Darren Read – A Soft Touch

In his first editorial for Infologue.com, Amulet Security Managing Director, Darren Read discusses the importance of soft skills that security officers will need to deploy in the face of potentially aggressive or threatening behaviour from building occupants and customers in a post-lockdown world. 

Darren_Read_AmuletSecurity officers are so much more than simply a guard at the front door. That’s been the case for years now, and the industry reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated a continued reliance on the varied skills of security officers.

Now, as the reopening of workplaces and retail outlets picks up pace, officers will be called upon to take on board new responsibilities. These may include taking temperature checks of building occupants in reception areas, policing social distancing in a workplace and enforcing shop policies on wearing masks.

Not only will these duties need to be performed on top of the day-to-day job, but they will be done so amid heightened tensions across the country.

Millions of people are itching to get back to “normal” life, whether that means going into the office, shopping or going to the pub. The reality is that we all have new rules to follow. Some have been issued by the Government, while individual businesses will all implement their own protocols. And in many cases, it will fall to the security officer to enforce them.

How they are enforced will go a long way toward impacting the outcome. It’s for this reason that soft skills are so important for security officers. Soft skills include communication, flexibility, problem solving and negotiation skills. They are essential in an industry that has so much face-to-face contact and they will be put to the test in the months ahead.

Take social distancing in the workplace, for example. Businesses will be using a range of methods to encourage social distancing, such as bigger spaces between desks, one-way systems and signage reminding occupants of the new rules. But old habits die hard and it’s likely that many occupants will forget to follow certain procedures. On top of that, after months of lockdown a lot of people will want to treat the office as they did before and will relish the chance to catch up with colleagues.

Security officers will need to find the balance between being overzealous in enforcing the rules but using a firm hand when necessary.

Communication will be key for success in situations like this. A lot of the time, a gentle reminder to occupants not following the rules will suffice. But there is the potential that tempers could be frayed after such a stressful few months and officers may be met with aggressive or threatening behaviour, be it verbal or physical.

Maintaining a calm demeanour is a must. Officers should also remind people why the rules are in place – even though they will already know, explaining why also helps as it justifies the intentions behind a behaviour. In the case of someone not following a one-way system, saying “One way systems are in place to limit contact between occupants and have are an important method for preventing contamination and infection” is much better than just saying “Don’t walk this way”.

A strong relationship with the client is also essential. This is an opportunity for security providers to cement their relationships and position themselves as key counsel for back-to-work programmes and retail outlet openings. Providers and clients must agree on what protocols are in place and how they should be enforced, so that officers know exactly how to carry out their role.

Providers should also consider running refresher training courses on key soft skills. Regardless of when the most recent training took place, this situation is unique and a refresher course would likely be highly beneficial to officers, and in turn clients.

The months ahead present a real opportunity for security officers to play a key role in the public eye – so much of their work since March has been behind the scenes or in empty buildings. Through the application of soft skills, they can help ensure a positive experience for all building occupants.