Troy Hewitt, UK MD, Allied Universal

by Mark Rowe

Troy Hewitt, pictured, is the Managing Director for the UK division at Allied Universal. Troy is responsible for leading the company and ensuring all employees understand and adopt the company vision, setting the overall strategic direction of the company alongside the Allied Universal board as well as planning and implementing long-term business strategies to achieve the company’s objectives. Troy has been with the business since 2005 and his entire career has been within the security industry ranging from executive protection through to investigations and consultancy. “Being part of the Allied Universal family is something I am extremely proud of and I believe we have the best employees, both office staff and front-line staff, to continue to deliver the world class service standards that Allied Universal are so well known for throughout our industry.” Troy sits down with Professional Security to discuss how the pandemic has affected the security sector and what his company is doing at this difficult time.

How has the pandemic altered the day-to-day lives of your team?

In one way or another, the pandemic has affected everyone globally, whether through a personal experience with the virus or being furloughed from their job or through the government-imposed lockdowns. Unfortunately, we are all suffering from some form of isolation. In terms of my team here in the UK, everyone has been impacted by the ‘Stay at Home’ messages from the government, meaning that we have all had to adapt our working style from that of the normal busy office environment to one of working from home and isolation. The biggest challenge with working from home is the importance of differentiating work time and home time, as it is easy for these lines to become blurred.

Tell us about the mental health training that you have introduced. Is it available for all your security professionals?
The Mental Health Foundation states that mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide. Mental health and behavioural problems (depression, anxiety and drug use) are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide. It is estimated that one in six people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem. Our Mental Health First Aid Module was launched in 2020 and is available to every employee. We developed this module as we are fundamentally a ‘people’ business. The message of our business is ‘There for You’ so we have a critical obligation to enable good mental health and well-being to our people. We also developed the module in response to the covid-19 pandemic and the effects of isolation through government-imposed lockdowns. The content includes the causes of stress and mental health issues, indicators of an issue, a case study and tips to reduce stress. We explore subjects that include a personal loss, a relationship issue, arguments, changes in circumstances, employment, money, health, daily stresses, commuting, time pressures, team-office politics, clashes of personality, uncertain future, competitive marketplace leading to job cuts, ‘streamlining’ of companies and how you struggle with them and find it hard to keep up. We discuss the indicators of stress, including mood swings, being withdrawn, change of eating and sleeping habits, lack of confidence and motivation, being emotional; tearful and over sensitive, unusual signs of aggression, health issues and effects, work performance and getting into disputes. We look at identifying how to ‘turn the tide’ or identify that specific issues are happening and how you can assist as a colleague, friend or family member. We also look at understanding the benefits and rewards of less stress, how good sleep, proper relaxation, talking to people, exercise and socialising can help.

Is coping with depression an issue given the social isolation some security professionals must deal with. If so, what steps are in place to address?

Depression is a complex condition, and its causes are not fully understood. The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in people experiencing a lot of uncertainty about the future, and this uncertainty can be very difficult to cope with. Luckily, due to the critical nature of our roles within our national infrastructure, our front-line personnel are seen as ‘key workers’ so in the main, they have been able to carry on working. We want to avoid any financial disruption to our people as this can cause immense emotional strain. We are working closely with our clients to come up with the best solution for their sites whilst also keeping as many people as possible in work. Due to the government’s original ‘Stay Home’ message in March and the subsequent reinstatement of this instruction in December, we are in a situation where our people are either isolated at home or at work. For example, they may still be responsible for the security of a customer site, however they may be the only member of staff in the building as all other employees are working from home. We have gone to great lengths to ensure that our people are kept in contact frequently with their line managers and our senior management team are holding daily video calls with our employees via Microsoft Teams. Our operations director has been encouraging his teams to stay active by holding video calls whilst out walking. Each week, he is having 1:1 meetings with his direct reports but these are being done when both of them are out getting daily exercise. Unfortunately, we all find ourselves in a situation that we have never faced, so we have to think differently to keep our people motivated and engaged.

How prevalent are Zoom/video calls with your security professionals? What was the migration process to move people to video platforms?

It’s fair to say that video calls have completely taken the world by storm like never before. There was some adjusting in the beginning but to be quite honest, it has been a really easy transition. What has been really nice to see is that with video calls, I now see my team video calling more frequently than standard phone calls or emails. It just seems to be the quickest and easiest way to communicate with each other and it seems to naturally encourage general conversation. I’m quite confident that even when we return to normal (whatever normal will be!) that video calling will remain a permanent fixture. I will certainly be encouraging it within our business as I believe it saves time, money and really boosts productivity and interaction.

Have you been actively growing your security professional teams in the UK? If so, is the recruitment process different for you now during the pandemic? Are you doing virtual interviews?

Since the pandemic, our recruitment process has changed drastically. We have had to adopt a virtual approach for all interviews by using Teams and Zoom. This gives our hiring managers and candidates an easier option for candidates as they no longer need to travel to our site. In addition, we recently introduced a virtual assessment centre style interview. A group of shortlisted candidates were asked to join the same virtual meeting where a few representatives from different departments of Allied Universal came together and presented a fun introduction to our company. We then engaged all candidates in a group activity where they were able to let their personalities shine and we finalised the assessment with 1-2-1 interviews. We saw an amazing improvement in our hiring practices during these challenging times.

Describe a typical working day, during this pandemic, from when you arise to when you retire.

It has been important for me to keep as close to a normal structure as possible. During a time of such uncertainty, it’s important that I set an example for my team. Every day, I will first check any unread emails to see if anything needs my urgent attention. I then have a daily video call with the senior management team to discuss plans for the day and any updates from the government regarding the pandemic. More than ever, it is important to me that our clients feel confident that their security programme is in safe hands. I make a point of being visible to our clients (where possible through social distancing) and particularly to our frontline employees. What we ask of them every single day should never be under-estimated and I want them to know from me personally that they are valued and appreciated.


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