Building Learning And Development Capacity In The Security Industry


This article focuses on the importance and necessity of the security industry in Australia increasing the capability of its people through learning and development (L&D). Companies are not being told how they should train their staff and what they should train them in because each company’s training needs are different. The intent is to discuss the importance of individual enterprises and the industry as a whole in increasing L&D capability.

Increased L&D capacity is vital to improved industry performance and requires commitment from all levels of individual companies and the industry as a whole. If done right, it will put the right people with the right skills in the right place and maintain the growth in the Australian security industry at current levels.

Staff and increased competition in the private and public security sectors are the key drivers of L&D in the security environment in Australia. Australian police forces, who historically shouldered the burden of public safety, are increasingly being confronted and challenged by an more professional and growing private security industry. Maintaining growth and relevance in the face of increased professionalisation of state and federal law enforcement agencies will require a concerted effort from the security industry as a whole.

L&D encompasses a broad range of activities designed to improve the capabilities of people. Capabilities comprise not only technical skills and knowledge, but also attributes, attitudes and behaviours. L&D activities can be designed to deliver specific competencies in a short period to meet an immediate need, or to achieve broader requirements over a longer period. Activities to enable people to acquire new capabilities can include on-the-job training, development opportunities, such as special projects, conferences, secondments and mentoring, as well as formal classroom training.

To increase L&D capabilities, the challenge is to build momentum in the L&D environment and to shift attitudes of individual employees who may not see the benefit of upgrading a Cert III to a Cert IV, or a Cert IV to a Diploma. However, if the industry and individual companies are to attract and retain staff, to be an employer of choice, and to continue to grow and expand, the security industry must find a way. L&D must become part of business planning to ensure it aligns with company and industry needs.

There are many strategies individual businesses and the industry can follow to overcome some of these challenges, including:

  • Writing training targets into business plans. This does not just include measuring the number of staff who have been trained or who have increased their qualifications, but also to evaluate the effectiveness of this enhanced
  • Integrating people and business planning. The obvious way of doing this is through the HR manager or the establishment of a Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) position. This is more than just rebranding the HR manager, but an entire re-build of the role in much the same way the company accountant was re-built into the CFO in the 1980s.
  • Increasing capacity and devolving accountability to line managers, so they are more adaptive, creative, innovative and target focused.

Law enforcement agencies in Australia acknowledge the growing professionalisation of the Australian security industry. They are also aware that private policing is pluralising law enforcement in Australia and that this pluralisation is due to the increased levels of education in the Australian security industry. However, it is important for the industry to maintain the edge and be aware that public police forces are moving to full professionalisation, which could halt the expansion of private policing. To ensure this does not happen, the industry needs to stay in front of the learning curve, maintain growth in L&D investment and ensure continued allocation of sufficient funds.

Research shows high-performing organisations align and integrate L&D initiatives with corporate and business planning through:

  • integrating learning programs into corporate plans
  • developing corporate culture to support learning programs and ensuring cultural barriers are broken down
  • ensuring managers invest in and are accountable for learning and development
  • generating a focus on the business application of training rather than the type of training and considering appropriate learning options
  • de-emphasising classroom training and ensuring consistency with adult learning principles to allow staff time to process what they have learned on the job
  • evaluating L&D formally, systematically and rigorously
Greg Byrne
Greg Byrne is CEO and director of Multisec Consultancy Pty Ltd, a multi-faceted consultancy advising CEOs and boards of security organisations in Australia on best approaches to manage business risk, particularly operations, disaster recovery, business continuity and human resources.