If security forces are going to perform more functions, which they should...they need additional training. More training for your security teams is an expensive proposition, but an all-important one. 

Making the case for security

1%-2% of any capital program should be put toward security. I would argue that each employee is a capital asset worthy of maintenance. Now consider the typical employee work year. There are 2,000 productive work hours in a year (40 hour weeks, with 80 hours of vacation). This means that a typical employee should receive at least 40 hours of ongoing training and education, this is in comparison to accounting and IT staff and the average training they receive.

It should be noted that these training hours do not include routine baseline refresher training like 1st Aid/CPR and Bloodborne Pathogens in this calculation.

Correcting training/development deficiencies

Security officer training is often diminished by budgetary constraints, changes in management and an endemic prejudice against security officers. The latter is a significant factor among enterprise employees. Prejudice thrives as frontline security officers are invariably negatively portrayed in news and entertainment media providing slim chance for a positive perspective on the profession.

A common training sleight-of-hand occurs when contract officers time in the hiring process (interviews, uniform allocation, etc.) is counted as training. Enterprise security leaders or guard companies need to specify required training and audit that process.

The “Captive Trainee Syndrome” takes place with service providers who provide company training and certification programs to their officers. Captivity occurs when the officer seeks a new employer who doesn’t recognize their certifications. The effect slows career development and encourages officers to leave the industry. Some proprietary organizations fail to give their staff certificates or records of their training and such practices need to stop. Security leaders need to confront this issue and ensure that officers are not only fully trained, but receive feedback, certification and accolades that officers can take with them throughout their careers.   

Career development models

Continuous career development enhances organizational development while at the same time ends up being a strong staff retention strategy. Engaged employees are more productive, contribute more to customer satisfaction and are less likely to vote with their feet. They are also more attuned to cultural issues – the keystone of security officer functions - and prone to making the right decision in delicate situations. With the threat of workplace violence, organizations can’t afford not to develop their security departments and frontline security staff.

The ASIS Guideline for Selection and Training of Private Security Officers is a foundational tool used to ensure that a complete curriculum is established. It sets a universal standard that security managers should comply with and surpass. It is an integral first step in establishing a career development model.

In one example, a shopping mall implemented a learning process for its security staff consisting of the Professional Security Training Network (PSTN) Basic Series and being assigned to a Field Training Officer (mentoring) in their first 90 days. They then completed FEMA’s Emergency Response To Terrorism course and the PSTN Shopping Center Series; an industry/vertical specific course of instruction. This was augmented via monthly training sessions in the use of fire extinguishers, handcuffs, and OCAT. Following this was completion of the PSTN Supervisor Series within one year of employment (a security officer is an adjunct member of the management team). Completion of the CPO after one year of employment was the capstone.

This training path provided meaningful career development to security officers utilizing proprietary and external learning resources effectively. It was also credited with reducing turnover by 85 to 90%. In addition, a high level of training translated to the local police and this security department having a good working relationship with direct radio links for quick response.

In another example, a steel mill offered a substantial bonus to security officers who completed the company’s CPO program. This was augmented by voluntary classes on Saturdays. Legal aspects were taught by an attorney, Executive Protection by the county sheriff and a CPO review was given. The officers received quality classroom instruction and a monetary bonus.

Individual development: Paying attention to staff

“An idle officer is a destructive officer.”

Hip-pocket training where an officer is asked to perform operator maintenance (POM) on a piece of equipment, is questioned on post orders or emergency procedures or given a scenario to respond to. This engages the officer and audits the security program.  

Giving “sabbaticals” when staff is getting burned out is another key consideration security leaders can use to encourage long-term security staff and avoid burnout of the security team.

Strategies designed to develop individuals who will in turn positively influence their peers have a place in career/organizational development. Such strategies pull the string rather than push it. They encourage positive peer group pressure. Ron Minion, founder of the IFPO, used this to great effect in his management of a large security services firm. It may be utilized in the recruitment phase as well:

I struck the bargain of hiring “hungry” committed individuals and then a significant training budget. This made hiring easier since folks would seek the training, and we trained them a lot compared to their peers. But I had to strike a bargain to get that training commitment in the beginning.