Training Effective Security Officers

Tony Security Leave a Comment

Be effective not clever

Over the past few months I’ve had to sit down and look over a lot of the training programmes I’ve written over the years. Some good, some not so good but all with one thing in common. Written for effectiveness. That’s the common theme with everything I write. Call it pragmatism or practicality or whatever you want. It is my strong belief that the primary goal of any training should be to make the recipient effective. 


I’m sure students over the years have gotten sick of hearing me say it. I repeat my two guiding lights of working in security. Be effective and add value. I believe that’s where all training should focus. Delivering knowledge and skills is great in theory. But are you delivering the knowledge and skills that will make a person effective in their chosen topic? Knowing a lot and being able to do a lot is only useful if part of that stuff you know is important for your job. 

Teaching effectiveness

The first step to teaching effectiveness is understanding what the student needs to know. If I don’t know the job, I can teach all of the knowledge and skills in the book but the person I teach won’t be effective. Understanding not just the knowledge and skills required but the behaviours and attitudes (yes I’m talking about soft skills again) required to support them. 
How do we go about doing teaching these skills? Firstly I think we have to set the baseline at the start. Addressing the behaviours we need to exhibit as part of the core learning outcomes. I generally address it at the very start. I start off talking about effectiveness as a mindset and an attitude. Then we can start layering on what makes you effective. Things like empathy, observation, attention to detail, vigilance, resilience and willingness to communicate. Only then do we start talking about the content. 

Security operative observation

Every time I start a training module I begin with the behaviours we need to exhibit for the module to be effective. Then the module outcomes, followed by the content (using the EDICT model). Then at the end we can link back the task or assessment to the behaviours we spoke about at the start. 


Let’s talk about a simple example. Carrying out an  ‘effective’ security patrol. Not a quick patrol, or a lot of patrols, or a patrol that follows the route you were told (my pet hate). An effective patrol. I would start off by talking about the behaviours required for an effective patrol. Keep it short. You need attention to detail, observation and vigilance. Combine those with the ever present mindset of adding value. 

Then we talk about content and theory. The purpose of a patrol, patrol equipment and uses, patrol frequency, patrol types, patrol risks and immediate actions in an incident. All of the knowledge and skills based content. We might even throw in a case study, example or video for context. The idea is that all of the information is absorbed with the behaviours, or states, fresh in the mind. 

Next we would give the group a scenario. I would go through each of the group asking questions. 

John tell me how you would prepare for a patrol using attention to detail?

Mary how would you conduct your patrol remembering vigilance? 

Bob how would you check and clear an outbuilding left open using attention to detail?

Ann how would you respond to a potential break in remembering vigilance? 

Mike when you return to your desk consider how you might add value to your client during or after your patrol? 

These questions give students live feedback and correction on micro tasks before applying skills, knowledge and behaviours on the total task.After each person answers the group feeds back and makes suggestions (peer to peer learning ) and corrections. Then once all of this is done we can set the group a practical or scenario based patrol assessment. 

Security teamwork

Now that was just a simple exercise as an example but I think you can get the point. Throwing knowledge and skills at people makes them clever not effective. Giving them the behaviours they need to apply the knowledge and skills makes them effective.

I can teach a person to do a body search in 30 minutes or use a radio in 20 minutes. That doesn’t mean they can make customers feel welcome while searching them or that they will send a controlled calm radio call in an emergency. Driving behaviours in training and in practice does that. Otherwise we are just teaching people to copy what they see their trainer do in a training course. 

What it’s not 

This article is based on delivering entry level training. Developing skills to competency not proficiency. It’s not as directly relatable to ongoing skills development training which I’ve written about previously. That requires stress inoculation elements  to be effective. I think however that students need to have that behavioural base first to be effective. Otherwise you are just practicing a competency based skill faster without learning real world application. 


Training security staff is easy. There are plenty of people out there doing it to varying standards. Training effective security staff is more challenging. It requires more work from the trainer and a higher level of understanding of what it means to be effective in the job. This is where subject matter experience is important. If we are all about providing value to our students we have to train for effectiveness and not just for certification. They deserve it and the industry deserves it.

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