Training Your Security Guards to be Security Officers: Part 1

Training Security Guards to Security Officers part 1

I don’t like the term security guard. About 30 years ago, I started using the term officer instead, as it better reflects the responsibilities and professionalism required in the security industry today. Yes, we do guard the lives and property of the company and client, but we also do much more than that. If we use the term officers, we put our employees in a more professional light and hopefully inspire them to live up to the name.

The key is that both management and the officers need to play a role in making this happen. The management team has to refrain from using the term guard, unless it’s being used in a derogatory way because of their work performance. They also have to provide valuable security guard training, which brings us to the second group, the officers themselves.

They need to change as well. The officers must step up their performance in order to make the transformation work. If they don’t buy in to the importance of their role as security officers, they won’t make the effort to improve. One of the main differences between guards and officers is that guards don’t want to do anything more than they need to.

So what do you have to ask, or order, them to do to become officers? The answer is simple: you don’t. It is all up to them to want to change and act like an officer, not a guard. Hopefully, these tips will help them figure out what they want to be and encourage them to complete the transformation for themselves.

The Importance of Education

Good officers don’t need to have a Bachelor’s degree, or any college experience for that matter. Even if the individual is only a high school graduate, he or she can be an excellent security officer. The key is that they enjoy learning and never stop.

I surprise people when they find out that I don’t have a degree. Many people ask me how I’ve become so educated in security, not to mention my specialty of workplace violence. What happened is that I started learning on my own, and I never stopped.

Before going blind in 2003, I would read as many as 4 - 5 newspapers a day. Additionally, I read as many magazines as possible, especially those focusing on the security industry. By constantly reading, I educated myself. I read whatever and whenever I could, even industry specific magazines on plastics, cardboard, construction, and heavy manufacturing, amongst other things.

I’ve had security officers that were conscientious and dedicated to their job, but they weren’t educated and didn’t look the part of a professional. On the other hand, I’ve also had ‘guards’ that had college degrees and could put me to shame mentally, but their lack of dedication meant they were still just guards.

Promote A Spirit of Learning

The key is to let your officers know what’s going on within the company and industry. Every security company should be doing a basic orientation class and providing an employee handbook, but that alone is not enough. Things will be different when they get on the site. Still, this early training is important, as that’s how you establish the habits and expectations of a professional officer. 

Encourage them to read about a variety of topics. If they’re in a plastics plant, provide them with magazines about the plastics and manufacturing industries. If you’re contracted, your officers have to know your client’s business and how it works, even if they are just a rover.

The Best Training Happens on The Job

Just because your guards have completed the required hours of training, seminars, or videos, it’s not even close to being enough for training. The difference between classroom training and on-the-job training (OJT) is enormous.

OJT is one of the biggest aspects of becoming a professional security officer. While the orientation training is generalized, OJT shows officers the ins and outs of their specific post. If your officers pay close enough attention to OJT and allow themselves to become ‘lost’ in their new facility, then they’ll become intimately aware of most anything that occurs in it, both day and night.

Part of your officer’s education should be learning to understand every single inch of the facility. Have them check and report on all the dark corners, doors, creaky windows, storage areas, etc. By learning these things, wandering around, and even getting lost in the facility at first, they will become familiar with every part of it. By doing so, they’ll be able to detect anything wrong and correctly report its location, sound, condition, and so on.

But education is just one step in this process of helping your guards become officers.

In part 2 we’ll talk about more training topics you can start doing to aid in this transition.

See part two: Training Your Security Guards to be Security Officers (Part 2)

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Robert D. Sollars

Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 32 years in the security field and 24 studying, writing, & speaking about workplace violence. He has more than 150 media appearances including articles and interviews with television, radio, and newspapers. He started his career as a security officer with a national security company in 1983 and despite being blind, since 2003, he has continued to write and speak about important issues in security to save lives and protect property.