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Survey of the security sector

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A new report was released that is based on the findings from three surveys of:

-Corporate security specialists who buy security
-Contract security company managers
-Security operatives especially guards

The findings will surprise many.

Corporate security specialists

Over two fifths admitted they felt that security was viewed as a ‘grudge purchase’. Moreover, some felt that the status of security in their organisation was lower than that for other functions, including procurement and facilities management. Most accepted that security was low priority, and their assessment of future spending was relatively pessimistic.

This is not good for security contractors selling into organisations where security is not viewed positively and where the internal specialists are not valued as much as other professionals.

What is perhaps most striking is that although clients determine the conditions under which the guarding companies they use operate, and they felt they were trustworthy, they felt the margins they operated on were low and were critical of pay rates for guards and quality of management.

They felt that in house services were of a higher quality but that contract services were better value for money.

The evidence suggests the need for the contract security sector to provide more evidence of its effectiveness and value against a background where those buying security need to be persuaded.

The Suppliers (Directors and Managers)

Directors/managers were concerned about how security was perceived by buyers, with almost two thirds feeling that, ‘low margins change the focus of contract security directors/managers from security to cost control’, and about a half accepted that, ‘Security is predominantly a grudge purchase.’

Moreover, more than two thirds cited the need to cut costs as a reason for severing contracts or changing suppliers in their area of security.

Directors/managers felt that staff turnover in the industry was extremely high but were less likely to agree that it was a problem in their company.

Asked why people left contract security work in their area of security, directors/managers saw three reasons as crucial: poor pay; limited opportunities for development; and a feeling among staff that they weren’t appreciated.

Security operatives (security officers in house and contract, door supervisors and public space surveillance officers)

Security guards

-In 61% of cases the licensing fee was paid for by the employer
-8% had one or more jobs in addition to their security work
-A quarter were rostered to work more than 54 hours per week. A quarter actually worked more than 60 hours per week
-Almost half of respondents said they also carried out non-security related functions
-53% believed they would still be working in the sector in three years’ time
-24% of responding security guards believed their pay to be above average for the area in which they lived, 42% average, and 32% below average
-54% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the assertion that the public has a positive view of most people who do security work
-56% agreed or strongly agreed with the assertion that ‘most of my colleagues are totally committed to providing a quality service’


Door Supervisors

-59% believed they would still be working in the sector in three years’ time
-20% of responding door supervisors believed their pay to be above average for the area in which they lived, 37% average, and 44% below average
-53% agreed or strongly agreed with the assertion that ‘most of my colleagues are totally committed to providing a quality service’


Public space surveillance operatives

-53% believed they would still be working in the sector in three years’ time
-27% believed their pay to be above average for the area in which they lived, 40% average, and 33% below average
-62% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the assertion that the public has a positive view of most people who do security work

Other points

Professor Martin Gill who led the study noted:

Security is facing a challenging time. The evidence suggests that security is not in a poor state, but there are issues that need to be addressed. The security sector needs to respond in a more co-ordinated way in highlighting with evidence what you get from a good security company that you don’t get from a bad one, and it needs to show how this can and is being achieved cost effectively.

The research

The research is based on responses to on line surveys (made available from 12th December 2011 to 20th February 2012). The response rates for each survey were 209 corporate security specialist, 509 suppliers (directors/managers) and 504 security operatives.

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