A new report released today, The Security Industry in perspective, is one of the most extensive surveys of views on the private security sector. The study is an important crystallisation of opinions that have long been held about the sector. The findings are based on three surveys of the industry’s key stakeholders; corporate security managers who buy security (the buyers), directors & management of security companies (the suppliers), and security operatives, especially in the guarding sector. If this report is taken seriously, as it should be by the industry, it could act as a catalyst in initiating a debate on what the future UK security services industry should look like.
The authors of the Security Research Initiative Report, Professor Martin Gill and Charlotte Howell of Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International (PRCI) Ltd believe that the findings of the research will surprise many. Professor Gill told Infologue.com; “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.”
Key conclusions from the report included;
The Buyers; (Corporate security managers who buy security)
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.
The Security Operatives (security officers in house and contract, door supervisors and public space surveillance officers)
Public space surveillance operatives
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 specialists, 509 suppliers (directors/managers) and 504 security operatives.
The research was undertaken by Perpetuity Research (which started life as a spin out from the University of Leicester) under the umbrella of the Security Research Initiative which conducts a study each year into an aspect of security.
To request a copy of the full report please email Perpetuity Research stating ‘Survey of the security sector’