I’m Graham Allison, Managing Director at Cardinal Security, and in this blog, I’d like to explain why I think security services providers need to offer sustainable careers for their employees in order to increase their value and ensure that customers receive the highest level of service.
As far as I’m concerned, although the pay rates that security officers are awarded are often less than satisfactory, this issue points to a wider problem. A culture of competitive undercutting, an obsession with market share and the inability to offer talented young people a career path has led to a situation where the majority of customers simply do not place a high enough value on their manned guarding operations. It has led to a situation where, at the time of writing, a security guard earns an average hourly wage of just £7.63 an hour – a figure just 13p higher than the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
This has far-reaching implications for customers. At a time when their security strategies should be watertight, many simply do not have adequate measures in place to counter any risks or threats.
The problem is that the approach to loss prevention and protecting organisations from those with malicious intent is fundamentally the same as it has always been. Traditional shopping centre security, for example, encourages a silo-based mentality, where as well as paying a service charge for the manned guarding of public areas, retailers are also procuring their own in store operatives. By installing a panic button within each store, manned guards in a shopping centre’s public areas could be notified via a smartphone, tablet or even a remote monitoring centre where help is needed and provide an immediate response. This ‘clustered’ solution eliminates the need for retailers to employ their own personnel, or at least reduce their numbers.
While it could appear that this issue has little to do with low pay, the fact is that a more holistic strategy could give security officers a real opportunity to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) against a defined set of key performance indicators (KPIs). This would, in turn, drive up their skills, value and, therefore, pay.
It is worth remembering that a security strategy can only ever be as effective as the people charged with implementing it on a day-to-day basis. An intelligent guarding approach combines technology, and the data produced by it, with people who are able to deal with the outputs of these systems. Therefore, knowledge about counterterrorism, loss prevention, report writing, behavioural analysis and profiling, health and safety, data and intelligence gathering, first aid, as well as excellent customer service, is now vital for the modern manned guard, as is the ability to work as part of a team with non-security based personnel.
It is by focusing on the development of these skills that the overall worth of the security officer’s role can be elevated, and investing in employees ensures that they are given the requisite knowledge to develop their careers. In addition, if this concept is promoted, acknowledged and accepted, margins might start to improve and, as a result, more talented individuals will consider working in the security industry an attractive career choice. It could also start to tackle the lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and age in the industry, which I think is nothing short of shocking.
Knowledge provision shouldn’t be seen as a ‘quick fix’ though. On the contrary, companies must invest in the long-term continuing professional development (CPD) of their employees and create a culture of ongoing improvement. This means employees will always be able to perform to the standards required – expertise that can literally be the difference between life and death.
The commoditisation of security services is not a recent phenomenon and to a certain extent, the industry only has itself to blame. It needs to adapt in order to meet the demands of the future through innovative ways of working, such as clustering, while elevating the position of security officers and increasing their pay.
While some customers will always expect ‘champagne for beer money’, forward-thinking organisations across a diverse array of vertical sectors are already beginning to realise the benefits of information sharing and appreciate why skilled security personnel are worth investing in. Therefore, I believe that it is up to security service providers to build upon this by investing in their people and offering them the types of careers deserving of such a vital role.
I’m Simon Chapman, the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Cardinal Security, and it’s been a whirlwind few weeks since I took up this post following the successful purchase of the company. Therefore, writing this blog offers me a great opportunity to reflect on my journey so far, tell you
more about who I am and, perhaps most importantly, outline some of the exciting developments that my team and I are working on to take the company forward.
So, before I go any further here’s a quick summary of my 30-year career so far. I joined Cardinal Security from Lodge Service, where as managing director I doubled the growth of the company in less than eight years. Prior to that, I was sales director at G4S Security Solutions, and sales and marketing director at Checkpoint Systems, where I worked for almost 17 years in the UK and abroad.
Thanks to company founder and former CEO Jason Trigg’s hard work and vision over many years, Cardinal Security has gained an enviable reputation for its work within the retail, distribution and logistics industries. My primary objective is to ensure that the company is the security solutions provider of choice for these sectors and others by delivering an exemplary service and ensuring that we employ the industry’s most highly trained, dedicated, trusted and motivated people.
In an industry dominated by either large scale, multi-service providers or smaller regional operators, Cardinal Security will continue to provide a specialist service that is tailored to the needs of its national customer base, thanks to our unique ability to offer a level of responsiveness and agility that others simply cannot match. In my opinion, our size and structure means that there is a diverse range of opportunities to grow the business and meet our strategic corporate objectives.
Openness and transparency is at the core of my approach and I’ve spent a lot of time visiting our clients and finding out what they think of us and what we do. Although I’m always pleased to hear positive comments, I firmly believe that there is always room for improvement. I like to hear constructive criticism and would encourage customers to come direct to me to discuss any issues and ways that they think we could do a better job. Listening to this type of valuable feedback will help me configure the best way forward for all parties.
