Screener Recruitment: considerations and challenges19 Jun 2012
We are continually being told of the need to invest in human factors and that it is the people who make the difference. However, in an industry that traditionally pays low wages, how do we ensure that we are recruiting the right people? There are potential employees who are more than capable of becoming excellent screeners; people who are highly motivated and enthused by working in the airport environment. What are the recruitment challenges for screeners and how do these differ between contract screening companies and government/federal entities? What are the security considerations for HR departments when trying to draft job specifications for security screeners? Are there examples of best practice that others could benefit from? Adam Brownson provides some answers.
The challenge of providing a well-resourced, efficient, and high performing airport security checkpoint has probably never been greater, against a background of the continual threat of terrorism, increasing pressure on costs, legislative changes particularly concerning Liquid Explosive Detection Systems (LEDS), and uncertain numbers of passengers demanding high standards of customer service.
On the one hand, the problem is a numbers issue, matching supply (i.e. security officers and equipment) against demand (i.e. passengers). The tools available to help predict demand profiles at the check-in desk and security checkpoint are continually improving. Similarly, queue measurement tools, for example using facial recognition or Bluetooth, can be used not just to measure queue times against Service Level Agreements but also to help respond quickly to real time queue information and open additional checkpoints as necessary. Nevertheless, the task of deploying the right number of security staff when they are required, and designing rosters to maximise efficiency, is not to be underestimated.
On the other hand, the greater challenge is that of ensuring that the security staff at the screening checkpoint are competent and effective as individuals and as team members. While the fundamental objective of preventing unlawful acts of terrorism against civil remains unchanged, security officers are expected to perform an ever increasing and demanding range of tasks and operate more technologically advanced equipment than ever before within an increasing potential threat environment. The introduction of multi-view advanced X-ray machines, Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) systems, and in the future more widespread use of Liquid Explosive Detection Systems (LEDS) places greater demands on security officers in terms of operating the equipment, interpreting results, explaining the process and outcome to passengers, and implementing new policies and procedures. Importantly, with an increasing emphasis on customer service and the passenger experience, security officers are expected to exhibit a wider range of behaviours and communications skills than the job previously required. At some airports this causes security officers difficulty as they reconcile their principal function of security with the requirement to deliver high quality customer service, which inevitably involves pressure on throughput.
The demands of today’s security tasks pose issues concerning job design, organisational structure, and resourcing that cannot be resolved by training alone, nor just by procuring advanced technologies. Many airports have experience of deploying a new piece of technology, a ‘smart gate’ or a tray return system, that has actually increased staff requirements rather than reduced them, and hence not delivered the operational benefits that were expected.
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