In a sector traditionally slow to change, Brexit and the pandemic have had a considerable impact on the UK’s security industry over a relatively short period. We’ve seen labour shortages, which have forced everyone to think more seriously about how we attract, retain and ultimately value security officers. And the pandemic has demonstrated just how important that is, with the majority of security officers continuing to work throughout, very often under new and challenging circumstances.
Putting a stronger focus on people, and recognising that they are any security business’ most important asset, is something certain parts of the industry, myself included, have been advocating for many years. Since joining Atlas FM and launching its security business at the start of this year, I have been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of our customers to pay more to ensure the happiness of our employees. A tide appears to be turning and it makes me even more confident we can build the Atlas Security business, and the security profession more generally, to be increasingly people centric.
Modern solutions to historical challenges
Margins have always been the biggest barrier to convincing businesses that renumeration and benefits packages should be competitive and a means to attract and retain the best staff. Procurement departments have sometimes had their focus diverted away from the front line and given a primary objective to keeping the costs down. But what we’re now seeing is an understanding that people cannot be treated as commodities, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic. There is now greater recognition of the diverse skill sets and responsibilities demanded of today’s security officer. This appreciation is resulting in a willingness to pay higher margins if it means the officers working on their sites are being better looked after by us.
Diversity and inclusion have also come further to the forefront in recent years, and thankfully resulted in increasing diversity being more heavily prioritised. Diverse teams better represent the communities they protect, and so we need to ensure that roles and benefits packages appeal to all genders and minorities – which can only be a positive development for the industry as a whole.
Overall, businesses understand that a happier workforce is a more productive workforce, improves staff retention and allows businesses to deliver a more consistent service to their clients.
Now that we are in this welcome position, what are the factors that are creating a happy workforce and enabling businesses to attract and retain security talent?
Renumeration is of course a key factor, and the Living Wage Foundation has also done a good job of promoting the need for fair pay. It’s now unusual for a business not to support it. But there is so much more we can provide security officers through benefits packages, and there are many extremely well thought out and impactful offerings that are helping to support our security teams.
Financial literacy is an important aspect of this, and excellent training is available to help instil good practices in savings and credit. Cashback schemes can also help to provide monetary benefits across popular restaurants, hotels, holiday companies and supermarkets. And healthcare and life insurance packages are an effective way of providing ‘security’ in its broadest sense, in an industry ironically not always associated with the word.
Across the board, training continues to be vital in demonstrating our commitment to employees. Vocational training helps us to up-skill and ensure that skills continue to be relevant. And critically it also helps to map out career development and progression, which not only helps to retain staff, but also enables us to position our industry as one that can deliver a rewarding career path. Also important is mental health and wellbeing training, especially following the pandemic, where protecting our mental health has never been more important.
We believe that valued staff should be recognised and rewarded, and internal awards schemes are a great way to do so. The stories that come out of them are inspiring and demonstrate the brave and committed actions of those working in our industry. Uniforms are another area where we are finding we can inspire pride as good quality, well-fitting and comfortable clothes are an obvious, but often forgotten, aspect in creating a positive culture.
Positive cultures Our overriding ethos for Atlas Security is to showcase that we’re different and committed to the wider Atlas Group purpose of creating happiness. We also want to be approachable and known for our young and dynamic approach. As such, we’ve recently launched our employee happiness survey, so we can prioritise areas for improvement that are most important to the people that matter the most. They are using their voices to make a difference to their working lives – and the changes we make for them will pave the way for better careers for security officers of the future.