Diversity in the workplace


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David Ward of Ward Security looks at the advantages, and challenges, of a multicultural, non-gender specific workforce in the security industry.

The security industry has worked long and hard at shaking off long-held conceptions which, let’s be honest, have their basis in a historic reality of what the industry once was. However, many people still have yet to be educated as to the form and nature of the modern industry, and so our collective challenge is now to shake of the misconceptions that many people have.

We need to look back at our history and recognise how the industry once was before we can fully appreciate what it has become. In the UK it certainly was an overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon male domain and carried with it attitudes that we can all accept are best left in the past. Historically it could never honestly have claimed to be a strong career choice for the majority of people who found themselves working as security men. Good practice was typically not a primary consideration, and strong business models were scarce.
By contrast, today’s industry is a very strong career choice which is attracting a high calibre of new entrants. It has modernised and improved to a degree that many other industries can only dream of. Service delivery and quality are the foundations upon which success in the modern world is built, and innovation and technology the cornerstones. But perhaps the most noticeable difference is in the gender, racial, and cultural make up of the industry which is far removed from the ‘white men only’ picture of the past.

This diversity is not only hugely important as a signifier of how the industry has improved, it is also a strength upon which future success can be built. It is, in short, an advantage in a society which is increasingly diverse. The more diverse we are as an industry, the more relevant we are to customers, and the more we are able to tailor solutions to match customer requirements. Diversity delivers opportunity.

However, at the same time there will always be a challenge to incorporating diversity. Religion is perhaps the most complicated challenge as each religion will come with its own observances and traditions that need to be accommodated.

A YouGov poll conducted earlier this year revealed that almost two thirds of Britons (62%) describe themselves as ‘not religious’. This flies in the face of the often repeated mantra that the UK is a Christian country. It may well have been in the past, but is increasingly not a Christian country today. Regardless, we still all happily take advantage of the Christian observances of the religion such as Christmas holidays, Easter and Sundays, even if less than 4 out of 10 of us pay heed to the religious significance.

It’s fair to say that Christianity never really impacted on the business or working day (apart obviously from the long statutory holidays). You could be a devout Christian but your religion would not physically intrude on your daily working life. This is not the case with many other religions that expect physical observance from devotees throughout the day, as well as other traditions that can have an impact on delivery. That is an observation and not a criticism, but we must recognise that this can, and occasionally does, cause resentment in the workplace. Managing this occasional resentment while accommodating religious observance is an ongoing challenge.

However, when looking for inspiration we need only to look at the Police force, which has embraced diversity with great success. The Police force has used its increasingly diverse workforce as an opportunity to offer tailored solutions to different scenarios. So for example, the Notting Hill Carnival will see a highly diverse police presence where an overwhelmingly white male presence would be unsuitable. Similarly, the Police will deploy women at events or scenarios where female policing is a more apt solution.

The industry has been greatly strengthened by the growing number of women it employs. There is no reason to believe ethic and religious diversity cannot also strengthen our offer. Diversity brings with it opportunity and challenge. It is a challenge we should embrace because the opportunity is too great to ignore.

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