Being a security guard is not easy. There are long periods of standing and walking, often alone. There is the constant risk of personal injury or physical encounters with criminals or irate customers. The stress levels and burnout rates are high.
Pay scales vary widely depending upon the assignment and locale, ranging from minimum wage for new hires to several times that for more experienced officers and armed guards.
Plus, there’s lots to know about security fundamentals such as spotting suspicious behaviors, crowd control, de-escalation tactics, the limits and consequences of the use of force, CPR, and more. In fact, most states require training, licensing, and periodic renewal of officer certification to continue working as a security guard.
As a result, contract security guard firms deal with annual turnover rates approaching 80% or more. That makes employee retention in today’s labor market more important than ever.
Employee turnover is expensive. It affects the bottom line in more ways than just the dollars spent on training, uniforms, and equipment for guards that didn’t work out or took another job for two dollars more per hour.
There are the costs of HR recruiting events, job postings, and employment agency fees. There are lost billable hours through staffing shortages, waiting (and paying) for new hires to complete their training and get licensed, as well as increased overtime expenses for officers working extended shifts to cover contractual commitments. And don’t forget the potential for losing accounts completely through the inability to provide reliable service.
Reducing turnover not only helps improve profitability, but the consistency and reliability it presents to customers helps build long term account relationships.
Here are a few ideas security firms can take to improve employee satisfaction and retention, and ultimately their profitability:
Employee Development and Retention Strategies
Provide Proper Training.
Candidates may show up with “Guard Card” in hand, but that doesn’t mean they know how to perform their job. There may be disaster-specific procedures in place depending on the type of business or event.
Guards need to clearly understand their tasks and responsibilities at the job site, such as emergency evacuation routes, AED/CPR, or account preferences for how to handle a machinery malfunction, fire, or theft that occurs while on shift. A prepared guard is an asset to your firm and the account.
Create an Inclusive Company Culture
Make officers feel valued and part of the team. One of the top reasons security guards change firms or leave the industry is a function of how they are treated on the job.
Those who feel ignored or have their input dismissed will soon become disenchanted and leave, but probably not before allowing their frustrations to reflect in poor job performance.
Build channels for feedback and communications with your officers on the front lines. Arm your supervisors with the best communication strategies to improve team performance.
Offer a Career Path
Training shouldn’t stop upon certification and hiring. Provide opportunities for professional growth through additional management/supervisory, firearms, emergency response, or technical training. Clearly communicate the potential for what lies ahead if they put in the work.
Offer Fair Compensation
Do some research to learn the going hourly rate for unarmed security guards in your market, and then up it by a dollar or three to get an edge over other employers.
Above average pay will attract better candidates and keep them from leaving for another job for an extra dollar per hour. The additional payroll expense will be more than offset by the overtime savings from having a full workforce, and you’ll have a more loyal staff as well.
Provide the Necessary Equipment
The well-equipped guard is a confident guard. In addition to a uniform that clearly identifies the individual as a person of authority, the officer should be equipped with a protective vest, flashlight, baton, steel-toed boots, and a cell phone or tablet loaded with guard tour software for incident reporting, tracking, and communicating security incidents while on duty in real time.
If the firm does not supply some of these items, consider providing an allowance for employees to be reimbursed for equipment.
Recognize Guards with a Reward System
Everyone likes to be appreciated and recognized for their achievements. Reward team members who stand out, perhaps for perfect attendance, taking extra shifts, or anniversaries. Did someone do something extraordinary like stop a robbery, save a life, or demonstrate extreme calm in the face of danger? Shout them out.
Create Employee of the Month plaques. Give out gas, gift, and restaurant dining cards as impromptu bonuses or rewards for outstanding performance.
Publish a company newsletter with columns and pictures recognizing employee milestones and successes, welcoming new hires, and celebrating promotions. Build an annual tenure bonus structure, such as $100 for every year of service.
Employee Retention Requires Investment
Each of these ideas comes with a cost, some more than others, but all are a fraction of the cost of the constant churn of dissatisfied employees.
The bottom line: everyone is hiring, and the best security guards will keep looking and moving on until they find a firm that offers the pay, culture, and advancement opportunities that suit them.
Employee retention is an investment in both the individual and the company. It starts the moment the officer is hired and should be a continuous focus throughout their tenure.
With the proper policies and incentives in place, word will spread that your firm takes care of its officers which not only reduces turnover, but also makes it easier to attract new talent in a very competitive industry.