How to Effectively Reduce Security Officer Turnover

Officers are the cornerstone of every good security program, so it’s vital to hire and retain the best officers. This can be a challenge because the private security industry is notorious for high turnover.

High turnover results in increased cost. Administrative expenses, for both the client and the security company, are higher because ongoing officer training and recruitment are needed. Even worse, it has a negative impact on the effectiveness of the security program.

It can take months for a security officer to become adept and fully proficient at site-specific duties. Constant officer turnover results in new or inexperienced officers. These officers, who are unfamiliar with the site, may be less capable of detecting unusual activity. Lack of familiarity and training can hinder their decision-making ability.

For these reasons, I think it is important to share with you some of the strategies GSI has implemented to hire and retain high-quality officers.

The challenge of retaining quality guards

The national annual turnover rate for security guards is estimated to be between 100% – 300% percent, according to the Service Employees International Union, the nation’s largest private security officers’ union. That means that most guards leave a job within a year, and sometimes within four months.

Some of the top reasons for turnover are:

  • No opportunities for advancement
  • Lack of feedback/recognition/reward
  • Lack of leadership/Ineffective supervision
  • Not enough hours
  • Lack of training
  • Lack of job security
  • Lack of benefits
  • Lack of respect
  • Low pay
  • Poor recruiting

GSI has been able to address many of these concerns and lower officer turnover by focusing on 3 key areas:

  1. Hiring and recruiting
  2. Officer training and support
  3. Company culture

Officer retention starts during the hiring process

Finding quality candidates is a challenge in today’s job market. However, that doesn’t mean that we should take shortcuts.  Finding the right person for the job is essential to long term success.

Our hiring process begins with group conferences that help applicants understand our commitment to our clients along with the expectations and advantages of working for Guard-Systems Inc.

Applicants are then guided through the application process where we explain our screening process and how all background investigations are conducted.

These investigations include but are not limited to:

  • 1st Tier Local, State and Federal Criminal Background Checks
  • Credit and Identity Check
  • Driving Record Background Check
  • Preliminary Drug Test
  • Pre-employment Questionnaire that we closely examine includes inquiries into: employee background, employment history, integrity, personal reliability, and work ethic.
  • 2nd Tier Local, State and Federal Criminal Background Checks – by our Human Resources Division
  • Skills Testing (Observational, Written, Verbal, Computer)
  • Work and Personal References
  • Final Drug Test

After these checks are successfully completed applicants are then scheduled for a series of interviews. In order to identify the best possible fit for every prospective candidate, each is scheduled to meet with our Operations Manager, Regional Manager, Client Services Manager and Scheduler.

This does require a lot of effort and involvement from upper management, but it also addresses many common concerns:

  • Officers understand the importance of their job
  • We ensure schedules meet their expectations
  • They become familiar with leadership and understand we are here to support them
  • They are educated on the growth of the company and the opportunity for advancement

Officer training and support is a must

For potential security officers, successfully completing the interviewing process is just the first step. 

From there, applicants begin an even more rigorous training program. Prior to the onset of training, we meet with our candidates to thoroughly discuss expectations. Especially our customers’ expectations.

Once the training begins, candidates can expect to complete mandatory classroom training. In addition, GSI requires a series of on-site training courses.

The curriculum is customized according to the needs of each individual client. Training features scenario-based interactions and videos that are in accordance with the officer’s day-to-day responsibilities. Security issues literally ripped from the headlines are also thoroughly reviewed.  After successfully completing the training program, testing is conducted on comprehension and retention.

Once security officers are matched with a client, based on mutual goals, the on-going field support from Branch Management, Operations, Administration and Customer Service begins. Through GSI site visits, reporting, constant contact and feedback, we’re able to give our security staff the appropriate coverage and follow-up they need to be successful.

The safety of our customers is priority one to GSI security officers. We give our officers the support they need to focus completely on keeping our customers’ property, belongings and guests safe.

Of course, diligence is required, but the benefits outweigh the cost. Through our training and support, we are able to address several of the reasons for officer turnover.

Don’t forget about corporate culture

The culture we promote at GSI also helps us to retain quality officers. Everything we do is focused around exceeding our clients’ expectations. That is not an easy task. However, we have found that when our officers are cared for and feel appreciated, issues are often avoided.

We ensure that we recognize the concerns of our officers by keeping management accessible to officers when needed. We also want to ensure that the efforts of our officers are recognized. We do this in a number of ways.

It could be as simple as returning a call or letting an officer know he or she is appreciated. A simple, “good job!” can go a long way. More formal methods include awards, accolades and opportunities for advancement.

This culture of appreciation, gratitude and recognition is designed to keep officers engaged.  An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and as a result, takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

A Gallup study found that companies with higher employee engagement enjoyed 50% higher levels of productivity, 13% less employee turnover, 44% higher profits and 50% higher customer satisfaction than companies that measured in the bottom 25% of employee engagement.

That makes a pretty strong business case. Besides, we feel that showing appreciation and recognizing the efforts of our officers is just the right thing to do. It makes perfect sense from both a personal and business perspective.

Teamwork is still required

Clients often feel that reducing officer turnover is the security company’s sole responsibility. However, teamwork is needed. Clients must also be willing to implement the steps needed to improve officer retention. By working closely with our clients, policies and procedures can be implemented that protect the integrity of the security program, the officers and our company.

There is always work that can be done to improve officer retention. It requires constant effort and continual improvement. By focusing on the three areas of 1. hiring, 2. training & support and 3. our corporate culture, I am proud to say that GSI does better than most when it comes to retaining quality officers.