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Beating the high cost of turnover.

TODAY, SECURITY MANAGEMENT continues to face the challenge of finding the right person for the job. And it doesn't have time to make many mistakes. The security business is a booming, $17-billion-a-year industry, growing at a rate of 12 percent annually. Qualified personnel are needed like never before.

The task of hiring and training security personnel is complicated by the fact that, in our society, prestige and often loyalty to the job are determined by salary size, and most security positions are not known for having large salaries.

Moreover, security positions demand one of the most valuable character assets imaginable: reliability. It is a priceless commodity, and security operations cannot function without it.

No wonder turnover among security personnel can run as high as 200 to 300 percent annually. This means astronomical costs for either the contracting security management company or the client if the system is proprietary. Whenever an employee leaves, the company must incur an average of $400 to $600 to hire and train a replacement. These costs can run considerably higher for some types of specialty security posts such as those in the nuclear industry.

Despite these daunting challenges, there are ways to create and maintain a satisfied, reliable, and effective security force economically. The first step is to define clearly the positions to be filled and the kind of person needed for each.

Staff size depends on the size of operations. But regardless of size, every system needs a manager, an operations manager, a supervisor, administration staff, and security officers.

While qualified candidates for management positions are plentiful, the pool of applicants for security officer duty is another story. High turnover rates and the demands to fill a 24-hour schedule may cause management to be less than fastidious in choosing its security officers, as indicated by numerous unfortunate cases in which such employees were later discovered to have criminal records.

In seeking security officer candidates who will do good and stay with the job, the following characteristics are desirable:

Reliability. Reliability is the most important characteristic to look for in a recruit. It is an umbrella for other personality traits, such as loyalty and honesty. Age can be a strong indicator of reliability, and security is a profession where age is an advantage. The maturity of older candidates is welcome at any post.

Pride. In security, "pride" stands for personal responsibilities in daily effort. The candidate must be someone who takes pride in his or her work, despite low wages and lack of prestige. Management can encourage such pride by treating candidates respectfully the minute they walk in the door.

Orientation to detail. The appropriate security officer candidate is comfortable following procedures of all kinds. He or she is detail oriented, willingly completes and files reports, and carefully follows up on situations as they occur.

Alertness. Though training increases the security officer's awareness, there is no substitute for a natural alertness and curiosity. The officer must use all his or her senses while on duty. This ability can lead to reduced costs as well as improved security.

Finding such candidates is the first hurdle, and the search should be continuous. To sustain a force, the flow of advertising and interviews should never be interrupted. The best sources are referrals from other security officers. To encourage employee participation, a $25 bonus can be offered for supplying any candidate who later becomes an employee.

Once such applicants apply, handle them with care! Management needs to understand that people may feel humbled when they apply for a security officer's job. They know the wages are low and the job isn't usually viewed as a high status position.

To offset this, the interviewing manager can give them respect from the start. Treat the applicants like important persons-they are ! Clients put their safety and trust in security management's first line of defense: security officers. Therefore, a thorough verification of security officers' backgrounds is essential.

Once a cadre of qualified officers is aboard, turnover can be reduced by offering raises every six months. After all, even managers aren't happy going without a raise for a whole year or some form of incentive, and surely the security officer is more in need.

But money isn't the whole answer to turnover problems. In a survey of 2,200 security officers, good wages ranked fifth in a list of job-related considerations. Full appreciation of a job well done won first place as the most important factor in job satisfaction.

Smart managers emphasize job satisfaction and recognition with bonuses, awards, and certificates of merit. Officer of the month" pins and "officer of the year" awards, presented promptly by management or the client, are welcome salutes that will be appreciated and remembered.

In the past, typical security officers were males, 45 to 55 years old, with little education beyond the ninth grade. But today, they are younger (31 to 35 years old), and nearly half have had some college. With their greater exposure to education, these candidates are better prepared for the formal training procedures necessary for an effective security force.

AS SECURITY OPERATION BECOMES more sophisticated, management faces a tidal wave of information. It is management's responsibility to pick out those pieces of knowledge most important for its security officers and present such information in interesting and memorable ways.

At the heart of any security officer training program is orientation. A four-to eight-hour seminar should cover an introduction to security, public relations, communications and reports, fire prevention and control, client relations, safety, and techniques of patrol. If the officers are assigned to a specialized area, such as a hospital, then specialized materials are required.

But knowledge, like water, can evaporate-sometimes quickly. This kind of formal, one-shot training must be supported by a steady stream of security information to refine the skills and understanding of both new and old recruits.

Such training cannot be left in the hands of other security officers already on the job, who may naturally pass along bad habits they have to the new recruit. There are several ways to avoid this:

Dial-a-security message. Management can develop its own dial-in message program for personnel, offering bits of security wisdom via the officer's mandatory phone call each week. Written transcripts and tests based on these messages should be a standard element of post routine.

The security manual. Designed to fit in the uniform's pocket, the security manual should be the officer's on-the-job bible. Management must take care to write the manual as accurately and clearly as possible. Spot checks of security officers' comprehension keep their interest in the manual lively.

Post training. The training period depends on the post. It should detail the specific orders for each post and explain how to fulfill them. Officers should review these orders regularly in the presence of a supervisor.

Ongoing review. Supervisors with slide projectors should visit posts regularly to review the basics with officers. The officers will thus see and hear again what they heard and saw when they were hired.

Spot checks. Officers should be tested frequently to reinforce their comprehension of post orders, the security manual, and security basics.

Home study or correspondence courses. Developed by your company to sharpen security officers' skills, such courses can be very effective.

Training is essential to the budget as well as to the smooth functioning of security operations. It is one of the most cost-effective activities management can do-just remember how much it costs to hire, train, and outfit another individual for the job.

IN AN INDUSTRY WHERE RESPONSIBILITY is paramount, responsible managers are the heartbeat of any security agency's success. The manager, operations manager, and supervisor must lead by example and pay more than lip service to detail.

Much of what applies to security officers also applies to managers-and more so. Since they have greater responsibility, managers must be more responsible. Since they oversee budgets, personnel, and training, they must be extremely alert.

Above all, security management personnel must be oriented to a hands-on management style. How can a manager or supervisor know what security performance is all about unless he or she stands a post, walks a key run, works an eight-hour graveyard shift, writes post orders, interviews new recruits, sets up a schedule, and visits the officers during night, weekend, and holiday shifts?

Certainly, these activities are part of any reputable management training course. But the best managers are those who continue to go out into the field, talk with their security officers, monitor problems, and evaluate conditions. And the best among these are those who shake their officers' hands and thank them for what they do.

Management training courses can cover everything from starting up a new office to client service, hiring procedures, scheduling, conducting security surveys, and managing time. Enrollees also learn how to maintain growth, make a profit, service the client, handle client complaints, and select staff.

In security management credentials count. Security directors with graduate degrees make one third more than those with only high school diplomas. And large corporations are increasingly seeking Certified Protection Professionals and ASIS members when filling high-level positions. The constant need for qualified security management has driven wages up, now making them attractive in cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Boston, and New York.

Credentialed managers attuned to the specialized needs of their clients and committed to providing the best service possible are the backbone of any security operation. Their understanding of how to train and keep good personnel, coupled with their immediate response to the organization's needs, can make or break any security program. About the Author . . . Minot Dodson, CPP, is executive vice president of operations and training for Pinkerton Security and Investigation Services in Van Nuys, CA. He is a member of the ASIS Standing Committee on Physical Security.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:security personnel turnover
Author:Dodson, Minot
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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