As part of my business ethos, I also want to ensure that my 2,000 plus colleagues feel that they are part of an organisation where they are appreciated for what they do and that their voices can be heard. In my opinion, this is entirely logical, as well cared for employees will perform to the best of their abilities and become essential members of our customers’ teams.
I also want to ensure that we never lose sight of the basics by developing internal talent, making sure skill gaps are filled and ensuring that we do the job right first time. Therefore, colleagues across all departments and management levels will be supported and encouraged to communicate, so that that they can help create a stimulating and progressive environment to work in and feel valued for the contribution they make.
We aren’t simply paying lip-service to investing in our people, and I’m determined to give them the knowledge and skills they need to grow as individuals and advance their careers. To that end, we are at the final stages of redeveloping and expanding our headquarters in Great Chesterford, Essex. Once completed it will be home to the Cardinal Centre of Excellence – a Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance (HABC) Approved Centre offering security qualifications fully endorsed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA).
It’s a very exciting time to be taking over the reins at Cardinal Security and as well as making sure we offer unrivalled levels of service, I’m determined to make a difference to our customers by enhancing opportunities for them to be more successful, increase sales, minimise losses and stay safe. With a new corporate structure in place, we will be taking Cardinal Security to the next level and delivering a more robust infrastructure to support our customers’ needs.
I’m Kerinda Ibbotson, Sales and Marketing Director at Cardinal Security, and although I’m very proud to be part the security industry, I’m well aware that as a woman I’m most definitely in the minority. It’s a situation that causes me a great deal of concern and I feel that more should be done to encourage more women into it.
According to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) an estimated 352,000 people are employed by the UK’s security industry, yet what we don’t know is exactly how many of them are women. Statistics of this kind are seemingly non-existent but estimates suggest that women account for around 10 per cent of the total workforce. So why are so few women part of an industry that offers flexibility, variety and a level of career progression that few others can boast?
Much of it comes down to image and perception. If you were to ask a member of the public to describe a security professional, the chances are that the first word mentioned will be ‘male’. They are also likely to think that they have a background in the military or police force and possess a decidedly macho personality. This might well be a stereotype but there is a certain amount of truth in it – and it’s proving very difficult for the industry to shake off.
The security industry is not for everyone, as combined with the inherent risks involved with this type of work, it requires tenacity, determination and the ability to stand one’s ground in some challenging situations. Furthermore, when it comes to manned guarding, much of it takes place outside the 9.00am-5.00pm parameter, so is unappealing to women who have young families and find arranging childcare a problem. If we are to harness this untapped potential, security services providers need to look at how we can provide more flexible working hours in order to get a more balanced workforce.
There are positive signs of improvement though. For instance, the influx of technology in all aspects of security has created new opportunities beyond the traditional roles. In this respect, women have been at the vanguard of change, particularly in areas such as retail security and loss prevention. With the need for greater visibility and a higher level of education, women are often adept at getting businesses to talk more about their challenges and taking all members of staff on a journey that increases sales and reduce losses.
Despite the current gender disparity, the reality is that more women have joined the industry in recent years from a wider occupational or sector gene pool, bringing with them a diverse range of skills and career experiences. There is also greater recognition of the role women play through initiatives such as Professional Security Magazine’s Women in Security Awards, which recognise and honour their accomplishments, value, and contributions within the wider world of security.
Women are taking an active role in challenging the status quo and reflect the need for new approaches to both traditional and emerging threats. Studies have also highlighted that, while many men have excellent levels of emotional intelligence, women are especially good at being able to identify, assess, and control situations – attributes the are invaluable in security-based work. However, success is also down to attitude and I have always found that when you demonstrate knowledge, expertise, and credibility – regardless of whether you are male or female, young or old, minority or majority – those around you respond favourably.
There’s a long way to go in terms of creating a more diverse workforce but it is incumbent upon the entire security industry to highlight the role of women, particularly those of us who have successful careers. In June Cardinal Security in conjunction with Loss Prevention Magazine Europe hosted an Ascot Races Ladies’ Day Networking Event. It was a wonderful day and I enjoyed finding out more about the thoughts of my female peers from companies such as Sally Beauty, Amazon, Swarovski, and the Home Retail Group. I will delve into our discussion points in upcoming blogs and the ideas raised about how we can address the gender diversity issue.
I’m Simon Chapman, CEO of Cardinal Security, and I’m incredibly excited by the possibilities that modern technology offers this industry, so I try as much as feasibly possible to maximise the potential of it throughout my company. However, we mustn’t forget that above all else manned guarding is a people orientated service and I believe the key to long-term success involves bringing the two worlds together.
If a manned guard hasn’t got the skills, talent and basic training needed to use the technology-based tools at their disposal, the concept of intelligent guarding will never progress. In some cases there has been a distinct reluctance, or inability, to move on from the ‘cops and robbers’ mindset that has prevailed for decades and most clients now question what tangible benefits they get from their manned guarding provision. The bottom line is that until they start the measurablesurable value, they are unlikely to pay any more money for these types of services.
