We previously wrote on the topic of succession planning strategy for senior security executives in the May 2020 Career Intelligence column. Our observations then are the same as they are now. Many organizations still do not have sufficient security talent within their internal pipelines to fill positions at the senior level. This is also true for their second and third-tier roles.

Organizational leadership and corporate boards are increasingly focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies. This may offer senior security leaders an opportunity to better align their departments with the enterprise by hiring more diverse talent. However, they must first overcome factors sometimes beyond their control that have historically contributed to the talent deficit within the security industry.

Currently, there is no increased representation by diverse and underrepresented groups within professional and executive-level corporate security roles. SMR recently conducted a global analysis of several thousand security professionals, and our research supports this observation.

Within the cohort, women are represented by only 6.3%. In an adjunct analysis of 765 current and former executive level corporate security leaders, we found that women represented only 6.1%. Nineteen percent of security executives are people of color, according to the findings.

While 78% of respondents in our survey had government agency experience, only 4% of respondents included in that number were women. This is noteworthy since government agencies, which can be major feeds to corporate security, consistently report women working in non-administrative roles represent between 15% to 25% of those roles.

One of the diversification challenges facing corporate security organizations in the U.S. is related to physical office location. Numerically, the overall diversity census data in that area may work against the best efforts unless flexible working arrangements are available. Despite factors such as this, the underlying issue is a numeric shortfall of DEI candidates if succession planning strategies do not evolve.

Chief security officers (CSOs) can leverage organizational DEI initiatives to bring their succession planning into alignment by using non-traditional approaches such as:

  • Focus on a long-term DEI strategy that identifies future security talent both inside and outside the organization. Work with HR and leadership teams to proactively build for the future and not just fill immediate needs.
  • Champion the profession outside of the security community.
  • Develop an intern program that recruits from local college and university degree programs other than those solely oriented toward criminal justice.
  • Look at employees from other departments who have good intuitional knowledge and excellent underlying competencies. They may not have previously considered a corporate security career because they did not come from law enforcement or intelligence but could bring business acumen and diverse perspectives to your team.
  • Re-evaluate your position descriptions; how roles are worded may not resonate with diverse candidates.
  • Build and support your team to excel within your organization, not just in the security community. Promote a culture that does not mimic the public sector agency where you may have previously worked.
  • Be self-aware of cultural bias. Create and value differences and have a global perspective.

Driving authentic change will better integrate the security function, deliver results in alignment with your organization’s DEI initiatives, and ensure your succession plan is both inclusive and relevant.

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