The security industry has long fought one major problem in their business operations. That’s the problem of high employee turnover. The average rate is about 50% per year. Many companies see a higher yearly turnover that’s much higher. A few well-run security contractors see far, far less. What are they doing to retain employees?
Make no mistake; the first problem with high turnover rates is the direct expense of replacing lost employees. This means money off your bottom line. It can cost you as much as $300 to $400 per employee when you figure all the expenses. The second problem is that you are losing experienced people your client may not want to see missing from his property. A high turnover rate could actually cost you clients. Finally, quality suffers when you are always training new employees for a post. This is what really makes the client angry. He wants experienced people protecting him; not, a succession of on the job trainees.
How can you cut down on high turnover rates? You can quit blaming it on the industry and start looking at your management practices. The industry won’t change but you can.
Best Prospects. Cutting down on employee turnover starts with your hiring process. There are two types of applicants you will be looking at: Licensed and unlicensed. A previously licensed officer with four or five years experience may not be your best choice. He or she may have switched employers as many as eight times in five years. The common excuse is that “the contract ended.” The reality is that security officers will jump ship for as little as .50 cents an hour more in pay. Still, you may find a few good ones in this group if you take the time to screen their work history carefully.
A younger, inexperience applicant just entering the job market is ideal. You can train and guide these individuals; as well as, mark them for future promotions. Older workers over 40 are even better. These individuals often fall victim to industry layoffs, early retirement or discriminatory practices by former employers. They can bring a wealth of experience to your company. Treat them right and they will also bring something more important – loyalty to your company.
Look outside traditional recruiting pools. The above principle also applies to many minority candidates. We’re not talking about the usual minority applicants. There are a number of groups that have been overlooked by the security industry. Many of them have been overlooked by other industries as well.
It’s only been in the last couple years that security has made an effort to recruit newly discharged veterans. One security company had a very good experience with candidates from South Africa. They were loyal, eager to learn and could take the high summer temperatures found in Texas.
There are a number of organizations that are a potential source of quality candidates authorized to work in the United States. Try recruiting through a local mosque or cultural community center. These groups will be so happy you personally called them that they will pre-screen applicants before sending you their best.
Screen the Work Record Carefully. The key information you want to look at is the applicant’s work history. Never depend on an applicant’s resume or application when evaluating that history. Applicants will have a carefully prepared job history that may only bear slight resemblance to the truth. The applicant knows the same thing you do. A history of no more than three to six months at every job won’t get them hired for a new one. The same goes for their references. No one is going to give you a bad reference.
Many employers don’t do extensive verification of an employee’s work history. They think it’s too expensive or will take too much time. You can obtain key information in a very short period of time at little to no cost. If the applicant is licensed you want to look up his license record. In most states the officer’s license is tied to his employer. When they switch employers they also have to transfer their registration. Those records are usually public information available on the Internet. They will give you the applicant’s real work record.
If your applicant has never been licensed then you will have a call a few previous employers. What you want to know is if they are eligible or non-eligible for rehire. Most HR departments won’t tell you much else. However, even that information is enough. Two or three “non-eligible” references should be enough to convince you to pass on this applicant.
Criminal history checks are also important. Any state that licenses security officers generally requires them. Most states now make this information available direct to the public for a small fee. Look closely at the traffic offenses. They can tell you as much or more than any entries for actual criminal acts.
Wages. A critical issue in retaining good employees is their pay rate. The security industry suffers from cutthroat competition based on lowest bid contracts. This means that employee wages are correspondingly low. That old saying about “you get what you pay for” is very applicable to the security industry. Larger companies that rely on volume sales are now paying above average wages. Smaller companies are going to have to convince prospective clients that the extra cost is worth it.
Schedules. Any employee values stability in their work schedule. After all, they do have a life outside of your business. Companies that constantly change schedules or jump people around don’t hold onto those employees long. Rotating shifts are the worse. It has been proven that this method of scheduling puts a lot of physical stress on the employee. Eventually they will relieve the stress by going elsewhere.
Travel. Try to schedule employees to site as close to their home as possible. They’ll agree to anything in order to get hired. When they see how much that job costs them in gas they will look for another job. Anything over a 40 mile round trip is too much travel.
Hygiene. This is a term management professionals use to describe working conditions. It means much more than just how clean the guard shack is. It starts with accessibility to a bathroom when needed. One port security contract lost employees regularly because there was only one bathroom on an 80-acre site. Getting relieved to use it was the second part of the problem. Access to items like hot coffee, a place to sit down or just get out of the rain are just as important. A lone guard sitting in his car at a truck lot is not an employee who will be around for very long.
Appreciation. A common complaint from employees is that “management doesn’t appreciate the effort I make to do a good job for them.” The worst thing you can tell them is, “Don’t like it here? I’ve got 40 applications from people who want your job!”
Showing your application doesn’t have to be expensive. Nor should it be a worthless certificate for “Employee of the Month” you printed out on your PC. Certificates are nice but cash talks. Random acts of kindness that show concern work better than both. A night shift supervisor who brings a cup of hot coffee when he checks posts puts the company in a good light. An account manager who drops off a coffee pot for the guard shack visibly demonstrates the employer’s appreciation. One manager spent $20 for “chill ties” he gave to employees one very hot summer. His employees’ reaction was immediate and positive.
There is an old principle that says, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of you.” Failure to understand that principle had led to the creation of more employee unions than any other factor. Understanding it will create a pool of employees who stay around, give their work the attention it needs and who will make you a nice profit.