Training and Retaining Good Security Guards
By: Kim Brown
Date Published: March 12, 2021
Your staff set your security company apart from the competition. A team of competent guards is an invaluable asset, and can help you not only retain clients, but generate new business.
However, finding qualified security guards is a labour-intensive process, and keeping staff can be a challenge as well. The security industry has a notoriously high turnover rate, and even seasoned managers grapple with this issue from time to time.
So, when you hire a promising employee, you want to do all you can to ensure that person stays with the company for more than a few months. Providing thorough training and a supportive work environment can help reduce turnover and heighten satisfaction amongst new (and not so new) staff members.
High turnover can be costly to your company
A company’s turnover rate is defined as the number of employees who depart from the organization over the course of a year. Turnover is on the rise in the U.S., and companies can expect almost one in five employees to leave during a calendar year.
As mentioned earlier, the rate of turnover in the security industry is quite high, with annual turnover rates ranging anywhere from 100% to 300%! Personnel change at that level can make it extremely difficult to meet quality assurance goals and provide a consistent level of service. It takes roughly six months for a new guard to become fully comfortable in their role, and having constant turnover means that many of your officers on site during any given shift will be new and inexperienced. A new guard may have some prior experience, but it’s more difficult for them to pick up on unusual activity in a new environment due to their unfamiliarity with the site.
High turnover rates have the potential to damage morale and company culture, but they also create significant financial costs. The company has to spend time and energy replacing and training talent that has been lost. While it may not seem like a lot, these costs add up quickly.
Reasons why turnover is so high
Security guards have numerous responsibilities, and new guards don’t always receive compensation that reflects the extent of their duties. This is one reason why the turnover rate can be higher for this industry. But many unhappy guards cite other reasons for leaving their job. When examining these issues, most revolve around the conditions under which the guards must work.
Some of the key problems that encourage guards to quit include:
- Not being treated by employees, condo residents, or customers, with respect
- Receiving little or no formal direction about what they are supposed to be doing
- Not immersed in a professional work environment
- Lack of properly functioning equipment
- No support from management when the guard is being accused of doing something wrong (or right, such as enforcing a rule)
- Doing busywork
- No acknowledgment when the guard is doing a good job
- Rigid or unreasonable schedules that leave them feeling burnt out
- No medical or health benefits
- Not being listened to
There are several reasons why a security guard may be unhappy in their current position. But many of the reasons have to do with lack of adequate support or consideration for the individual.
As a manager or supervisor, it can be hard to find time to connect with each of your employees. But remember this; when you invest in your staff, you’re investing in the success of the entire company. If you spend a bit more time training and mentoring new staff when they are first hired, your investment will pay off in the long run. Turnover rates will decrease, your team’s credibility increases, and good employees may even recruit people they know and trust to work for your company.
Creating a supportive work environment
When training a new employee, try to put yourself in their shoes. Think about all the important things they would need and want to know to do their job effectively. Encourage them to ask questions, show them how to do things as opposed to just telling them, and make sure they have the tools and resources they need to succeed.
Treat new employees with respect
Managers and supervisors should set the tone for treating new guards with respect. Some staff may be annoyed that the new guard doesn’t know all of the processes yet, or asks lots of questions, but this is all part of training. Be informative, and avoid being cold or distant. One of the main reasons why any employee will remain at a job is because they like working with their colleagues.
Provide new guards with clear direction
Yes, guards need to be self-sufficient, but there’s no way they can do their jobs well without proper training and guidance. It’s incredibly discouraging to be blamed for doing something incorrectly when you were never shown the correct way to do it. Management should have a formal training program in place, and ensure the guard gets all of the instructions and information they need during the training period. The training process should be consistent so that every guard gets the same information. It may be helpful to provide them with instruction sheets, checklists, or cheat sheets since it can be hard to remember everything. Furthermore, if the company or building uses security software, cameras, access control systems, etc., a senior guard or supervisor should take the time to show the new employee how to use all of the tools properly, and what to do if something stops working. All verbal directions given to guards should be consistent with written instructions. Sometimes, it can be effective to explain why things are done a certain way instead of just telling the new guard to do something.
Training should be thorough enough so that the guard could one day perform all duties on their own.
Create realistic schedules
Creating a schedule that meets the security needs of your clients is a top priority, but avoid giving your new employees “whatever shifts are left” if at all possible.
It is recommended that guards not work more than 12 consecutive hours in any 24-hour period, and not more than 60 hours in any seven-day period. Similarly, schedules should be balanced so that all guards receive an adequate number of work hours. Attempts should be made to accommodate any special scheduling requests where possible.
Leadership and accountability play a significant role in professionalizing any security company. If leadership is confident, consistent, transparent, and focused on the success of the entire team, guards are more likely to understand how their goals align with larger organizational initiatives, and more likely to feel valued.
Conversely, without effective supervisory levels to assist in training, coordinating schedules and managing employee performance, turnover rates can accelerate. Leaders who make new employees feel replaceable, incompetent, or invaluable don’t tend to build strong relationships with their employees. Instead of focusing on mistakes or shortcomings, work on finding solutions and maximizing your employees’ strengths. Clear communication and instructions help ensure everyone is on the same page.
Finally, don’t forget to thank new guards for their hard work. Starting a new job is stressful; positive reinforcement puts new employees at ease and motivates them to continue performing to the best of their abilities.
One of the key elements required to retain new staff is the human element. No matter what your job is, everyone wants to be treated with respect and professionalism. Providing a working environment that promotes ambition, structure and success helps to keep your best guards interested.