Investment in training drives change and quality
The security industry has changed markedly in recent years. There are now higher client expectations of security providers, expanding risk registers, increased pressure on margins and rising aspirations of those working in security, and the result is that training has become a key driver of change and quality. Indeed, key thinkers in the industry understand that ongoing training in security is now ‘a part of the job’.
The advent of regulation provided the sector with ‘ready-trained’ personnel and offered some companies the opportunity to reduce their costs by reducing their own in-house training capabilities or, in some cases, abandoning them completely.
This was not without risk. The sector has seen numerous cases of training malpractice, the most recent being highlighted by the BBC ‘Inside Out’ programme in March, which suggested that thousands of licensed security guards could be working in the UK fraudulently after buying qualifications for cash. The sector has no way of ever knowing the scale of malpractice, and so the responsibility for ensuring personnel are appropriately trained once again falls to the security company.
Going beyond regulation
One requirement of the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) is that all officers are assessed at the recruitment stage to confirm that they have undertaken and retained their basic training. Significant time may have elapsed since such basic training was completed, as there is no official requirement for annual refresher training. With no formal research into the retention of knowledge from the SIA training, it is fair to suggest that this is a sensible first step for anyone hiring security operatives, irrespective of ACS accreditation requirements.
Regular refresher training on core security topics should also be considered essential. The delivery of this training can be challenging. Sites with a dedicated security management structure provide the simplest environment for delivery of training, whereas the single-officer sites are the hardest, especially when these are in remote locations. A common solution is for mobile management to provide toolbox talks to these officers during their mandated welfare visits.
Another solution that is gaining traction in the sector is e-learning. E-learning can either be extremely cost effective or extraordinarily expensive, depending on how it is implemented and embedded into the business. It is true to say that taking ‘old’ and potentially uninspiring content and simply making it available online is unlikely to engage the workforce and may indeed be counterproductive.
Whether the training is delivered face-to-face on site, in a classroom, via e-learning or even using a blend of different delivery methods, the investment required is significant. While arguments may be made for and against delivering training in excess of contractual requirements, they should always be balanced against the costs of no training being provided at all.
Some refresher training, specifically in relation to health and safety at work, is a legal obligation, but training in other areas should also be considered. This might include additional conflict management training, risk assessment or even physical intervention if this is identified as required by an appropriate risk assessment. In this respect, effective training is clearly a cost efficient risk mitigation strategy.
Further, if the sector is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as providing personnel that lack the appropriate knowledge and skills to do their job properly, then the harm that could be done is undeniable, not least to the progress the sector has made towards ‘professionalisation’. Fortunately, this pessimistic view is being countered by our nature as a service industry; we are seeing positive change being driven by the needs and expectations of our clients.
The widespread value of training
Requests for additional training information in tender proposals is an excellent barometer for how purchasers of security services view the importance of training as an integral part of the service delivery. This has led, in some cases, to pressures on security providers to expand their commitment to training at no additional cost to the client.
This can lead to training being delivered ‘on the cheap’ as a ‘box-ticking’ exercise that is actually counterproductive in terms of the cultural risks it creates and cost management with regard to wasting money on ill-conceived or ineffective training programmes.
Experience informs us that there is no such thing as ‘cheap’ training – the measurement should be whether or not the training is effective in bringing about positive behavioural changes to increase client satisfaction while controlling costs.
It is fair to say that clients are not the only stakeholders with an interest in training. As the security industry itself matures, there is internal pressure for training opportunities. Indeed, a number of studies have indicated that those working in the sector have career aspirations that are perhaps beyond those traditionally associated with front-line security personnel. If the industry seeks to retain these people and attract others like them, training and career development opportunities need to be clearly signposted.
There is little doubt that any security business investing in an effective training programme is preparing itself for the future needs of both the market and the industry itself. An innovative training strategy will help to win business, attract and retain quality staff, maintain client satisfaction, build trust and support the growing perception of the sector as a developing profession. Rather than be considered a regulatory or contractual burden, training should be considered for what it is – a widespread benefit to any organisation that, if done passionately and appropriately, far outweighs its investment.
Managing Director, Axis Security