciation of what has happened before how can we as professionals influence the future?
Horizon Scanning is useful not only for identifying emerging trends and future areas of growth but in the context of how individuals interact with one another. Twitter is a good example of something that has grown into a mainstream communication platform utilised by many businesses and industries for the dissemination of urgent operational information.
Professionals embrace complexity in the world and understand that today’s problems are not isolated. It is often necessary to work with other professionals to achieve goals and a professional will not hesitate to consult and collaborate with others to achieve those goals.
Continual Professional Development (CPD) is a much used corporate catechism but fundamentally it means a “professional” is engaged in continuously developing their skillset, whether through formal structured learning, or through self-development and mentoring. In short they are proactively ensuring their continual development. Personal effectiveness is an essential of professional leadership and effectiveness is supported by the ability to enhance, develop and improve existing skills.
Academic achievement is an important addition to an individual’s knowledge base. Coupled with practical experience relevant professional qualifications can enable individuals to move beyond being a technician or practitioner. But what of the security industry? What is our career path? How do you become a security professional?
Business is changing
The way we do business is changing; businesses are becoming much more streamlined and working methods more efficient and flexible. This is largely to enable organisations to meet their business demands as well as provide flexible working conditions, increase efficiency and realise cost savings. It is therefore logical that as security professionals our roles and the way we work will change to meet and adapt to these demands and changes. This will continue to evolve. and if we are to respond and provide professional security services to our clients, either as service providers or indeed as in- house security teams, we do need to consider our own personal development and ensure that our skills remain current and relevant. There are many ways of achieving this through either academic or vocational training and through self development supported by membership of a professional security membership organisation such as the Security Institute, which provides guidance, mentoring, knowledge centre forums and the like. This kind of forum also provides opportunities to share experiences and best practice guidance with colleagues and associates in a trusted environment.
In 2011, the Register of Chartered Security Professionals was launched. For successful registrants, the designation of being a Chartered Security Professional (CSyP) is the recognition of their skills as a professional in their field of expertise. This is an essential step if the profession of security is to take its place alongside other high-calibre disciplines in the public and private sectors. How could anyone not want to be part of this?
Emma Shaw CSyP, Chairman, The Security Institute (at time of writing)