“Quality is the best business plan.”
The private security industry is one of the largest and consistently growing industries in the world. Despite the steady augmentation of Artificial Intelligence, it is rightly conceived that the guard force still acts as the security industry’s major integral organ. This thought is completely supported by a proven fact, that in the end, it is the human intelligence that has to analyze a situation, and finally make a decision.
Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism for many decades, and during this period, the private guard force has been an essential part of law enforcement. Now, almost every major organization has uniformed private security guards, who control access, man receptions/mail rooms, do foot patrolling, etc. Most importantly, besides being professional, they are also expected to present a soft image of a corporate environment.
This article is an endeavor to share advice, guidelines, and best practices for security operators and end-users to develop an effective and well-motivated guard force.
Policies and Procedures
A well-thought-out and clearly defined strategic ‘policy’ lays the foundation of all the operations of an organization that includes security. As a first step, a security architect articulates a security policy (why), which stems out of strategic policy and risk assessment of that particular organization. Meanwhile, to complete the security framework, then security procedures (how) are prepared. While preparing policies and procedures, one must consider the core operation of the organization; for example, access control of a five-star hotel will be quite different from an embassy.
Security policies and procedures are formulated and approved by the senior management and managers, and other security staff is just custodian of those procedures, barring few exceptions, where life comes at stake. These are always in a written form and subject to periodical reviews, largely depending upon the changing situations.
The term ‘procedures’ is sometimes militarised and then referred to as ‘Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); the only difference is that SOPs are always meant to be followed in the exactly same manner.
Security policies in general, but security procedures in particular; explain the organization’s expectation from the guard force; for example, besides other operational duties, whether guard force is also supposed to help and/or participate in emergencies like medical, fire, earthquake, lockdown and evacuation, etc.
Selection of a Guarding vendor
Selection of the ‘right’ private guarding company is one of the key decisions of the management. The first and foremost consideration should be the MERIT.
The potential vendor should be able to clearly demonstrate the thorough understanding and application of operational processes in the company i.e., recruitment, selection, operation, training, human resource, legal requirements, financial capacity, work ethics, existing clients’ feedback and country-wide services availability, etc.
Service Level Agreement (SLA) or Contract, between an organization and vendor, is another important element that sets the framework of enforceable requirements for guard force services. A considerable time, effort, and coordination are required to draft the whole scope of work in the contract. If properly drafted, SLA records the agreed level of services and the manner in which they are to be performed; as that enables clear understanding between the parties. SLA can be reviewed and updated periodically. If there are some special requirements related to ‘compliance’, those should also be mentioned and included in SLA, explicitly.
Recruitment and selection
These two terms have altogether separate meaning and functioning in Human Resource (HR); but unfortunately, in the security industry, these are seldom applied in their true sense, and then pragmatic shortcuts bring down the quality in the hired staff.
Moreover, Pakistan’s security industry has almost closed down its doors to deserving civilians. The major qualification in recruitment and selection for a security-related job is to have military experience. This discernment has been contributing in hindering fresh air and innovation and has largely affected the utility of the ideal recruitment and selection process.
The most common procedure is that an ex-soldier approaches the security company with his military discharge book. After a shortened recruitment and selection process he is usually hired and deployed immediately. This is because the industry is short of manpower because of the security and crime situation. Pre-employment screening and/or background checks are normally deferred, till the guard goes on the next holidays; which preferably should have been reconfirmed from the company’s own credible sources.
Ideally, the guard force should be selected while keeping in view the requirements mentioned in the SLA of a particular client. The security company should not lay back and act only as a manpower supplier, instead they should consciously work to be more focused on the quality of their product. A realistic initial test of a guard should include IQ, physical, medical, language, and security-related knowledge. Preferably, all these tests should form an individual’s need assessment analysis, which is to be considered for his further training and competency development in the future.
Around the world, the training of guards has been given special attention. The advanced countries legally bound their organizations to train staff before deployment.
Organizations are slapped with heavy liabilities and fines for any non-compliant incident. Consequently, public and private sectors invest a lot of their resources in training of the staff. The training is normally uniform and is imparted in the shape of licenses or certifications for each category of the staff. The guards-related license in the UK is called SIA. In UAE, it is either SIRA or PSCOD. In the USA and Canada, there are different mandatory trainings designed for each State. In Australia, training has to be acquired from a Registered Training Organization (RTO), accredited by the state’s police.
Training of the guard force is the most important activity to achieve the desired quality in the operation. It is a widely known maxim that mental preparedness honed through training ultimately becomes a habit. The desired standards of training should be SMART i.e., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.
Another desired aspect of training is to carefully select the syllabus for the training. The subjects should be prioritized according to their implications and requirements; but usually, the topics of training are access control, vehicle and body search, CCTV monitoring, receptions and mailrooms, foot-patrolling, communication, quality reporting, record keeping, handling difficult person, rule of engagement (use of force), event management, and live shooting.
As guards are mostly first responders to emergencies, they should also be trained and involved in all types of exercises and rehearsals. The topics included in emergency-related training are medical, fire, earthquake, lockdown, evacuation, emergency phones (remembering by heart), duress alarms, and response.
