Contract Security – Where do things Go Wrong by Mark Robinson

Recently, I have been reading various articles regarding the Security Industry and the companies and staff therein. I have also read repeatedly, that by giving teams better equipment, it makes them more efficient, but does it?

Firstly, we need to start at the top, to review where things begin going wrong,

The Contract

Sadly, in most cases, a company will do everything possible to get the cheapest deal on a contract from a security service supplier, thus almost inevitably meaning that the Contract Security Officers will be paid minimum wage, or as close as possible. The Contract Manager will promise the earth and no doubt express that his “Best Team” will run the contract. If however they are inheriting existing staff via TUPE, they will promise new standards, with regular supervisory site visits, far and above usual practice.


Site instructions will be briefly looked at and probably re-issued with the new companies logo etc. New uniforms proudly handed out, monitored closely for maybe a week, then just on weekly visits. However, it may be a new company, but if using existing staff transferred over from the previous security supplier, then the same old mentality obviously still remains.

So what should be done to iron out any issues that the team have?

The Team

Some people may say I’m being sceptical, but having been in the Security Industry for 30 years, mostly in the Hotel sector, then on a blue chip site, then guarding, I can safely say with my hand on my heart, this happens.

In Hotels every year senior management would want the Security reviewed in hope to get a cheaper contract, but when I when mention the TUPE law, I would be called negative and not being a team player.

So, a new Security company comes in and has to deal with the existing mentality of the security staff. What does the new company do to motivate them?

Again, I have been a part of such issues on several occasions, and its a hard slog to keep the team motivated through these stressful times.

So you look at your people to see what makes them tick. Their life in general, most that work nights do so for personal reasons, Wife works days, so they work nights to look after the kids, or they are attending college or school so they need a night job to help pay for the fees, or to keep out the way of management, as it’s less busy during the night allowing them to “rest” etc.

In theory, on any static manned guarding site, this means you have to know that many Officers / Guards sleep during the night, even though check calls need to be made. It’s not being cynical, it’s fact. Stick your head in the sand regarding this at your peril.

How can you reduce this behaviour?

I would set tasks to be carried out during the night, and would often come into work at ridiculous times, this way the Team would never know what time I am arriving. It is not to be nasty or catch officers out. Just to ensure they spent their time at work, concentrating on their duties….. I would conduct regular one to one chats. I may have been in charge of the contract security officers, however, I quickly learnt that I am still part of the “Team” and my actions / moods had an impact on how it performed, and if I could help solve an issue causing one of my officers a problem, it is in everyone’s best interest that I do so.

So when I read about issuing security teams with fancy gadgets to make them better….

In most cases… JUST NO.

Contract security teams, especially when fighting low morale problems, need motivational Leadership. Management that genuinely cares about them and their welfare, that spends time on site with them, to hear about any work problems they have. This needs to be done on days and nights, regardless of it being inconvenient to the Manager.

There needs to be constructive Monthly Team Meetings, which are documented and discuss Health and Safety issues as well as law and procedural guidance. If these cant be held, write a monthly news sheet which is something I use to do. I called it Keep’em Peeled.

I made sure the news letter covered most basic things a Security Officer / Guard should know, from incident reports, to obtaining a statement, definition of theft, basic health and safety etc.

Contract Security staff will always, understandably, complain about pay, but they need to understand the contract dictates what they get paid, not the client’s security manager, and he or she is not their enemy or the cause of their problems.

Site Instructions

Throughout the years, I have noticed that these tend to not get updated, the blue chip company I worked for hadn’t updated theirs for five years or so, and the team that I had joined had all worked at the site for many many years, and they had made up their own “interpretation” of the instructions, in fact when I asked a question about them, the acting supervisor replied, “do I look like I give a toss.”

Contract Security Companies PLEASE listen…. Assignment Instructions should NEVER be a generic box ticking exercise. “A set of assignment instructions should have all the information and guidance needed for any person, completely unfamiliar with the site, to be able to competently and safely perform all the duties required of them, and deal with any emergency issue that could possibly arise, without further supervision or instruction.”

Health & Safety Risk Assessments also need to be carried out and updated accordingly and detailed guidance must be given to any security officer tasked to perform this duty.

This brings us nicely onto LONE WORKERS, what do companies do, apart from check calls, to ensure safety of their employees.

To be continued in Edition 2……

Mark Robinson
Mark Robinson

Mark Robinson: 

Over the last 30 years, Mark Robinson has been the Head of Security at some of London’s top Five Star Hotels. With a history of looking after Major International Stars of Screen, Sport and the Music Industry,

he is a respected Subject Matter Expert on Ultra High Profile threat mitigation, media handling and

‘total security’ event planning.

He currently lives in Kent, with his partner Eileen.

Mark is now a senior consultant to TPSO magazine, among other ventures….