Ways for security companies to fully utilize their security guard’s time

Most contract security positions do not involve a lot of physical work. The bulk of the job is simply to observe and report. Having said this, there are a number of ways employees can waste your time and that of the client’s. The one thing you don’t want to happen is for the client to get the idea he is paying for nothing. This is what leads clients to replace people with CCTV and wired alarm systems.

What are the ways employees can waste time? Guard’s sleeping on the job is a common problem for every security contractor. Another one is guards leaving their posts at night to run to the store. Next in line is “visiting” with friends either in person or on the phone. A modern version of this is endless texting while on post. Day shift posts see very little of this negative behavior. There are too many people around; too much business taking place; and, a number of secondary tasks that are assigned by the client. It’s the late evening and night shift posts that are the problem.

The first question you have to ask is why does this behavior take place? Every post has it’s own unique work flow. But, there are two common factors that lead to employees wasting time. These factors are simply complacency and boredom. The employee gets into a mindset that says nothing ever happens; nothing ever will happen; and, my only purpose is here is decorative. That lasts until an incident occurs and everyone is standing around looking foolish.

There are a number of things you can do to correct this situation. Disciplinary action is not always the first answer either. The solution is to keep your employee engaged in meaningful activity. There are two ways you can create meaningful activity to keep your officer active.

The first solution is adding additional tasks to the 2nd and 3rd shift’s duties. This is dead time when the guard could be cleaning out the guard shack. They could also be supervising the night time cleaning crew. Phones should be rolled over making the guard station the night time receptionist. One company convinced the client there was no need to have a night shift employee in the parts room. Anything that was needed could be issued by the security officer. Another company trained their guards to do safety inspections on tanker trucks before they left the chemical plant. Now you are getting into what’s known as “value added” activity that will increase the worth of your services to the client.

Training is another activity that 2nd and 3rd shift officers can be involved in. This could either be security training or client centered training. A large chemical plant in Houston relocated their guards into a building that also housed a first aid room and a training room. Guards were encouraged to watch videos produced by the company’s safety department. While a few rental movies might have slipped in the guards soon became very knowledgeable about chemical safety, OSHA, and emergency response. The contractor also used this opportunity to engage employees in learning more about security related topics. Officers were provided with self-study materials that became required for promotion.

Supervisors need to take an active, positive role in officer’s work as well. Their attitude has to change from catching the employee doing something wrong; to, catching the employee doing something right. An employee who knows his work is appreciated will put more effort into it. The supervisor can also make suggestions rather than dictate policies. Examples are:

  • “This post looks really clean and professional;
  • Nice work cleaning up the post order book;
  • Have you ever tried changing up the timing on your rounds; or
  • It would make your job easier if……”

This is not to say that there isn’t a place for written policies that state “thou shalt not.” Liability concerns if nothing else almost demands them. The key to making these policies work is to explain why. Every new policy should be written with a paragraph that tells the purpose of the policy. It’s not enough to tell an employee why a catering truck can’t come in the plant at night. You have to tell them how this has created a safety or theft problem.

Finally, never fail to recognize an employee who does something special. A monthly newsletter printed on your photocopy machine can have a huge impact on everyone’s performance.

A good example occurred at a chemical plant a few years ago. The night shift guard smelled alcohol on the breath of a driver arriving to pick up a load of dangerous chemicals. To make it worse, it was raining heavily. These were ideal conditions for a serious accident. The officer alerted the plant’s night superintendent and the driver soon found himself in the back of a patrol car. Can you imagine the officer’s feelings when he saw the superintendent praised in the client’s weekly newsletter? The security supervisor’s only commented that the officer had done his job. Is it any wonder the officer’s performance slipped and he soon found employment elsewhere?

The bottom line is that security officers don’t waste company time. Security companies under utilize their security guard’s. The challenge is to keep the employee interested and engaged in their duties.