By Winston Stewart
Frontline excellence is so much more than the security fundamentals
By Winston Stewart
It’s not just about guarding.
That’s the point I make to any security professional who aspires to move up the ranks in our industry. While protecting people, property and assets is a central part of what a guard does, it’s the service aspect of our business that differentiates those who excel. It’s the ability to represent and embody a client’s brand, while also ensuring their safety and security, that creates lasting relationships and delivers truly meaningful results.
Anyone can monitor a camera or make sure that a door stays locked. Security professionals who add real value also create a positive customer service experience.
So, what does it take to progress from a rank-and-file guard to a team leader — or even a position with a police service or as a senior corporate security officer? It starts by being part of a strong security company with a good training program. Those programs should be as progressive and organized as they are comprehensive.
Organizations that promote based on tenure alone often miss the mark — merit isn’t usually marked by years of service. Guards who are typically eligible for promotion are those who advance their training and who work to build industry accreditation and experience. It takes serving in various different locations, for different clients and taking the initiative to problem-solve in challenging and potentially stressful situations to gain promotion. Ours is very much an industry where expertise is built by taking a hands-on approach.
But transforming yourself into a leader requires even more. Good supervisors have great communication skills. They can motivate, adapt and defuse contentious situations. They have a knack for managing client relations — be they retail, residential, industrial or commercial customers — and doing what it takes to ensure their complete satisfaction.
They also go above and beyond the call of duty. When monitoring or patrolling a building, for example, they do what it takes to understand every aspect of the property, from its mechanical equipment and various features (and any nuances that could impact operations) to the people who occupy it. That could be as straightforward as understanding how to use entrance turnstiles and smart elevators to knowing emergency evacuation procedures and having the skillset to work with technicians and troubleshoot building issues.
Many of these problem-solving skills are the same as those leveraged by police officers on a daily basis, which explains why many supervisors in our industry eventually decide to take the two-year police foundations course at college to either apply to a police service, or simply use that certification to build a career in the private sector. Either way, having a strong security background, particularly at the management level, sends a clear signal to police recruiters or corporate HR departments that a supervising guard’s interest in the profession is more than fleeting.
The key to sustained success is for guards to work to further their education and experience in the field. That means taking various certificate programs that enhance their appeal to hiring managers. Some of those programs will cover diverse subject matter well beyond the traditional bounds of security.
It’s fair to say that career advancement for security guards is a factor of ambition. Those candidates who have it and are willing to put in the hard work and dedication needed to move up the ladder have a far greater chance of achieving their goals. But it’s also about being strategic in terms of the supplemental education opportunities they pursue and the positions they take to build their resumes. In our industry today, employers are looking for candidates with dynamic expertise who can help them adapt and respond to threats ranging from cybersecurity vulnerabilities to incidents of workplace violence and developing and enforcing workplace health and safety programs (a necessity during the COVID-19 crisis).
Guarding may be at the heart of what many security professionals do, but it’s no longer the limit of what a guard should be prepared to do if they want to advance in their career.
Winston Stewart is the president and CEO of Wincon Security (www.wincon-security.com).