What is in a name: can we solve the confusion in the language of security job titles?
Chair: Martin Gill
Raymond Andersson, Esq – Commissioner for Oaths, Emeritus Strategic Security, Protective Security and Crime Prevention Professional (Australia)
Kathy Lavinder – Founder & Executive Director at Security & Investigative Placement Consultants (US)
Mike Hurst CPP® MSyI FREC – Director of HJA Consult and Director at IFPO UK
Kathy Lavinder notes that not only are job titles irregular at times they are also sometimes irrelevant. It is easy to get too hung up on titles not least since in practice they are invariably negotiable. Although ESRM is in vogue Kathy has yet to encounter a job title using that descriptor. This maybe because there is value in consistency; it helps to attract people. There is value in using a common language. Kathy would advocate using ‘risk’ rather than ‘security’ anyway and points to the tech community which has abandoned ‘security’, and started focusing on trust and safety; as she notes there is less emphasis on command and control approaches these days, organizations are not looking for a Rambo character. For Kathy, cyber and physical are two different worlds, and the former is in the lead for reasons that include the reality that it is more complex. In any case they are very different, each with their own nomenclature and their own titles; trying to see them as one confuses two different worlds and does not help either of them.
Ray Andersson also points to the confusion in job titles. He points to the very specific role of ‘Security Advisor’ which not only means different things in different sectors but also at different levels. As a candidate there is no substitute to conducting research to understand the role in question. You will hear him discuss how the roles of CSO and CISO are blurred and this confusion gets in the way of the sector meaningfully engaging with Government and vice versa, and also in the sector attracting the best recruits. For Ray this needs to be addressed on an international level, working from generic titles, for example, ‘manager’ and then adding a descriptor such as ‘intelligence’ or ‘investigations’. He too, would favour the word ‘risk’ over ‘security’ with risk being less identified with the rather negative image of the ‘corporate copper’. Risk is also more closely linked to the core of the business. He is more optimistic that we can use similar titles for cyber and physical security, up to Director level anyway; they both involve protection. This though needs more work.
Mike Hurst notes that titles are important, they shouldn’t be, but they are. He refers to a previous webinar which discussed the use of ‘guard’ or ‘officer’; it generates a lot of debate. In reality job titles can sell a job (or not do so), and can certainly make people feel better, more cynically a change in job title can be used to avoid a pay rise. For Mike there needs to be a greater emphasis on educating the public on what job titles in security mean. If someone is an accountant we know immediately what that role is even though it could be in different areas; we should seek the same for security. As he notes conducting a risk assessment in the worlds of physical or cyber is based on broadly the same principles; there are points of similarities which play into the hands of developing a common language. Moreover, he points to an example of how the UK Government is doing this; it can be done it takes the political will to do it.
The discussion about job titles, which generated an array of different opinions – and opposing ones – from the panelists highlights the importance of language. Security encompasses a vast range of activities which often bear little relationship to each other albeit they universally – directly or indirectly – protect something. And they may also draw from similar skills sets and knowledge bases and these need to be explored to develop a common understanding of what security is and how it can be pursued. The world is getting there, led by some security associations, but it remains like so much else in the security sector, work in progress.
10th November 2020