Leaner, fitter, better resourced with higher pay

August 2013 Security Services & Risk Management

The future of the private security industry is not about the uncontrolled growth of numbers. It is about adding value to its people resource and enabling them through technology to deliver more for clients. The frontline teams must be the top performers, professionally qualified and exceptionally well paid. In other words leaner, smarter, better resourced and bigger pay packets.

This is the philosophy of James Guilding, commercial director at MITIE, a UK strategic outsourcing conglomerate. It could have been voiced by any number of security company chiefs here in South Africa and it is a great conversation opener on how little the industry differs regardless of geography or social, economic and political development.

“Twenty years ago,” reflects Guilding, “the image of security guarding was very much the night watchman measured in terms of man hours delivered and the number of patrols completed. Twenty years on, we are in a challenging time where financial pressures, political decisions and society’s response to them are forcing us to think differently about our security and business risks.

The private security industry has come a long way in the last 20 years, and we have seen many influences affect what we do as an industry.

The 7/7 attacks on London, World Trade Centre atrocity, the changing pace of technology, trade globalisation and societal shifts have all shaped the way we deliver security, and redefined the expectations of our clients and end users.”

In South Africa, other shocks have contributed to the galloping growth of this country’s private security sector. PSIRA reports that it has some 1,7 million names registered on its books. Of these some 450 000 are active, and do not include such casuals as car guards and other ad hoc security personnel. It’s an impossible number to try and gauge.

What Guilding says about the sustainability and efficacy is that its transformation depends not on more feet in boots, but how a smaller number of smarter personnel will lift the industry in the way it does its job, and attracts investment and the right calibre of recruit.

He borrows a remark made 10 years ago by Microsoft founder’s Bill Gates to make his point. “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without talking about the other.”

A decade later it’s as relevant as ever and neatly points the industry in the direction it needs to go: in an environment of integrated security embedded in a technology-driven management model. The provision of manpower services has become commoditised over time and this has stifled (or at the very least slowed) investment within the sector.

“We need to be less reliant on manpower and move towards a people plus model,” says Guilding. “We need to be both innovative and creative when new technologies become available, allowing our people to do more, be more engaged, and become a critical part of the client’s service team. The quality of our workforce will continue to develop and create opportunity for further integration across work streams.”

Guilding is not saying anything that has not been stated repeatedly by serious security players in South Africa. And this country’s causes and effects might differ from more developed nations, but the solution seems the same and it moves the argument to defining the industry’s key drivers very differently.

In parlance upgraded to suit the new image, terminology will evolve to include:

* Integration – technology and people.

* Virtual guarding – remote monitoring.

* Output specification – an integrated approach is the main area of opportunity to manage and control costs within a risk-based security plan.

* Risk management – identifying and mitigating risks through a holistic approach to security.

* Planning – building resilience in to our security models.

* Online, all the time – delivering detailed management information at the touch of a button in real-time.

* Mobile technology – putting powerful tools in the hands of all our staff.

Clients need to be educated on how much more the industry can achieve for them, and change the somewhat murky perception they might have of security personnel.

“The future is about adding value to our people resource and enabling them through technology to deliver more for our clients,” says Guilding. “The frontline teams must be our top performers, professionally qualified and exceptionally well remunerated.”

For more information contact iFacts, +27 (0)82 600 8225, jenny@ifacts.co.za


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