7 Effective strategies to attract and retain qualified security professionals.
Firstly, what is the state of the industry right now?
There currently exists a catch-22 situation in UK security industry recruitment. Due to the much-discussed, “shortage of licensed personnel”, available front-line professionals are in high demand and tend to go to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, across the board, clients have their heads collectively shoved in the sand and are shouting “LA LA LA, WE’RE NOT LISTENING!” when any supplier dares to suggest that unless the charge rate increases, they will not be able to pay enough to attract staff of the calibre desired.
So much for supply and demand.
This is a situation which is exacerbated by the cowboy security companies paying cash in hand, not providing paid holidays, uniforms or even contracts, and that operate outside of the law to provide awful security staff, but at the bargain bucket charge rates that businesses still want to pay.
The race to the bottom is over.
Everyone has lost.
Decent companies can no longer legally supply licensed security officers at some of the absurd charge rates that clients somehow think are acceptable. Uncomfortable fact #1.
Manpower providers operating illegally, exploiting their workforce, or sourcing staff that have obtained their mandatory training in highly dubious circumstances, will happily accept these ridiculous charge rates and operate in the knowledge that if the SIA or the authorities come knocking, they will disappear like smoke, only to pop up using another company name 2 days later, with the same dodgy staff and M.O. Uncomfortable fact #2.
So, given this rather depressing situation, and the likelihood that being able to pay compelling salaries is somewhat unlikely, how do you attract and retain decent security personnel?
Here are my top seven tips.
- Make it clear in recruitment ads that you only pay via a PAYE system, provide paid holiday, free uniform, and vet recruits to British Standard requirements. Whilst this will not in itself attract good people, it will deter those with dodgy provenance, looking for a cash-in-hand gig whilst signing on or driving an Uber during the day.
- Let your employees know that they are appreciated. Be fast to praise and criticise quietly and constructively. Make sure that your supervisors and contract managers develop a good rapport with your people, as a huge factor in staff retention is the relationship with management.
- Let your people know that personal growth and development are a priority. Provide mentorship and additional training, and promote from within as much as possible. When a company demonstrates this sort of investment in its staff, it generates a great deal of loyalty.
- Company sick pay is always high on any employee’s list of benefits and clever management can reduce the cost to a level where this may become feasible. Have a one-year qualifying period. Only pay from the third day of sickness onwards to reduce the cost of “hangover days”. Set a maximum sick pay allowance of 20 days in any year, and any leave over 5 business days will require a doctor’s note.
Another thing to consider.
Do NOT pay your head office admin team sick pay, if you do not do this for your front-line staff! It creates an “us and them” atmosphere, causes division, and makes people head for companies that better appreciate their Officers.
- Staff discount schemes or “perk” systems are very popular and most companies now provide these for their staff. If they stopped to ask their people what they needed however this sort of thing is way down on anyone’s list. These systems are very cheap for employers and generally serve to make C-Suite level leadership feel that they are looking after their staff. I don’t know any Security Officers that utilise their 10% discounts on Grande Skinny Soya Vanilla Lattes, or take up that 15% off offer on two-week holidays in the Maldives. Don’t bother.
There are other more useful things that an employer can provide cheaply, that are genuinely appreciated.
- Consider flexible pay. Sometimes called income streaming. This is a system that integrates with your payroll and allows your staff to draw down up to a pre-agreed fixed percentage of their earned income, before payday. This allows unexpected bills or emergency expenses to be covered without the need to rack up bank charges or resort to awful payday lenders.
- Death in service insurance. This is cheap for an employer to provide but creates peace of mind for any employee, especially those that are a bit older, knowing that should they pass away whilst, on the company’s books, their designated beneficiary will be paid a sum normally the equivalent of between one and three years’ salary.
- Encourage and reward good work. Make sure that there is an active system to recognise those that have gone above and beyond. This doesn’t have to be expensive. A certificate signed by the CEO / MD, and a photo in the staff newsletter are always well received. At the end of the year, it is also great to go that one step further and recognise the officers and supervisors “of the year” in a range of categories. If budget allows, an Amazon voucher or award of some kind goes down very well. Also, make sure that all of the other “shortlisted” people are mentioned prominently. Maybe use the company’s social media network to publicise this excellent work, giving them bragging rights, and demonstrating how highly you regard your staff, to the industry and beyond.
- Get your people engaged and invested in their roles. One of the very best ways to do this was a system that I came across years ago, run by Reliance Security. On every site, they had a big red book. Officers were encouraged to write any suggestions for service improvement, money saving, or any generally good ideas that would benefit the client or the security company. EVERY entry would be read by a contract manager, who would leave a comment. The best ideas would be submitted to the client, or implemented within the security company, and the best of these ideas would be entered into a competition with the winners being given financial rewards, sometimes reflecting the level of money or time saved for the client or employer.
At the end of the day, a very wise person once said that employees don’t choose to work for companies, they choose to work with people that they like. Make sure that your company provides a harmonious and respectful working environment. Identify and remove potential “bullies” and destructive, negative entities. Your employees will be happiest within a friendly, supportive and encouraging environment, and happy employees have been proven to be more productive. Win-Win!
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