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February 21, 2023

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The Video Surveillance Report 2023

From low skilled danger to full trained role with potential: How the role of a security operative has transformed over the years

Andrew Hallam, Managing Director for the security division at facilities management specialist Samsic UK, started his career at the bottom and worked his way up through positions at various companies, from on-the-ground operative to supervisor, manager and eventually director. Here, he shares his thoughts on how the role of the security operative has transformed in the years since he began in the profession. 

A lone operative sat in a cabin with a torch all night – the historic view of the security operative was based on truth.

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Andrew Hallam, Managing Director, Samsic

But you’d be hard pressed to find that stereotype now.

As recently as the 1990s working conditions in the security industry were poor and often dangerous, with extremely long hours and few opportunities for progression or fulfilment.

But the industry has taken strides to transform into a career with full training and plenty of chances for progression, Andrew believes.

“It wasn’t uncommon to see people doing 24 hour shifts”

“Security was a deregulated industry, with no standards to adhere to, and working conditions were extremely immature. My first week was a real eye-opener. One of the first locations I went to, a security officer was warming his hands over an oil drum full of burning wood.

“You had people providing the service from a caravan on a site, with little in terms of facilities. There was no provision of heat and water, and no telephone.

“People were working long hours, it wasn’t uncommon to see people doing 24 hour shifts. People would sit on a client premises just in their car all night. 

“There wasn’t a lot of job satisfaction either. It was a very primitive service line operated and managed by poor quality management.”

“Security staff now do much more people-facing work”

Since then the Private Security Act 2001 brought in licensing and criminal record checks and led to a streamlining of the industry. 

Improved technology and transformed training and progression has also had an impact – Samsic, for example, is making improvements to its learning management system (LMS) to encourage staff to move up in their careers and take courses on subjects such as first aid, customer service or hazardous chemicals.

Andrew added: “Back in the day a security operative would be sitting there making sure no-one broke in. These days technology can protect a property, meaning that security staff do much more people-facing work.

“It’s not uncommon now that there are a wider range of services that a security officer would deliver. 

“Our staff carry out front of house services, reception, concierge, guard, meet and greet, post-room services, fire warden, health and safety, testing and much more. 

“Our security operatives need to create a good positive experience for the client, being the first point of contact. The job today is far more focused on communication, attention to detail and diligence.

“We’ve done a lot around wellbeing, which is key to us.”

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“In this job I’m always looking at ways to streamline”

Shahbaz Khan is a control room resource planner. He’d previously worked various roles including sales and driving before becoming a security officer in 2020 – he quickly progressed to become a control room resource planner, responsible for over 70 sites and around 400 staff.

He said: “I remember it was a bit daunting going through the interview. The ops manager was very straightforward though, and gave me the assurances I needed.

“The contract was permanent and ensuring I had the hours and steady income was important.

“They also explained the site and the role, and promised an initial two days’ training.”

“It was a new contract and I noticed certain areas that needed improvement. After speaking to people on site I was able to pick out certain vulnerabilities where we could help.

“In this job I’m always looking at ways to streamline. You never have a quiet day, it’s always busy – everything from responding to incidents on site, handover reports from shifts, dealing with absences – and I’m always speaking with the majority of the guards. 

“We are always innovating and using new technologies. During general patrols we have devices on our phones to log incidents, so we have a lot of data-driven information. The ops managers then discuss the data and clients can see it coming through. When an incident occurs clients are immediately informed.”

Also employed by Samsic, Shahbaz was pleased with the job security, suitable shifts and suitable roles for staff.

He added: “We are like a family and we look after employees. Things like mental health support, rewards and internal awards, give you a real boost. Recognition is really important. 

“You see people progress, you are always given the option and the support. And it’s also really good to get positive and constructive appraisal from clients.”

 

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