Exclusive: Diversity in the security industry

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As an industry, security has talked a lot about the need for greater diversity and inclusion in recent years. These conversations have been valuable and long-overdue; the industry doesn’t have a record of being particularly diverse and by now, the benefits – tangible and intangible – of a diverse workforce are legion.

However, beyond the obvious focus on a need to increase diversity, how much of an improvement is being made in the industry? And are there areas we could be doing better?

Diversity in hiring

Diversity in hiring practices is the first place we often look to make improvements. This is a key area and necessarily a key point for improvement. Organisations that embrace diversity in their hiring benefit from a larger talent pool than those who don’t, this in turn creates a diversity of ideas, experience and knowledge. Also, companies that embrace diversity in their hiring are open to hiring the best candidates, regardless of personal factors. This should be something all companies want.

While this is an area many companies are focusing on, it remains an area where much improvement can be made. Job adverts that require a background in the military or police go against the stated aim of increasing diversity. While those with previous careers in the services often can bring many skills to a role, there is no magic formula that makes this the case and many security roles in the corporate world have little in common with a service role. The flip-side is a job description that demands Undergraduate and/or Masters degrees for applicants. Accademia provides many skills, but a detailed understanding of security in the corporate world is rarely one of them. By insisting on these requirements, hiring managers may be making a sift of applications easier, but it’s unlikely that they are ensuring they have access to the best candidates.

While it may seem that removing these elements will only make the hiring process longer, more time consuming and more expensive, hiring the wrong candidate has been shown to impact sales, productivity, team performance and morale and time. Being open to hiring from a wider array of candidates can save all of these items but also improve performance in the long-term.

Diversity of training

While there may be an influx in diverse hires across the industry, a study of diversity and inclusion practices conducted by Forbes magazine in July 2020 found that the roles filled by a diversity of employees could be sequestered into one specific type or role or section of a business’ operations. For instance, women are more likely to work in sales, admin, HR and communications than men and white men are more likely to have jobs in management, while black and hispanic men are more likely to work in lower level operations focused roles. They found that this could be combatted by implementing a cross-training program that enables employees to spend time working in various roles within the organisation. This access to cross-training allows others to see different roles within the organisation and most importantly understand where their roles fit into the structure.

Giving security officers the opportunity to train and work in the control room, or in an operational management role can help them connect the value of their role to the bigger picture. Having managers spend time in operational roles can help them to understand the daily challenges teams face. These also create opportunities for improvements – security officers working with managers can share insights on procedures or processes that aren’t working while sharing feedback on improvements that have been implemented on the ground.

In the Forbes study, Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno, CEO and Co-Founder of Futures for Us noted that “cross-training programs provide employees with the opportunity to learn from one another in both developing hard and soft skills but connecting and learning from employees who have marginalised identities. These programs promote and reward a culture of collaboration.” 

These programmes can also help develop career progression and training plans that enhance the job satisfaction of all employees.

Diversity of ideas

Beyond hiring, the security industry should generally be open to a diversity of ideas. Hearing from the same people each time doesn’t necessarily create innovation and new ideas. Including more diverse speakers at events, including a diversity of experience on panel discussions, events, articles and other ‘thought-leadership’ events makes it more likely that we as an industry receive new ideas.

This is an area that security leaders can truly drive the industry forward. Security leaders who are willing to use their platform to champion other professionals make it more likely that the quieter voices get heard. Security leaders who encourage and share the thoughts and viewpoints of others are benefiting the whole industry.

Similarly, industry associations have a huge role to play in this regard. Most major associations now have a range of diversity and inclusion initiatives, but how many are giving opportunities to others to share ideas? How many associations with groups catered to the most senior security leaders also focus on mentoring and including young professionals so that they get visibility of the challenges faced at the top of the industry?

Good start, but more to do

The talk of the importance of greater diversity and inclusion across the security industry is a very positive sign, however, beyond the focus on hiring there remains much work to be done. It is for the benefit of the entire security industry that we be open to hiring, including, developing and advancing the opportunities of the best employees that we can.

James Morris

By James Morris, Head of Security Services, EMEA at Aon

You can connect with James here

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