Top Mistakes Companies Make When Managing a Security Workforce

Top Mistakes Companies Make When Managing a Security Workforce

There’s an age-old saying that goes something like this: If you’re going to do it, do it right. With global demand for security services forecast to increase 6.9 percent annually—and no signs of it slowing any time soon—security companies of all sizes are facing the need to adapt to rapidly changing customer requirements, demographics and technology landscapes. Never has the need to “do it right” been greater.

Gone are the days of paper-based note-taking and incident reporting, or hiring four guards to cover the role of one. Today’s security companies need to be more efficient and responsive, including being better at scheduling resources. Not only are they required to dispatch the right guard to the right site at the right time to do the right things, but clients are asking to see data to justify annual security spends and help with future planning.

Expectations are changing and security companies need to step up. Based on my many years of experience as a security service provider and corporate security manager as well as the experience of my company, TrackTik Software, in helping organizations maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of their security personnel around the world, here are what we have found to be the top mistakes security organizations make when it comes to growing and managing their workforce—and how to avoid them:

Neglecting to account for human behavior. There’s a perception in the industry that a security guard is a transitory job, prone to high turnover. To reduce the risk of being short-staffed, companies tend to hire more resources than necessary. A better tactic to avoid over-staffing, improve job satisfaction and productivity, and decrease turnover, however, is to get to know the personal preferences and behaviors of each of your guards, and use that information to optimize scheduling.

For example, if employee A is more comfortable working at a concierge desk and prefers the day shift, you shouldn’t be calling that person to patrol an empty industrial lot overnight. There are tools that can help with this kind of strategic scheduling, and using this approach, you will find that your employees are happier, better focused and more motivated to do good work—contributing to an overall more efficient operation.

Failing to remove mundane tasks. If you’re managing a security workforce and you’re not already taking advantage of technology to automate repetitive tasks, it’s only a matter of time before your business stagnates. Your guards will lose interest and your operational costs will be too high to stay competitive. The goal is to identify where and when technology can augment your security processes and then rely on human intervention only for those tasks that require it.

It is impossible for people to pay full attention, 100 percent of the time, but if you let machines do the mundane work while your guards focus on decision-making and response, you’ll get their focus when you need it most. This approach will also help drive workforce engagement, which is key in an industry prone to staffing shortages.

Implementing technology for technology’s sake. From cameras to access control readers to interactive voice response systems, there are so many neat and fun technologies available, it’s easy to fall into the trap of purchasing the latest gadget to solve a one-off problem without considering the big picture first. A standalone call-in system may help to boost incident reporting, for example, but to really impact your bottom line, it needs to be integrated into your overall workforce management platform so that you can collect, store and report actionable data about those incidents.

Before making a technology purchase, it’s important to understand the problem you’re trying to solve. It doesn’t make sense to purchase the latest in automated detection technology if you don’t have the integrated systems in place to ensure a timely, coordinated human response will follow.

Overlooking the value of data. Traditionally, guard services were sold at an hourly rate. Clients wanted to know that a guard would be on site at a specific time, without necessarily questioning the benefit. In today’s data-driven world, this scenario is changing. Corporate executives want to know specifics about the service they’re receiving for their annual security budget—from the type and number of incidents reported to the time of day when most incidents are likely to occur.

The more that a security service provider can present information to show where resources are best used, and where money can be saved, the more likely they are to retain the clients’ business. Ask yourself: am I providing information or intelligence? Don’t let your data hide in plain sight. Make sure you are using the right business intelligence tools to first collect that data and then turn it into a meaningful report that can be used for decision making.

Not aligning security with corporate goals. Corporate security is no longer viewed as made up of “corporate cops,” but rather, as an internal service, integral to a company’s overall performance. As a security service provider, you need to routinely review your clients’ corporate goals and objectives, and show how a security service can help to reach them. As an example, if Human Resources is focused on creating a safe work environment, offer to provide employee escorts to the parking lot at night and contribute to the overall corporate goal of a higher employee net promoter score (eNPS).

Ignoring security as an important business function. There’s growing evidence that Enterprise Security Risk Management—the practice of managing a security program through the use of risk principles— needs to be fully integrated into corporate processes at every level of business. If you don’t establish organizational policies, procedures and best practices to identify and manage corporate security risks, you won’t be properly equipped to mitigate them. It’s important to remember the 90/10 rule: 90 percent of effective security measures are policy and procedure related, only 10 percent has to do with technology.

From small local shops to large multinational security service providers, the biggest change in security workforce management is the transition to generate and collect data, right down to the guard activity level. Guards are often the biggest spend of a security program and forward-thinking executives are demanding insight into how that money is used. The better equipped you are to deliver business intelligence about the security service you provide, the more you’ll be able to demonstrate the true value of security as a business function.

This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Security Today.

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