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SJUK Exclusive: There is still more to be done

June 3, 2022

Security is the industry, guarding is what it does, officers are the ones that do it, writes John Sephton FSyI.

In the static site guarding industry there has been a push towards professionalisation. We have seen this via SIA licencing, new top up training and a whole host of other initiatives.

The industry is trying to become more inclusive and diverse and deliver a service that has morphed year on year. If this is the case, then why can’t we come to an agreement on certain words that describe what we do? Companies are still grasping on to the old ways of industry talk and using old world words to describe the services they provide.

According to the new BS7499:2020, the new description is ‘officers’, which is a positive step in the right direction. In the industry there is a push towards inclusion of all shapes and sizes, identification and background – so the questions here are: Are we, as an industry, ready for it? What needs to change? As I venture down this corridor, I will look at the various descriptions we find in the static guarding industry and what potentially we should do to change it.

Manned guarding

In the BS7499:2020, it refers to the industry as ‘static site guarding’. The term ‘manned guarding’ has been around forever, but like many things, I believe this description now needs to perish and become phased out from people’s everyday vocabulary.

If we are to be seen as an inclusive industry, then the name must be inclusive – static site guarding is a good start. But the other point of discussion here is: Does the term static site guarding reflect the duties and responsibilities of the teams out there?

The security officer has become a hybrid of many facets which enables businesses and organisations to function, especially those working around facilities management. Thankfully, it is not showing any movement towards going back to what it once was, the night watchman. The night watchman is, as it says, a solitary figure sitting on a site, patrolling and keeping an eye out on the bits they see as important – if you could catch him awake then you would see this, but sadly Hollywood and wider perceptions are against us.

The industry has moved on from rattling around with keys, to one where we are responsible for health and safety checks, loading bays, reception areas, CCTV rooms, customer service; the list goes on and on. Maybe something like ‘operational site protection’ would be more fitting instead of static site guarding as the teams onsite are generally not static.

It’s all in the name

If you have the term ‘security guard’ in any of your advertising, any section of your website, anywhere in your assignment instructions – or even in your mind – then I think this needs to change quickly. This is a massive bugbear of mine as well as those trying to move the image of the guard to an officer and this will take an industry wide thought shift.

It is in the BS7499:2020, so why isn’t it in your business? Now, I understand that certain countries around the world, for example, Canada, has it in law that they are guards as to not blur the lines between police and security – and that is fine. However, that is on the other side of the world, and in the UK therefore, we have the chance here to lead the way and give the people in the industry a morale boost and hope it changes people’s perception of what we do.

There are other terms that people use like ‘security operative’, ‘security professional’, but as an industry we need to pick one and stick with it. It is hard enough to find a description that does the officer justice and provides them with a title that they would be proud of calling themselves.

Security Guards conjure up an image of a very disengaged security person and we are more than that, the industry is more than that – and it is time people realise that. 

Job descriptions

Now, here is the copy and paste culture from yesteryear. When your security position is advertised by a HR person, you are not going to get the correct description or reflection of what the position is.

I have seen some really bad attempts at advertising jobs because the Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V brigade are just regurgitating the same old things with the odd snippet added in due to the client. WE HAVE TO DO BETTER. This isn’t just a fault of the HR department, but there are security operators who are just as lazy. In reality however, it is probably to do with time and the pressure to recruit quickly, especially if the turnover is high.

I understand the pressures of the day job, but the old way of advertising need to be reviewed. It needs to start by removing all the old recruitment templates every department has that is older than six months and starting afresh.

As I was discussing earlier, inclusion is nestling in, companies are claiming they have it but are still doing the same old thing. Perhaps if we looked at the way things were advertised and found a new language to communicate in, this will attract more diverse individuals to the company.

The wording used will also help if it is inclusive and descriptive and gives a real flavour of what is needed. For example, if we are to lure all walks of life into the sector, people will look at websites and judge how inclusive they are – this includes the use of pronouns, wording and the evidence of active equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Finally, ask yourself if the company you work for is doing it right.

Box Out

About the author

John Sephton FSyI is a successful security professional who has dedicated 23 years to his career within the Static Guarding Sector in the UK. He adopts a people-first leadership style and is committed to raising standards in the security industry.

John is a Fellow of The Security Institute and more recently an Ex-Board Director of The Security Institute; he is currently Chair of the MMAG (Membership Matter Advisory Group) and Co-Chair of the FLOSIG (Front Line Operators Special Interest Group). He also started the Sunday Debate on LinkedIn under his banner of ‘SephinSecurity’ and this platform is widely recognised and attended.

John Sephton FSyI

This article was originally published in the June 2022 edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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