Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Kathy Lavinder – Founder & Executive Director at Security & Investigative Placement Consultants (US)
Priya Vencatasawmy – Talent Consultant at Zitko and Mental Health in Recruitment Champion (UK)
Jerry Brennan – Chief Executive at Security Management Resources (SMR Group) (US, UK and Hong Kong)

Key points

Kathy Lavinder starts by outlining the proven benefits of a diverse workforce. Citing a range of authoritative sources we learn of benefits that include words dear to many in the security sector’s hearts, improved profitability. But there is a need to talk this up more. Strategically the sector needs to: identify business leaders to lead the arguments for diversity; improve job descriptions and avoid inherent bias; focus on not recruiting from traditional talent pools; move beyond a casual review of applicants; and generally avoid being lazy. Kathy argues that times are changing, things are improving and citing an example, underlines how given the will there is a route forward for the security sector.

Priya Vencatasawmy emphasises the need for the security sector to take steps to understand the benefits of recruiting new talent, and what it takes to have a fair and open process. Improvement starts with that self-awareness and the sector is still on a journey. The security sector has to take the initiative to learn the right approach and you will hear her discuss areas where this is happening and provides a reference point. It requires the sector to be proactive, to lead from the top and to recognise that just ticking boxes on recruitment backfires as it leads to retention problems. There is no quick fix here, we need to embed a new culture which only some are doing well.

Jerry Brennan underlines the ways in which the security has performed poorly on diversity issues and invites us to consider why this is the case. He points to recruiting heavily from government and therefore repeating its bias; poorly constructed job descriptions; and not understanding how for example different genders view job roles. Jerry notes that security is not a profession, at least it has not defined itself fully, it has an image issue and these factors link to how it performs. Just for example, he notes how a focus on law enforcement and military applications can disguise what is really needed: a calm head under pressure; understanding the impact of decisions made (often under pressure). The benefits of diversity are well made, the security sector needs to embrace them and do that meaningfully.

There was a lot of audience engagement in this webinar, much chat and many questions. Some of those taking part emphasised that security needs to be thinking about its approach and attitude towards recruitment with many critiques of the traditional narrow focus on former uniformed personnel in the state sector, and mostly men. Our panellists show that change can happen, and in pockets this is happening. There are routes to change, we can learn from others, but there needs to be the will to do so and only some can see that at present.

Martin Gill
9th February 2021