Security is perhaps unique, as charge rates have gone down while pay rates and costs have gone up due to regulation. The National Living Wage (NLW), the Apprenticeship Levy and auto-enrolment pensions are having a significant effect. Brexit is likely to have a serious impact too, as the changes to employment regulations could leave our industry significantly exposed to massive costs. Furthermore, changes to immigration rules could affect how we ob
tain personnel and at the moment we are all recruiting from a diminishing pool of talent. The problem is getting worse and the lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, and age in the industry is nothing short of shocking.
I think that security service providers need to wake up and react positively to this challenge and, in order to lead the way on this issue, Cardinal Security is preparing for the launch of the Cardinal Training Academy – an initiative that will redefine what it means to be a manned guard.
Security training schemes have existed in the past, such as the Sabrewatch model, and the Cardinal Training Academy will follow a ‘back to basics’ classroom-based approach and on-site approach. It introduces a new intelligent guarding model that integrates the duties of a security officer with technology, electronic systems, and the resulting data as well as an understanding of customer service and the importance of a client’s brand.
It will be a five-day residential course hosted at Cardinal’s headquarters in Essex and will cover modules in loss prevention, report writing, crime partnerships, behavioural analysis and profiling, data and intelligence gathering, as well as customer service skills. The training will also focus on the psychology of good manned guarding and how to work as part of a team with non-security based personnel. When people finish the course they will be fully rounded and equipped with the skills needed to exploit the technology at their disposal.
Not everyone will be suitable for the course, which is why there will be a rigorous pre-selection process with minimum entry criteria, and we will aim to attract bright, dynamic and motivated people who haven’t worked in manned guarding before.
We know that private policing is a boom industry at present and the police service is now looking to outsource to the security sector as a preferred means of balancing the books. In my view, the manned guarding sector generally falls short of the standards required but the Cardinal Training Academy will equip people with the expertise to act as an auxiliary police service. Just as importantly, it will help engender a sense of pride, loyalty, and commitment to the role, while offering a defined career path.
There’s no denying that these are tough times for manned guarding and the sector needs to up its game. We need to move forward by adopting a more professional approach that can give customers a true return on investment – and that’s exactly what the Cardinal Training Academy aims to achieve.
Filled jackets? People aren’t a commodity like potatoes
I’m Simon Chapman, CEO of Cardinal Security. There’s a lot the manned guarding sector should be doing better to meet the needs of the retail and logistics industries, including using tech to give clients a better view of their investment. I’ve been arguing for changes in the way we provide a service for 20 years now and some of my insights will surprise you.
In the next few Cardinal Security blogs amongst, other things, I will be talking about the role of technology, private policing, and about the idea of static vs dynamic guarding. In this opening blog, however, I’m looking at the heart of the issue of why the manned guarding sector is treated like a commodity and suffering through poor investment.
It’s not whether but when: We need a game-changing advance in the way we invest in manned guarding in stores. It’s an adapt or die situation for many providers, who can feel the pressure to do better but don’t know what to do about it. We need a way forward.
This view is compounded when clients can’t see what they’re getting for their money. The client sees a cost centre with no way of measuring the value you get from having an experienced, licensed guard making a difference. The result is that guarding is seen as a commodity to be bought at the lowest price – like potatoes.One criterion that’s forcing us to change is that charge rates are stagnating and in some cases, they’re even being forced down. Many clients are reluctant to pay enough to invest – which means they’ll only get the same old same old. These clients have come to expect that the guard will speak English and wear a uniform, but beyond that, they have pretty low expectations. They just see the guard as a ‘jacket filler’.
A knock on effect of this is that recruits don’t see guarding as a career choice. They see a lack of investment, a minimum wage, and little prospect of being valued, even though they make a significant contribution to the client’s profit. This leads to recycled personnel shifting from job to job and every provider fishing out of the same pool. Guarding service providers are often hiring the same people, TUPE in and TUPE out, without showing added value for the client.
As well as hitting a ceiling in charge rates, the cost of paying employees is being pushed up by minimum wage regulation and market forces. As manned guarding profits get squeezed in the middle it’s clear that something has to give.
A key problem is that manned guarding hasn’t moved forward in the last 20 odd years. There’s been a short-sighted lack of investment in the areas that offer more for the client. What’s needed is an approach that adds value to guarding personnel and enables clients to measure that value. What’s needed is intelligence-led guarding.
In an age of big data driving better decisions, we should be getting more out of our guards, by investing in the technology they work with, and by showing exactly how they’re making a difference worth investing in.
This ‘dynamic’ approach is a necessary step forward from the ‘static’ approach we have now and is a theme I’ll be returning to in the future. We’ll see how ‘the age of the app’ can make boots on the ground part of the big data revolution, giving us an intelligent guarding approach with a future, not just an undervalued past.