This article isn’t about bragging, although a certain amount of bragging may be perceived when reading the content.  FGH Security was recently recognised as the 24th best place to work in the UK by Glassdoor. It is also the only manned security company ever to feature in the Sunday Times Workplace Awards (Best Large Places to Work 2023) or the Sunday Times Top 100 Employers (2019).  This is an achievement for any organisation, but for an organisation specialising in manned security, a sector which includes work that is often stereotypically low paid, low status, part-time, and temporary, it really feels like something special.  I’d like to compare some of FGH Security’s methods in context with some of the widely recognised best practices in employee engagement to highlight where we’ve had successes, share a practical model that others might follow, and to highlight some of our ongoing challenges.

Values and Organisational Integrity

Most organisations have a set of values that they state on their website.  The degree to which these are understood and practiced at all levels of the organisation is a key driver of employee engagement.  FGH Security starts simply with our purpose: Keeping People Safe.  This is immediately understandable by everyone, in fact we arrived at it by asking the Managing Director what he would tell his three-year-old child in answer to the question “what does daddy do all day?” and receiving the answer “daddy keeps people safe.”  It’s not particularly informative regarding the details, but it helps to foreground why we are standing outside in the wind, rain, or cold to all team members in very succinct terms.  Given the wide range of settings in which we work, this also provides a clear and overarching directive that transcends sectors, duties and venue types.

The values are more elucidating.  Our value of ‘Look After Our Team’, for example, manifests strongly in our decision making and this is seen at all levels of the organisation.  Examples include the purchase of a team coach to transport our team members to shifts.  This increases operational agility, of course, but it also provides the team with free transport and access to a wider pool of working opportunities if they so wish, all while reducing our total carbon emissions.  Another example is our commitment to the Real Living Wage.  In an industry where many customers expect to pay minimum wage, we will no longer take on a new customer who will not support us in paying the Real Living Wage to our team even, as is sometimes the case, if that means losing the business to someone who will provide the service cheaper by paying their team less.  In the interests of honesty, I will also give a realism check.  We have not yet divested ourselves of historical contracts that pay less than the Living Wage, although we do make strong attempts to persuade these customers of its value every year and have been successful with over half of them so far.  This shows both the values in action, and their limitations in the real world.  I will also add that every contract that does not pay the living wage at least guarantees full time work in a regular shift pattern and that turnover is extremely low on these sites because of this.

Our value of ‘Be Great Today, Better Tomorrow,’ and our brand promise of ‘Best Trained Team’ manifest in a culture of continuous improvement. Learning and Development that is both espoused and practised by top management and flows down through middle and junior management on to supervisors and the front-line team.  Team members are likely to be more engaged when they can see progression opportunities and there is incredible investment in L&D at all levels of the organisation.  From the senior level, where middle managers and executives are achieving university level qualifications, to the middle level, where supervisors are achieving Level 3, 4, and 5 qualifications and the Management Training Program is thriving, to the most junior level where new team members are auto enrolled onto a whole suite of custom qualifications on our Learning Management System, there are obvious opportunities to progress and improve.  We also allow a 10% of salary annual professional development budget for all team members.  This allows us to make 75% of managerial appointments from internal hires brought up through our various progression routes.  This has included specialist management positions including Finance and HR being filled by applicants who began their careers with us as stewards or front-line security operatives and had their development funded by the organisation.  This ability to progress and make a career from security drives engagement at all levels of the organisation and enables talent attraction and retention and keeps our organisational culture strong as we grow.

Reality check: when people ask about the 10% L&D budget, they commonly realise that there isn’t enough money to spend this amount on everyone every year.  We are often asked if we really mean it.  The answer is that we certainly do mean it, but the team member and the L&D team must collaborate to identify learning interventions that will add value to the team member’s job role or career progression.  A new Security Officer asking to spend this budget would first be directed to the training package that they have already been auto enrolled on through the Learning Management System, and only after completing this would we look at the next steps, for example.  A new Security Officer who completed all available online basic training courses and pro-actively engaged with their line manager to identify professional development opportunities would find these provided for them from within that budget.  Over 1,000 of our team members are currently working towards qualifications under this scheme.

Our team are aware of the effort we expend to live the values and demonstrate organisational integrity, but the above examples also showcase the limitations imposed by the market conditions in which we operate and the need to remain both profitable and competitive.  Our team members recognise these limitations, and as such, our current performance in terms of living the values generates exceptional levels of employee engagement.

Better Leadership and Management

The most important relationship for any team member in the workplace is the relationship with their direct line manager.  Research has shown that this relationship has a disproportionate influence on employee engagement, although the scale of the effect varies widely across organisational contexts.

There is also evidence that a significant proportion of managers are ‘accidental managers,’ meaning that they have little or no formal management training prior to commencing their role.  Some studies put this as high as 80% of managers across all industries.  One of the strengths of our focus on L&D is that we have been able to dramatically reduce  ‘accidental managers’ within  our organisation through our Management Training Program and funding accredited management training.

