The Evolving Role of the Modern Day Security Professional by Martin Smith

The need for security in the United Kingdom and Europe has never been required as much as it has today. Gates need manning, bags need searching and access must be monitored, every minute of every day–and this is only a very small amount of what is required to ensure an operation runs as smooth as possible.

However, times are changing in the way security staff are developed and deployed by the ever-demanding needs of the security provision set by clients. When you think of a security professional – what do you think of? Ultimately, let’s be honest, it is a person who is responsible for keeping people and buildings safe. What about your perceptions of a door supervisor? Negative or positive?

The role of a security guard or door supervisor is changing at a rapid pace and the amount of soft skills required by those in this industry are forever developing. Stereotypes are long gone – industry demand has meant that we have outgrown the “static security professional”. Staff no longer have duties that can be counted on one hand. Clients now want to see their security provision going above and beyond to ensure that they get a complete 360 degree security solution. The simple fact is that prospective clients do not want to see static guards with a basic skillset on their sites in certain roles. The industry is evolving and employers must evolve with the times.

How has the role changed?

The duties

Duties on site will always be determined by the site at which an officer works. However, take for example an office building in the city centre. A security officer may be employed to this building by the building managers. The role has advanced – it is no longer a stand at the door or sit down at the desk position. Their role may be diverse.

The guard may need to check ID’s, sign for mail, check VIP’s into the building. They may essentially need to open and lock the building. There may be cash handling involved. They may have to set up equipment. The role is still that of a security officer, however, duties have expanded and skillsets have had to improve with the times. Demand has meant that security professionals are working in a role that may have possibly been covered by two or three persons previously.

It is a bit uncommon for the officer role to branch out even further than the above. From delivering newspapers to rooms in a hotel, to carrying bags in a lobby. Soft skills that have had to develop to meet client expectations. Clients are happy, their clients are happy and it is all because the security staff are no longer static or simply doing security – they are now proactively securing the building whilst completing ad hoc tasks. (Sorry to interject………… Clients that want ‘value added’ tasks performed by security, simply don’t understand the importance of Security to begin with. Grrrrrrr………….Ed.)

The skillset

As mentioned above, today’s modern security professional has to have more than a basic skillset if they are to meet the requirements of industry demand. An SIA badge is, of course, a good place to start and is a legal requirement. However, if we take the role of a security officer in an office building, or shopping centre, or a busy gatehouse, there will be an advanced knowledge base required to ensure problems are solved.

Does the officer have good verbal and written skills? It is absolutely essential in today’s security role that staff can communicate with those around them. As the security officer role has developed, the communication skills of the officer have also had to change. They may need to communicate an emergency message. The role is no longer confined to sitting on a chair and checking ID’s. Maybe the officer can speak several languages? Imagine a lost child in the shopping centre who is a native French speaker:. Who do they approach if the security officer is unable to communicate quickly and effectively? How are the officers able to accurately fill out their notebooks and daily occurrence books if their written skills are poor? How is the document supposed to represent that person, an employer, or even a client in court? It is basic, however the basics have possibly never been as crucial as they are today.

What about a first aider? Imagine for a second that there is a first aid incident on site and a security officer is the first person on the scene but unable to administer basic care to potentially save that person’s life. Security professionals are now developing their first aid knowledge by attending courses.

In the past, security staff were praised if they were to provide a helping hand in a first aid emergency. Nowadays, it is almost expected that security staff react quickly to ongoing situations, whether they be security or first aid related. Security staff are now seen as the first line of the emergency services…

“One key skill that is always forgotten about is that of customer service – security professionals are now expected to smile!”

The position of a security officer is not simply to just secure a building any more. Security officers are now expected to be able to assist and support in the event of an emergency. This would include being fire marshal trained. As with a first aid incident, security officers are now often the first point of contact on site, and will attend the incident if there was a fire alarm activation on site. Officers are likely to be shown fire evacuation routes, how to reset a fire panel and how to fix a break glass unit.

Last but not least, one key skill that is always forgotten about is that of customer service: security professionals are now expected to smile! The role of a security officer may have previously been to show a presence on a site and whilst this is still technically correct, it now has to be seen the officers show a presence with a smile, an approachable posture and enthusiasm for their work. Imagine that!

The appearance

The changing role of the modern day security professional is highlighted in the appearance of the staff that work in this industry. There has never been more emphasis on security officers wearing appropriate uniform for the environment they are working.

If we are to use our office building example, staff are now expected to wear appropriate dress in the surroundings of where they work. Suit, tie, shoes and a lanyard. No coats, no polo shirts, no SIA badges on arms. That is not to say that this is not acceptable, in some circumstances it is, however there is more emphasis than ever on appearance meeting clients expectations.

Security officers will more often than not be the first impression that is made on guests, customers, VIP’s and staff. If they aren’t wearing the correct PPE, and wearing unsuitable or dirty uniform, they are creating a bad first impression of the employer and their client.

The approach

Whilst we touched on it above, it’s important to remember that clients now want to see security professionals who can make a positive impression on their sites. Security professionals are now expected to be able to use their customer service skills to help and advise clients, customers and staff. There is an expectation that staff should now be proactive in approaching personnel and not the other way around. They are expected to smile, talk and assist rather than taking a backseat and simply doing a “security role.”

The evolution of the modern day security professional is a lot more diverse than it has ever been. Roles are no longer consigned to security. The customer service element of the job has now become an important part of the job description and the additional skills – first aid, fire marshal, language, conflict management – have all become essential as the job roles have developed. Security professionals are still expected to be security professionals. However, the role has changed to one that is now geared towards customer service and soft skills.

It will be interesting to see how the role continues to change over the next decade. Security professionals will always be responsible for securing sites and persons within it, but with the ever increasing demand for professionals with soft skills apparent, the job descriptions of security and customer service will continue to be blurred.

Martin Smith

Martin Smith

Martin is the Regional Contract Manager for the North, for Wilson James. Having previously worked for an industry leading shopping mall and also having managed a number of key accounts in the North West, as Regional Business Manager, he brings several years of security industry experience to the Wilson James portfolio.