Security Manpower – What is the cost of feeling safe?

12th May 15 (view the original post here)

Guest blog by Adam Byrne, Director of Safety and Security at UWS, who will speak at the2015 Security Conference in July 2015.

We all recognise, the security industry is at its heart a service industry. Therefore you would expect outstanding service delivery and an excellent customer service ethic to be at the core of a successful client-provider relationship. Yet, in managing security officers and the expectations of managers who require guards for specific functions, the one question that is always asked first is:  How much will this cost me?

It is more often than not that decisions regarding the engagement of manpower services are based on the lowest bid without considering service quality or customer service outcomes.

Now – ours is a big industry, full of liabilities yet so many of us continue to insist on budget as the defining consideration when engaging security manpower providers.

Whenever this conversation comes up in my sector, I always ask what is expected from the service and then, what are you prepared to pay to be kept safe and importantly to have your staff and clients feel safe?

As a government employee I recognise the reality of value for money in a competitive environment as being a primary driver in manpower decisions. In some cases, this is entirely appropriate.

If for instance, we  operate an enterprise in a low risk environment, perhaps an industry with few criticalities and vulnerabilities (in terms of human or high value assets) that require protection then I can see the argument that price is the most significant factor when evaluating a Request for Quotation (RFQ) or Tender (RFT).

That said, many within my sector have a limited understanding of the security environment they exist in. Most spend only the bare minimum on security without any real thought to the value of quality staff or equipment and how a properly trained and inducted manpower guard force can benefit their overall resilience & reputation. For the most their focus  is on the core operations of their enterprise and security is but a necessary evil.

This is a perennial problem and more acute in those countries in which the industry is not regulated at Government level. I currently teach part of an international law enforcement degree offered in The Republic of the Maldives and was recently asked to consider a security audit on a location in the Republic.

As part of the audit I reported on the cost of security to a facility and the overall benefits of in-house versus out-sourced security guarding services.

In considering both options; one was cheaper but had limitations and risks for the client’s business, while the other one was more expensive but  better suited to the client’s high profile needs.

The report recognised the probative value found in a professional manpower service and that the lowest price is not the most useful indicator in assessing security services & a more qualitative assessment is needed.

Jan Carlzon, the former CEO of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) in a book called Moments of Truth stated “We have 50,000 moments of truth every day.” – this was said at the start of a series of internal dialogues within the company that saw SAS turn its fortunes around & referred to every time an employee of the company came into contact with a customer.

Relating this back to my own work; I often remind them that;

1) when a visitor arrives, the first person who meets them will be your security and that ;

2) it is this first impression or moment of truth that gives the visitor a lasting impression and; then with this in mind;

3) considering a low bid for manpower services is fine, but it does not mean the cheapest bid ought be accepted.

Most businesses are reluctant to spend money on a non-revenue generating service and therefore commonly take a ‘we won’t spend the money unless something happens’ attitude.

Of course such attitudes are myopic, given that it is security that so often protects the business from losses, whilst ensuring the safety of staff and clients, as well as ensuring the integrity of IP and enterprise reputation.

This said, competing with a superior service is most difficult in government where value for money must have primacy.

Many of my colleagues in government bemoan the need to show fiscal responsibility through the correct management of taxpayer dollars and the consequences of having to justify a better service at a higher cost over simply a cheaper service.

There are the three main points why the lowest price often wins:

1) As a client, I’m not a security expert but security is one of my responsibilities. What is really the risk? Nothing has happened ever so why take security risk seriously?

2) As a guard, I’m on an hourly rate, often not inspired or embraced in terms of any professional or intellectual outcomes. Why would I do anything other than the bare minimum?

3) As a manpower provider, my clients focus on price, notwithstanding the quality of the guards we provide. Why can’t I seem to get clients to at least acknowledge that a quality service is worth spending more on?

As guarding managers, it may well be that whilst we are good at selling the product; we fail at selling the message..

I read recently in a blog written by someone with a similar mindset to mine talked of the need for ‘commercial cultural awareness & communications of the view of those specialists in the security and protection industry’.

Service delivery is something that most businesses, including government, values as important, but yet we struggle the value of outstanding security services even if it opens a door to danger or a continuity breach.

We recognise that if our business and reputation is not being given the proper security service it deserves, then our own clients may not return.

There are a lot of factors that can detract from or impact on the success of a business or enterprise.

And it is the provision of a below standard security guard service chosen simply on price with no regard to service quality that really is at the top of the list.

About Adam Byrne

Adam Byrne will be speaking at the 2015 Security Conference in July on managing security across multiple sites.

Adam Byrne is the Director, Campus Safety and Security with the University of Western Sydney (UWS).

In this role Adam is responsible for; all resilience planning, electronic & physical security, traffic / transport management and specialist investigations.

Adam is a former Sergeant with the NSW Police Force, where he was involved with a number of specialist fields and is also currently a lecturer / trainer with The Republic of the Maldives Police Force.

Adam holds a degree in Emergency Management, an MBA and is an alumnus of Harvard University’s Crisis Leadership Program (JFK School of Government).