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Transforming security operative recruitment

Insights from James, an event operations and production manager

Recruiting reliable and trustworthy security operatives is a critical concern for businesses and organisations across various industries. James, an experienced event logistics & production manager, an important part of whose role includes the hiring of security operatives, recently shed light on three key issues which he believes are hampering the effectiveness of the recruitment process: lack of transparency, poor reliability and multiple subcontracting. In this blog post, we delve into these challenges in James’s own words, and highlight how Surely will address them all, at least to some degree, as part of its mission to modernise the marketplace to the benefit of security operatives, clients and agents alike. 

Lack of transparency: being sent security operatives who are not fit for purpose

According to James, transparency is a fundamental aspect of security operative recruitment that needs to be looked at closely. Employers often face the challenge of not knowing the skills, attitude and qualifications of the individuals they hire until it’s too late. This lack of transparency can lead to obvious frustrations, operational disruptions and potential risks. The current model doesn’t allow clients or agents to cherry pick the right security operatives for the right job at the right pay. Just being sent someone who has a particular SIA licence is not enough, especially when they represent your organisation or brand on the frontline to customers, which is often the case in the world of hospitality, events, retail, commercial, transport, residential and private hire. There are very few occasions, perhaps some forms of security guarding and CCTV monitoring, but in most cases, a security operative is one of the most visual representations of a company or organisation, and can make a break a first impression with the most important stakeholders of all – customers.

Surely resolves this issue to a significant extent through its innovative platform that is a database of thousands of security operatives across the UK, all of whom are verified and certified before they can apply for or be recruited for any jobs. It provides a wealth of transparent information about security operatives, including photos and videos, languages spoken, sector experience, BS7858 status, availability for emergency hire, and a personal bio written in their own words. Clients and agents can also access details of all the relevant industry qualifications, certifications and accreditations, and details of their job experience to date. Not only that, Surely has introduced an Inclusivity Pledge to reinforce the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010, and the reinforcement of five Core Competencies that clients tell us are important or essential for security operatives to be aware of and/or proficient in – conflict management, customer service, substance abuse, radio communications and vulnerable people. Not only that, but all security operatives are reviewed by clients for every job they deliver on Surely for five important characteristics that we know are ever so important – timekeeping, positivity, helpfulness, presentation and communication. By having access to all this vital information upfront, employers can make more informed decisions and significantly improve the likelihood of hiring the right security operatives – either individually or as an entire team – for every single job. The only real question is – why hasn’t this level of transparency been available before now? There are many answers to that, but we will address them all in another article.

Poor reliability: security operatives cancelling at short notice

James emphasised the importance of reliability. He told us that a ridiculously high number of security operatives cancel at short notice. “No shows” can have severe consequences for many clients, especially in the hospitality and events sectors, compromising the safety and effectiveness of security operations, as well as negating insurance policies and creating legal issues with local authorities and police forces. Replacements turn up late and are even less likely to be fit for purpose than those selected in the first place. And some of those who do turn up might turn up late, or in the wrong place, or badly dressed or poorly briefed. This is not to assign blame on either side, it is just the way things are at the moment. The vast majority of clients, agents and security are professional people who want to deliver a great outcome in a financial win-win environment. The trouble is, that this is just not possible with the way things work right now. The trouble is, that this is just not possible with the way things work right now.  

One way in which Surely tackles this challenge is by incorporating a review system into its platform. Upon completion of a job, employers have the opportunity to provide feedback and rate the performance of a security operative. These reviews act as valuable indicators for future employers, allowing them to assess the punctuality of potential candidates, amongst many other factors mentioned above. By highlighting the significance of punctuality through user reviews, Surely incentivises security operatives to prioritise timeliness, ensuring a higher level of reliability across the board. Not only that, but every “no show” is presented on a security operative’s profile, so a client can easily and quickly see who has got a reputation for cancelling at short notice, and who is more reliable. Needless to say, this initiative promotes and rewards those who are more reliable. But, it is also up to clients and agents to brief security operatives properly in the first place. Respect is a two-way street. That’s why Surely encourages clients and agents to add lots of important information when posting a job to explain their requirements in great detail. This will help security operatives to understand a great deal more about the needs and wants of the client, and make a more informed decision about whether they believe they are a suitable candidate for the job before they invest time in applying for it. All communications – text, audio and video – take place within Surely and are recorded and saved in our chat function to safeguard the best interests of all concerned.

Multiple subcontracting: too much money evaporates out of the system

James mentioned that the practice of sub-contracting security jobs can pose significant challenges to the goal of maintaining consistent quality and motivation among security operatives – and to clients hiring security operatives who are fit for purpose. As always with these things, it’s a two-way street. There is nothing wrong with agents per se. Not at all. It is just the way that the system works at the moment that is wrong. Too often, especially with last minute bookings, in a desperate attempt to find numbers for a job for legal reasons, anyone with a badge will do. This can lead to authorised agents and bona fide clients to desperately seeking security operatives via Facebook pages, online forums and WhatsApp groups, so you have absolutely no intelligence on a security operative other than that they own the right SIA licence. Security operatives often end up getting paid minimum wage whilst clients end up paying for a level of quality that they don’t actually get. Multiple levels of sub-contracting are no good for clients or security operatives.

Surely minimises the risk associated with sub-contracting by streamlining the recruitment process to ensure clients can find security operatives who are available at short notice who are also fit for purpose for a specific job, and also to ensure that clients get better value and that security operatives get more money in their pocket. Whilst agents are welcome to use the platform to find security operatives, the platform provides a direct and personal connection between employers and security operatives at a level never before seen, that mirrors the way in which Airbnb and Uber changed their markets too. Surely has a transparent approach to fees too – clients pay 15% and security operatives pay 2.5%. But because of our minimum wage of £12.50, both clients and security operatives will benefit financially in comparison with the current model, where clients can pay 20-25% and security operatives get minimum wage. There’s no maximum to what clients can pay too -and the better security officers will be paid more too – perhaps on occasions up to £25 per hour for the very best door supervisors. Additionally, Surely’s secure payment system ensures that the right person receives timely compensation, promoting job satisfaction and motivation. This works by setting clear parameters on deposits that are held in escrow which vary from 0% to 100% and payment terms that default to 10 days, but which a client can set to up to 90 days (if he can find a security operative willing to wait that long of course). Whilst Surely provides a platform to meet the needs of all clients, the marketplace ethos is to encourage swift payment. Any clients who default on payment are dealt with by Surely on the behalf of security operatives, and an arbitration service is in place to settle disputes of any type as quickly as possible.

Surely presents an innovative solution to the key issues surrounding the recruitment of high quality security operatives in an effective and efficient way. By addressing lack of transparency, poor reliability and multiple sub-contracting, Surely empowers employers to make more informed decisions and enhances the overall quality of security personnel. With Surely’s user-friendly web application, employers can have more confidence in the recruitment process, significantly reducing the risks associated with hiring the wrong person. By embracing technology and implementing platforms like Surely, the security industry can take a substantial step forward in creating a win-win marketplace for all its core stakeholders alike – clients, agents and security operatives – to the benefit of customers, local authorities and police forces around the UK. It is a marketplace that will help the Home Office to ensure that the SIA delivers on its key goals – not least of which is to improve standards in the private security industry. We can all agree that not only is this a good aim to have in mind, but at the moment there is little evidence it is being achieved. Until Surely came along…


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