Guard-force training is imparted diversely, but before starting the training of the guard force, the organization must ensure the presence of a very well-trained and motivated trainer. The trainer should have a passion for training and has to remain abreast with the latest trends and innovations in the field. Ideally, a trainer should have a dedicated guard force, so that he should be able to provide individualized training and keep a computerized record of the performance of each guard.
The training can be provided in the shape of short/extended briefings, lectures, presentations, and practicals. The recommended ratio of practical vs classroom training is 3:1, respectively. Another useful way of training is to prepare laminated cards for all the required sequences/steps of any situation; and during the exercise, guards should be able to put all those steps in the right sequence, when cards are presented in a haphazard form. Scenario training is quite an innovative way of training. The trainer should think of as many situations which are likely to happen, where guards have to act in a certain way. All the situations should be converted into scenarios with all the possible desired actions by the guards. After series of related training and corrective exercises, guards should be put into different scenario exercises to see their response.
If the guards are armed, then they must regularly shoot from their own weapons, i.e., at least a hundred rounds per year. On the contrary, their counterparts in western countries shoot many thousand rounds per year. Shooting simulator training may also act as a substitute to resolve the issue of scarcity of ammunition.
All these trainings should be provided to the guards during pre-deployment training, daily training, and on-job training. The climax of training activities for guards is security audit, especially once coupled with scenarios. The record of all training activities should be maintained in letter and spirit. If an organization desires to involve its management in training-related activities, then Table Top Exercises (TTX) should be evolved for specific situations. The organization should start with easy scenarios, while gradually increasing the intensity.
Security is definitely more than just a mere presence; therefore, it has to always remain in proactive mode. Quick appreciation of the situation, and accordingly taking the right decision is the heart of the security operation. As security performs an extremely responsible task of asset protection, authority comes naturally to the function. Operationally, the guards should be instructed comprehensively on how to use authority with compliance and legality.
At times, less trained security staff chooses its authority over the right decision, resulting in bringing an embarrassing situation for the whole organization.
Having said that, despite the acknowledged importance; in general, the guards lack required training and grooming; and resultantly, don’t get due respect. Most of the time, because of low self-esteem, they feel challenged to perform their responsibilities. The fully functional security setup is only possible if the guards have been dignified by the organization, but especially by immediate superiors. Once guards are hired for security purposes, they should not be misused as a gardener, tea or office bearer, car washer or driver.
In operations, it is a necessity that there should be a uniformity in the flow of instructions. Moreover, a chain of command should be established and well respected. If the flow of instructions and a chain of command is not jelled, or SOPs are not being followed or frequently changed, then the operation is bound to work under the clouds of consistent stress. This accumulated stress, if neglected for a longer duration, will affect the performance of the guard force, and may result in a major incident. It should also be ensured that the guards don’t perform more than prescribed duty hours, as excessive work hours reduce the quality of performance. Punctuality, courtesy, turn-out, cleanliness, hygiene, etc., act as a litmus test of a guard force, as the more they are disciplined, the more they are expected to perform well.
Performance evaluations and quality assurance
Performance evaluations and quality assurance are one of the most valuable segments of guards’ force management. These desired standards can be assured and achieved through different tools, but one thing is essential and common that all the standards should be numerically measurable. For instance, normally, we say that the security performance of a company is good or bad (qualitatively), but have we ever numerically evaluated the individual’s or company’s performance (quantitatively)? Do we have expertise, working or tools to say that A company is performing at 6/10, and B is performing at 8/10? The answer to both these questions is a ‘NO’, it is simply because we don’t have the skills and resolve to achieve higher standards.
There is no one right answer to the above-mentioned problems. But the common one-liner solution is to start recording all the unusual operational activities in one place, meticulously. Within few months one would be able to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the guard force. After identification, these weaknesses can be dealt through a consistent training process.
In this evaluation process, the most difficult part is having credible data. The data can be obtained through the regular collection of feedback by checking supervisors’ during their visits to the guards’ posts.
Ensuring that all the incidents, warnings, and near-misses are recorded reliably, and further categorizing whether it is a discipline or operational related issue.
A training audit is another way of judging the performance, especially if these audits are conducted while giving live scenarios to the staff. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be prepared and incorporated into the system to evaluate the performance. KPIs may become part of the SLAs, to fully incorporate security vendors in improving the performance and standards. Regular meetings at different levels also play a pivotal part in improving the standards. Meetings can be daily (between guards and supervisors – fall-in), or monthly with the managers. Regular interaction with the CEO of the security vendor is also valuable.
No one can deny the importance of motivation in the performance of staff. It is not very difficult to keep a very well-motivated guards’ force. If the guards are given salaries on time, preferably on the 1st working day of each month, and are provided with free accommodation, appropriate holidays and rest, they are bound to perform best. Guards should not be awarded financial penalties, rather should be given performance bonuses and other related benefits.
Definitely, despite all the efforts, perhaps some aspects of guard force management remained untouched in this article, as pertinent subjects were given preference over common understandable topics. But at the end of the day, it should be our desire to create and manage bigger forums to discuss and further disseminate the ‘industry’s best practices to each other; and try to improve the quality, standards, and protocols of the guard force.