From security training to developing people

Tony Security Leave a Comment

Mindset + Training + Application = Development

This article is reproduction of a piece  I was kindly asked to write by Dr Alison Wakefield Chairperson of the British Security Institute for the Risk UK magazine in February of this year. I’m re-printing an altered version of it here in response to some issues raised recently about in house training in security  and the lack of development of security staff after completing in house training with security companies. 

The development of security staff has always been a challenge for the security industry. There are many contributing factors to this, such as staff turnover, cost, quality of entry level staff or lack of return on investment, which many of you will be all too familiar with. There is another factor, however, that contributes to all the above. I believe that in many organisations there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what people development really means. As an industry we tend to focus on training security staff in order to develop them, but is that really enough? The truth is that we can never truly develop other people. All we can do is give our people the trust, resources and support to develop themselves.

The development pathway

The evolution of the term ‘training and development professional’ or ‘learning and development professional’ from HR functions has contributed to a misconception that training/learning = development. This is simply not the case and this myth has contributed to many wasted investments in training over the years. Training is an integral part of development but there are other equally important pieces of the puzzle. My development model is as follows: mindset + training + application = development. 


One without the other two is a wasted investment. If we develop a person’s mindset but don’t provide training, then frustration builds, leading to staff turnover. If we deliver training to those with a poor mindset we have simply wasted investment in training. If we deliver the right training to people with the correct mindset but don’t allow them to apply it, then we have once again wasted our investment and trained staff for the benefit of their next employer.


Developing mindset

This is the base of the pyramid. Delivering training to personnel who either are not capable of accepting it or unwilling to do so is pointless. Nurturing the mindset of a profession not a job is the starting position for people development. We all have a role to play here as security leaders. From training providers who offer ‘jobs on completion’, to companies who advertise ‘security jobs’, if that’s the calibre of staff, you advertise for then that’s what you get. Security operatives need to feel like they are entering a profession from the first contact. That’s where we start building security professionals.


I once managed a security team for a large high-profile hotel. I insisted on every report beginning with the same line, “My name is xxxx and I am a security professional employed by ABC hotel to safeguard its guests and property”. The management commented on several occasions that the standard of reporting had risen since the reports were completed this way. This was for two reasons. Firstly, the mindset change that happens when you start with a line like that means you must follow with a report of the same quality. Secondly, the reporting had improved but so had the first impression of the reader which doubled the effect. I use that story to show the positive effect that a small action to instil professional habits can have. Without professional habits the delivery of training serves no purpose.



While training is not the only element of people development, when done correctly it can form a key element of development. Training decisions based on cost or shortest timeframe rarely deliver an effective level of development to learners. The training should align with the security department’s own goals and objectives and consider actual issues faced on the ground by learners.

This is just a start though, and to get to a truly high level we must understand the meaning of education. The word ‘education’ comes from the Latin term ‘educo’ which means to draw out or raise up. Training is never just about what the trainer can deliver in terms of knowledge. It is about what the learner can draw from that knowledge and the level of performance that the trainer can draw from the learner.  The achievement of knowledge and skill to a competent level doesn’t necessarily imply the development of a person in their role. It is when learners can relate the training to prior experience and apply the new knowledge and skills in order to problem solve existing and new issues that they begin to develop.


Poor training experience is never the fault of the learner. In my experience it can almost always be attributed to the organisation and the training provider not putting in the work to deliver an effective training experience for the learner. In organisational terms it can be the purchase of one size fits all cost-effective training solutions which tick a box but don’t necessarily provide development. From a training provider perspective, it’s the delivery of a programme of learning not designed to meet the actual needs of the people in the room.


Another factor to consider is the type of training delivered. Focusing on technical training certainly has benefits but let’s not forget about behavioural subjects either. From the basic induction level, behavioural training is essential. It moulds habits and builds a personal foundation on which technical skills can be built. Training in specialist areas like counter terrorism may look exciting, but unless coupled with effective communication or stress management they may not be effective.



This is where the magic happens. Allowing professionals who are trained to a high standard to apply that training in the real world is what creates real development. One useful post training practice I have seen is the use of a debrief document with a line manager. This document starts with the usual evaluation questions on what would you keep/change/remove from the training for future courses, etc. It then moves onto questions such as “outline two ways you will now apply this training in your role” or “describe two ways that the organisation can use this training to improve our systems”. Based on the feedback it’s up to the management team to resource the newly developed security team in order to enable them to apply positively what they have learned. Viewing training such as manual handling, health and safety, fire safety, etc. as compliance requirements and mandatory training does nothing to instil a positive attitude towards using it to develop the team. Applying this training to the benefit of the organisation and the individual is what creates development.

Rock stars and rock bottom

We also must acknowledge that not everybody will be a rockstar. There will be some that will barely make the grade at an operational level whether that’s frontline, supervisory or management. We still have a role to play in developing these people. They may never want or be able to become a rock star, but they can always make themselves better. There are no lost causes in developing people because people can always be made better. If we can take a non-performer and make them a little better each day then that’s still people development. If we discard them, we discard the principle of development. We can only draw out the performance that the person is willing and capable of delivering. However, based on the starting point of rock bottom, these employees will perhaps have developed more by getting to a working standard than the rock star has done in excelling.


Grow people not programmes

When individuals are given the freedom to apply new skills and knowledge we see them develop truly as professionals. That’s the goal of people development: to make a person the best person they can be during their time with us and into the future. Regardless of the starting point or the finishing point, if we have made a person better we have developed them both as an employee and an individual. There will be some who will never be superstars but can still improve. As security managers and leaders it’s our role to make everybody – the superstars and not so superstars – a little bit better every day. That is true people development and that’s what makes the industry grow.

If you wish to read the original of this article I can highly recommend going over to the Risk UK website and taking a look. This monthly magazine is filled with great articles about the industry as well as new trends and technologies. Take a look here

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