Magazine article Security Management

How Can Security Redefine Its Image?

Magazine article Security Management

How Can Security Redefine Its Image?

Article excerpt

To change the role of security, this store altered security's image and fostered communication between security and front-line workers.

I stood, as I had so many times before, welcoming a new group of employees to their first retail security orientation. After introducing myself by name and title, I asked the group if anyone knew what retail security did in our stores. An all-too-familiar response came from the back of the room, "Yeah, you guys catch shoplifters." Once again, the task of redefining security's image lay before me.

Traditionally, an employee's involvement with store security was limited to observing undercover officers following a suspected shoplifter or witnessing security personnel escorting a dishonest employee from the premises. After such observations, employees would often be overheard using phrases like "Big Brother" and "Dick Tracy" when referring to the security department's personnel and functions. Security managers who focused on theft by shoplifters and dishonest employees and who operated primarily under a shroud of secrecy inforced these stereotypes.

For years, many of us in the retail security industry have struggled to redefine this image of security. But before change could occur, several barriers had to be recognized and removed. One barrier was management's view that security played a one-dimensional role. A second barrier was security's acquiescence to this view of its limitations, which made for a self-fulfilling prophecy. A third barrier was the lack of open communication between security staff and front-line retail employees.

Changing roles. In recent years, many in management sought security's involvement as a key partner in identifying operational issues that could improve the store's bottom line. Visionary managers also began to recognize that improving the security image would have a positive impact on the company's ability to operate more profitably. This new "operational partnership" approach would be combined with security's longstanding security practices as we continued in our roles of prevention, detection, investigation, resolution, and recovery.

The key was to incorporate these practices into an educational process, allowing us to promote a new culture of service. It was hoped that this dynamic leadership would transcend perceived barriers and allow both management and employees to see the overall contributions security teams were making.

At my company, security managers began by designing their own working strategies to be implemented in their respective stores and districts. As a group, we were striving to define our role by educating one another and sharing the issues each of us encountered in daily business. Through group discussions, we looked for ways to focus our actions on improving operational and security concerns. Key operational and shortage areas such as budgets and inventory results by department were to be reviewed, communicated, and measured.

Next we identified individuals within our security group who had, through investigations or other experiences, gained extensive knowledge of specific operational areas of concern. We charged those individuals with the task of instructing other security managers in various aspects of operational efficiency. After completing this training, managers were responsible for educating their respective security teams, including executives. Security personnel were also guided to develop the communication skills necessary to effectively interact with all executives and employees.

Participation. Armed with this operational knowledge and better communication skills, security personnel were now prepared to forge partnerships with their respective employee groups and management teams. For example, security managers were now ready to partner with designated executives in what we called "leadership risk analysis auditing" to audit the crucial operational processes of each department. …

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