The Management Training Program includes a substantial amount of management theory, as well as sessions and skills checking on a range of management activities, with people management at the core.  Skills that must be evidenced to pass the MTP include interviewing candidates, inducting team members, conducting appraisals, creating personal development plans, conducting employee welfare checks, and coaching skills.  Our middle and senior managers go on to achieve relevant Level 5 or university level qualifications in their chosen management field(s).  The foregrounding of the idea that management is a skill that can, and should, be taught results in better trained managers, substantially increasing the chance of a positive relationship with their team members, and consequently raising overall employee engagement.

Employee Voice

Team members are more likely to feel engaged when their voice is heard by their employer, and they feel involved in conversations about their working conditions.  We work hard to keep team members informed about what is happening through a range of media, as well as garnering their suggestions for improvement and implementing these suggestions as best we can.

Like all good employers we update our team through social media channels and emailed news bulletins.  This is standard stuff, but it’s important to mention that it’s there.

The most important mechanism for our team to give feedback and have their voices heard is the employee survey and the accompanying ‘start, stop, keep’ questionnaire.  This survey, sent out twice a year, generates our Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) which is the primary metric used for measuring engagement.  It also invites team members to answer the questions ‘what should FGH start doing?’ – which is designed to elicit improvement suggestions and best practice ideas; ‘what should FGH stop doing?’ – which is designed to identify common irritants and bones of contention among the team; and ‘what should FGH keep doing?’ – which is designed to identify what current practices are the most valuable in terms of preserving and raising engagement among the team.  One of the things about which we are most proud is that anonymous surveys produce identical eNPS scores and very similar feedback to surveys where the team members give their names.  The fact that our team are happy to tell senior management exactly where they think we are going wrong is, for us, a very positive aspect of the organisational culture.  We then make improvements based on this feedback and report them to the team through Big Team Meetings.

Big Team Meetings are conducted on Teams by the Operations Director and are available for all team members to attend.  Prior to the meeting, team members are sent a link to submit questions, which are then answered by the Operations Director during the meeting.  The other purposes of the meeting are to highlight organisational performance, including reporting on the previous quarter’s key targets and introducing the new targets for the next quarter.  This helps to keep all team members aware of, and aligned with, the goals of the wider organisation, as well as explaining why certain policies or procedural changes are being implemented.  We also report on the results of employee surveys, the key suggestions from our start, stop, keep, questionnaires and on progress towards any changes being made because of these suggestions, presented in a ‘you said…we did’ format.

The best example of how this works in practice is the creation of the Engagement Team.  In 2022, despite excellent overall feedback from the survey we noticed that the most common category for comments was communication between management and the front line and that 85% of the comments about communication were negative.   We realised on investigation that out problems with communication were exacerbated by line managers being unable to respond effectively to large numbers of relatively mundane enquiries such as ‘how to replace a ripped jacket’ which were of paramount concern to the team member, but a relatively low priority for an operational manager with accountability for a range of deliverables.

Taking a series of suggestions from the team and blending them together we created the Engagement Team, who are available by telephone or email 9-5 Monday to Friday to answer any question that any team member might have.  A central facet of the design was that any team member would make a single call and have their issue resolved (although it might include a call back from the team once they’d collected further information.  The important thing is that the team member would not have to call twice to get an answer or chase up their enquiry). Additionally, we produced a series of ‘how to’ videos to answer our most frequently answered questions.  These are hosted on the employee app but are also often sent out by the Engagement Team in response to queries. This was a significant investment of time and effort, but the problem has disappeared and communication with the office now routinely ranks as a positive on surveys, with our overall scores on the eNPS improving by about 5% from an already high baseline.

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

There is an axiom in business that ‘what gets measured gets managed.’  As such the eNPS score is a tier one strategic level measure of organisational performance.  The score is reported at board level, and given equal weight with customer satisfaction, and headline financial performance measures.  By placing employee engagement at the core of performance metrics, as well as embedding it within our values, we ensure that the needs and wishes of the team are always given as high a priority as possible in the organisation’s strategic planning.

We also use regular award wins to continue to benchmark ourselves.  We are very proud to win awards for being among the best places to work in the UK.  We have twice been recognised as one of the UK’s best places to work by the Sunday Times and just recently by Glassdoor.  The former is achieved through an anonymous survey of our workforce and the latter by online reviews.  We were also recognised in the silver position of the Best Security Company to Work For category at the 2023 Security Excellence Awards, which was voted on by a panel of expert judges.  We regard these as an excellent range of measurements.  Whether the metric is self-reported by our team (eNPS), reported online (Glassdoor), through an anonymous survey (Sunday Times), or judged by experts (Security Excellence Awards) we remain one of the best places to work in the UK with exceptional measures of engagement.

A More Engaged Future

We are always looking to do more, and it is an exciting time for the security industry in terms of improving our people’s prospects.  As an industry we are generating new qualifications and career pathways through the creation of an organised body of knowledge for security training and attracting more talent than ever before.  The experts in our industry are increasingly being recognised as such, and the level of professionalism is increasing.  It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss potential future changes to the industry but a future post is planned to deal with exactly those issues.

Written by Dave Taylor.