How essential is security? Rethinking perceptions of security on the back of the Covid-19 experience
Chair: Martin Gill
Bryan de Caires – CEO at Australian Security Industry Association (Australia)
Michael Gips – Principal at Global Insights in Professional Security (US)
Geoff Zeidler – Board member, BSIA (UK)
Bryan de Caires notes that while security has often been undervalued in the past it can be satisfied with how it has responded quickly to changing needs and demands during the crisis. He draws on a range of examples: returning travellers to hotels; helping at drive through testing clinics; stepping up quickly to meet a variety of day to day needs. Moreover, overall the Australian industry has progressed well. Some security electronics work has been brought forward as buildings have been empty. Against this he draws attention to the plight of those on the frontline, often getting a raw deal. To change things in Australia there have been attempts to bring the ‘price makers’ such as the Government together with the ‘price takers’, the suppliers and educate them and other stakeholders. He laments the lack of a strategy across the industry to promote its good points, and highlights its failure to celebrate its wins as key. It undersells itself because everyone is not behind it, sometimes, he conceded collaboration is impeded by egos. On the positive side he stresses security does a great job but needs ‘to sing our song a bit more’.
Mike Gips highlights how security is one of the best services at helping others; its personnel are trained to communicate effectively; they know how people tick and especially when there are under pressure; and security personnel are geared up to dealing with a crisis. That said the Achilles Heel is that the security sector does not understand itself, it is of course about more than security officers, but he references his own work with corporate security and argues no two departments cover the same things, only some do brand protection, travel for example, and reporting line are to different personnel too; he argues security has a schizophrenic view of itself. To change things for the better you will hear him talk about professionalism, regulation, earning respect, avoiding mixed messages, learning from the world of HR. He prompts an interesting conversation on the idea of associations coming together, hindered he said by the fact they are often ‘frenemies’ (friends one minute and rivals the next).
Geoff Zeidler notes that much security work is not broadly understood because it is characterised by complexity. It is positive than in the crisis security operatives were recognised as key workers, and calls on the security sector to use the crisis to reset expectations. He leads an interesting conversation on pay, and points to the responsibility of suppliers here; they can chose what work to accept. He also references good work, in a different context, being undertaken in Sweden and Belgium. There are problems, the boundaries as to what security is has become blurred (with a reference to FM), and this has complicated further the communication of a clear message about what it does. Making a distinction between suppliers showing value to customers and the sector showing value to society he discusses the importance of being able to crystallise what is being done and working on getting buy in. Using data, making work visible he argues is key. The security sector is doing great work, at present it is in the spotlight, as he notes it needs to get its dancing shoes on and sing a tune.
This engaging debate reminds us there is nothing axiomatic about performing well in a crisis and that being a base for progressing in its aftermath. There are opportunities for sure, but the barriers to progress have been highlighted. We know co-ordination and good clear messaging are key, but traditionally the sector has not been good at either of these.