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OSPAs webinar on security awareness

There’s pockets of good activity, and some brilliant and influential security people around; but more could be done, to shout about the good work done by security people – shouting within organisations, and to the wider world outside security. That argument has been a recurring one by Prof Martin Gill at his twice-weekly OSPAs thought leadership webinars for some months, and it was again at this afternoon’s, on the theme of security awareness – ‘what does security have to shout about? and how does it do that?’

The panel was as international as ever. From the United States, the veteran retail and then healthcare security man Michael Cummings, a former ASIS International board member, now President at Cummings Security Consulting, LLC; and another veteran, Roy Cooper, pictured, Managing Director at Professional Security Magazine, among the OSPAs award winners at the 2020 UK OSPAs, pre-pandemic; and a former Benelux ASIS chapter chairman, Erik de Vries, the owner of the risk advisory consultancy DutchRisk BV.

Mike started the debate. Far too often, he said, as a consultant he sees a ‘significant disconnect’ between an organisation’s strategic goals, and those of the security departments, as developed supposedly to support the wider organisation. “If we are not meeting the needs of the organisation, it is fundamentally our issue to fix that, on all levels within our work teams; that starts with the boss, it goes down to every member of the security team.”

Agreeing with Mike, Roy raised how, not just in the UK but globally, reports in the general press are of things going wrong; and the security industry,except occasionally, does not talk about how it’s really good. In his long time in the industry he had seen immense change, and there was a lot we could do and have done to improve the image of security, such as awards, whether the OSPAs (full title, Outstanding Security Performance Awards, running in several countries) or internal to companies.

The security media, Roy said later, can only report what they’ve been told; and negative news gets generally broadcast. Martin Gill asked as webinar chair if the security industry needed to be talking more openly, and positively. To that Roy’s point was that security people are not media people and are busy doing their day job. On that point, Erik added that security managers in general are not very good sales people – ‘you need to sell your profession and sell your success’, and not blame others if something goes wrong.

Mike suggested separating from ‘what’ of raising security – for example, awareness of security among non-security staff – from the ‘how’, on a site by site or region by region basis. You have to make some changes, to be collaborative, ‘and implement different ‘hows” as ways of bringing people to the table – an often overlooked tactic, Mike added.

Martin Gill asked if the logical interpretation of the problem was that security professionals in the top positions are just not up to the same level of ‘business nous’ as others in their organisation, which has a negative impact (for security). Erik recalled from his time as Benelux ASIS chapter chair how much hard work it was to get non-security people on a stage to give their impressions to the ASIS audience.

What came across that while, as Roy said, security people have day jobs that they may be too busy doing to market and write about themselves, that’s an excuse. Mike said: “We don’t take the time to analyse, to get on the calendar of senior leaders to ask, how the security department can be a help. And then listen and come back with some suggested alternatives to how leaders have been doing business.” Without such real discussion and analysis of what the business needs – and, maybe not the same thing, what the security department thinks the business needs – that’s a missed opportunity, he suggested.

Next webinars

Prof Martin Gill, of consultancy Perpetuity Research, has further webinars planned until December 17, including on November 24 an English speaking Thought Leadership Summit, and Beneleux OSPAs awards ceremony online. Other sessions’ topics include fraud, public disorder, offender asset confiscation, victim support in the criminal justice system and reflections on 2020.

The next webinar on Thursday afternoon covers the challenges faced in terms of achieving organisational consistency in security services during the pandemic. You can sign up to attend for free at https://theospas.com/thought-leadership-webinars/. You can also watch past webinars – now more than 70 – online, going back to March 31.


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