Careers in the modern environment are flexible changing things and unlike previous generations, jobs and career directions can now vary substantially. Despite this, I am sure that at the core of every career choice there is a wish for respect and a chance to play a meaningful part in your own and other people’s future.
Yet career groups do not happen automatically, and respect for people in careers is often a long time coming and not easily earned. There have been a number of articles in this publication recently on security management changes and I thought I would provide some perspective.
I started work in the HR field when it was still relatively undeveloped. As a new graduate employee I spent most of my initial training on mine shafts getting inputs from HR mining employees who had generally been boarded for ill health, or had been turned out to HR because they no longer fitted the requirements of their current work.
Anticipate and respond
Trade unions then gifted HR, and in particular industrial relations practitioners, with the ability to make their mark in industry. The unions took to the streets and confronted government and management of companies with the demands for political change in the 1980s. The union movement acting in the context of the political surge facilitated by organisations such as the UDF created conditions for which most organisations and management were unprepared.
It was a challenging period with huge emotional and work demands. With it went a constant need to anticipate and respond to changing circumstances and a roller coaster of management and labour landscapes. That period shaped the life and future of many involved in the HR and conflict handling area, and made HR in South Africa one of the most vibrant and exciting areas to be in worldwide.
I got involved in the security industry initially as a management consultant looking at the change implications of one of the first major mining groups moving from a physical based security approach to a technology approach. The security professionals were largely those with police or military qualifications. The technical changes in security heralded another mind shift, as engineers, technicians, IT specialists, and consultants helped change the very nature of security and open up career paths and opportunities that did not exist a couple of years before.
This technical revolution created companies, made fortunes and changed the security landscape forever. At the same time, educational institutions were going through their own shift driven by government and along with this the increased professional qualification for security was being pushed by some educational institutions, and being embraced by an increasing number of organisations. However, one of the most striking encounters I faced was when requested by a security manager to provide some advice on selecting and training his new CCTV operators who were going to be the main security measure for a warehouse turning over six billion rand per year. The young female HR officer stated that these personnel were at a low level and did not need much attention anyway. The fact that they were the most critical factor in reducing theft in a multibillion operation that guaranteed her job seemed to escape her.
High potential and undervalued
The security industry by nature has a lot of low-level personnel working in it. However, in my encounters with people which are fairly extensive, there are many high potential and at times undervalued people working in some of these relatively low-level jobs. There has also been a fundamental redefinition of what it means to be in security. The last 15 years has seen a huge shift in professionalisation, both in the job context as well as in educational capacity. Personnel have responded by taking on responsibility, developing new roles and security functions where there has often been a lack of information, and eagerly responding to training to produce some outstanding operations.
It has often meant pushing people in other more established fields to implement new solutions and technology. It is also now increasingly common to have people who have qualified in various fields of security, with even Masters, MBAs and PhD degrees in addition to the standard security background and engineering qualifications.
While debate continues over the terms of security, protection services, and risk management being more suitable for departments and managers involved in these areas, the recent spate of strikes and violence in South Africa has highlighted that the discipline cannot stop moving. Its members need to deal with socio-political change, conflict management, social and community issues, as well as good old fashioned protection.
Many security managers are used to dealing with emergencies but some of the solutions in the current political climate will have to be particularly innovative. It is ironic that I have seen HR come through such a similar historical process yet find at times that HR can be one of the biggest impediments to implementing effective security strategies or steps. This is perhaps due to a lack of appreciation or an undervaluation of the security role and contribution. However, as many of us have seen, where HR is working together with those in the security discipline it can also be a great example of getting significant impact through aligning interests and working as a team for organisational goals.
This relationship is going to be critical in managing both crime related issues as well as social demands in future. From a career point of view as well as the ongoing challenges and professional demands, the security discipline has probably never seen such scope for the future.
Dr Craig Donald is a human factors specialist in security and CCTV. He is a director of Leaderware which provides instruments for the selection of CCTV operators, X-ray screeners and other security personnel in major operations around the world. He also runs CCTV Surveillance Skills and Body Language, and Advanced Surveillance Body Language courses for CCTV operators, supervisors and managers internationally, and consults on CCTV management. He can be contacted on +27 (0)11 787 7811 or email@example.com
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