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Wed 10 Sep 2008 04:00 AM

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HR neglect is the real crime

Security guards are often ridiculously overstretched, earning low salaries and living in overcrowded accommodation.

Security guards are often ridiculously overstretched, earning low salaries and living in overcrowded accommodation. And retail bosses in this region should act now to change that situation.

Retail crime rates in the fast-moving Middle East industry might appear miniscule to most people in comparison to other parts of the world but cases are on the rise, from attempted thefts to credit card scams, according to insiders in this month's special report on the topic.

Darryn Johnston, the regional manager of Dubai-based Enforce Security Services blasted deeply flawed firms in the region undermining efforts to raise standards in the industry, as "the lack of standardised wages creates a loophole for smaller, unprofessional security companies to abuse cheap, untrained labour.

Ironically, both the company and client want security officers to be clean, smart, alert and observant but these objectives are seldom met as a consequence of the industry not been fully governed."

He revealed that "it is not uncommon to find security officers in Dubai who pay their respective company more than eight months of their basic salary to reimburse recruitment costs".

His hard-hitting comments on some of the criminally under-resourced companies in operation cast the spotlight on the need for store managers to protect the employees who are protecting their stock, their floor staff and their customers' safety on a daily basis.

The Middle East's tourism boom and increasing populations have, simultaneously, propelled the growth of the security industry as retailers and mall owners demand proactive surveillance techniques.

High value, low volume products are typically targeted by thieves, revealed Nisreen Shocair, the CEO of Virgin Megastore Middle East, and she urged that the right balance must be achieved between "protecting our business and ensuring our customers' entertainment experience".

Risk should be managed by ensuring everyone comes on board to minimise it, she believes, and the company holds regular training sessions for all of its employees to "reinforce the value at Virgin Megastore that everyone in the company is responsible for the success of the company and, as such, for the security of our stores".

Retailers need to adopt the attitudes of Shocair and security bosses like Johnston, who considers that "our people that our assets" by recognising the importance of their security officers' presence to their businesses and treating them accordingly.

"We acknowledge their [security guards] role as stakeholders in our business; we differentiate ourselves from all rivals in the market place by emphasising the importance of staff welfare and well being," Johnston told me.

Retailers should investigate whether the security firms they work with are providing staff with adequate training, proper breaks and decent living standards. And not settle for anything less.

Lynne Nolan is the editor of Retail News Middle East.

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