The Paradigm Shift of Security

In today’s professional security hospitality environment, the focus and trend is moving from non-traditional roles and responsibilities toward those of customer service and cross training in other departmental areas. Over the past 20 years, the pendulum has swung from security having a predominate function of protecting assets with a minimal focus on customer service and other departmental areas to what it is morphing into today. In my opinion, today approximately 90 percent of security activities are focused on the customer experience and service, while approximately 10 percent is focused on historical security functions. This paradigm shift does not mean that today’s security professional is less trained—in fact, the current field has unprecedented access to a variety of security training programs and organizations that allow for this generation of security professionals to be the best trained ever.

There are several forces driving this paradigm shift—the economy, the focus on guest service and the guest’s experience, and the evolution of the security field. Following is an overview of each.

The Economy
Due to the downturn in the economic climate, proprietors across the country have had to adjust their business plans to meet their financial projections. In an attempt to meet the bottom line, proprietors have expanded the roles of security professionals, having them absorb the roles and responsibilities of other departments. It seems that the mantra—in all areas of this down economy across the nation—is do more with less. Expanding the role of the security professional is a positive approach to combating a tough economy and can help “recession proof” and solidify the role of new-age security in progressive-thinking organizations.

Conversely, when this approach is not implemented and the leadership teams in organizations feel great pressure to improve the bottom line, a decision may be made to randomly reduce security staffing levels. Being penny wise and pound foolish places the security and safety of all involved on the precipice of a very slippery slope. It is a gamble that does not have a long-term payoff and is indicative of an organization taking desperate measures to survive. The negative impacts of litigation and the courts awarding in favor of the plaintiff could take years to recover from or could be the final event that puts a company out of business.

The Guest
In an effort to be the destination of choice, while not losing focus on the bottom line, proprietors have made guest service and the guest’s experience a top priority for security professionals. The rationale is that there is a limited resource of tourism dollars available and that proprietors must examine all areas that might give them the competitive edge in attracting guests to their property. The belief is that the formula of great guest service combined with reduced payroll and the blending of departments will equate to increased guest visits, which will have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Evolution of the Field
In the past, the role of security was one dimensional, and the areas of training were limited. In contrast, the evolution of the current paradigm shift in the roles and responsibilities in hospitality security programs has included cross training with all departments. This cross training includes having a global view of all roles and responsibilities, with the desired outcome of exceeding guest expectations. In addition to standard security training, at minimum the entire security department should be trained in the use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and some form of crisis intervention. The role of security in the new age of progressive programs consists of performing as mini assistant general managers, observing, reporting and taking action not only in security, but in any department that is wobbling. There are no boundaries or limitations to the assistance that the new-age security professional can render. The services provided might include handing out water to guests waiting in line, parking or retrieving valet parked vehicles, checking guests into the property, and generally providing superior guest service. Bottom line: If any department needs help in safety, security or the operation of their department, the new-age security professional will be there.

The focus when selecting people for new-age security positions is their ability to interact well with others first and their skill set second. The logic behind this is that it is easier for a person to learn the skills of a security position than it is for a person to learn how to genuinely provide superior customer service. The new-age security professional must possess an innate ability to interact genuinely with others. As Jim Collins said, “When in doubt, don’t hire—keep looking.”

This concept is reinforced in Collins’ book, Good to Great, which supports the notion that hiring the right talent has more to do with innate character traits and innate capabilities than with specific knowledge, background or skill. The following are some of his other key concepts pertaining to the hiring process:

• “Get the right people on the bus … and then figure out where to drive it.”
• “The purpose of compensation is not to ‘motivate’ the right behaviors from the wrong people, but to keep the right people in the first place.”
• “The old adage ‘People are your most important asset’ is wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

Once the right people are “on the bus,” it is important for the management team to communicate and practice the following: an open door policy, the inverted pyramid philosophy, Frederick Herzberg’s Hygiene Theory, and Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. An open door policy and the inverted pyramid philosophy go hand in hand with developing a sense of esprit de corps in which enthusiasm, devotion and a strong regard for the honor of the team is established.

The Frederick Herzberg’s Hygiene Theory states that the opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction, but rather, no satisfaction. Hygiene factors can move someone from dissatisfaction to no satisfaction. Examples of hygiene factors include physical work conditions and surroundings, salary and co-workers.

According to the theory, only motivators can move someone to satisfaction. Examples of motivators include achievement, recognition, responsibility and satisfaction from work itself. Money is not a motivator.

In creating a successful and productive environment, it is important that management recognize these motivators during the selection process and in the day-to-day operation of the department.

Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y is based upon two types of people, called X and Y. According to Theory X, people are not ambitious, prefer to be directed, resist change, have no interest in organizational goals, and will attempt to avoid work whenever possible. According to Theory Y, people are creative, ingenuity is common, the capacity for creativity spreads throughout organizations, work can be as natural as play, guest service behaviors are heartfelt, and people are genuinely caring and emphatic. Obviously the characteristics exhibited in Theory Y include those who would excel in the new-age security environment.

In conclusion, the performance, knowledge and trend of modern security in the hospitality arena is to carry out traditional roles and responsibilities with the polish of a guest service expert. The present-day security professional is expected to be knowledgeable in all areas, and the public perception of interactions between security and internal and external guests should be seamless. The concept of getting the “right people on the bus—and then in the right seats” is key to the overall success of any business, property or department that wishes to be a strong service provider, leader and innovator in the security field. Finally, only if management recognizes what motivates people and focuses energies on people who possess the characteristics of Theory Y will the paradigm shift from traditional security roles and responsibilities in the hospitality industry to the new-age security professional be successful. The properties that are bold enough to implement them will be the properties of choice for the consumer, which will have a positive impact on their growth and bottom lines.

Leave a Comment