The annual turnover rate for the average private security firm is over 75% according to ASIS. This is about five times that of most industries, and we believe it's even higher due to 'hidden' turnover (which we'll discuss at a later date). We’ve identified five primary reasons for this turnover that can have major repercussions on an organization’s ability to attract and retain clients.
Why do security guards quit?
- Poor communication in the hiring phase
- Little respect / lack of recognition
- Low pay / lack of benefits
- No opportunity for advancement
- Poor leadership
So how do you tackle these issues head-on? Let’s dive into each one.
1) Poor communication in the hiring phase
Retention starts with the job posting, and the entire pre-hire phase is critical for you to maximize your retention.
Many times, companies get in a pinch and need to hire guards quickly. Reacting to this pressure, they’ll avoid being completely transparent about the on-the-job duties in an effort to hire a huge percentage of their applicants.
Think of a guard position in a heavily-trafficked office building. A guard with poor people skills is unlikely to enjoy being around such a large number of people. That environment will inevitably result in conversations the more reserved guard simply doesn’t want to have. Despite having the desire for the job and a great work history, if the environment isn’t right for the individual, they will leave.
It’s critical to be transparent about the realities of the job and work to understand whether or not the applicant will be a good fit for the role. In order to do this, we recommend including your site managers on each interview. If it’s possible, host the interview on site. The site manager will be able to understand the nuances of the job much better than a hiring manager. This will improve the likelihood your selection will be a good fit in the role you have available.
2) Little Respect / Lack of Recognition
Good security guards take pride in their work. They want to abide by the rules and feel like they’re making an impact on the organization they serve. Failure to recognize the importance of the guard’s job is a surefire way to demotivate them as employees.
A great way to recognize your guards’ hard work is performance bonuses. This could be in the form of attendance & punctuality bonuses, employee referral bonuses, greatest impact bonuses, or loyalty bonuses. Bonuses can incentivize any kind of behavior you want to replicate and give great goals for your guards to want to hit.
3) Low Pay / Lack of Benefits
In general, security guard jobs are relatively low-paying, hourly jobs. Margins are tiny in the industry, placing a major pinch on the ability to increase hourly rate. However, given the high turnover rate, security companies must factor in the cost of hiring a new guard versus keeping a good one they already have. Increasing pay can be a bit tricky, but the retention impact is clear. Utilizing some of the performance bonuses mentioned above are a great way of going about it.
Employee benefits are another way to get your guards to stay with you. According to a study, 46% of candidates say health benefits are a primary factor for accepting a job in, and 55% said they are the reason they should stay in their job.
4) No Clear Direction
Guards thrive on facts. They crave structure and a plan. As such, training is critical. Your internal training programs should include written, detailed expectations of how their current position should be performed. In addition to making it easy for your guards to live up to your expectations, proper training increases confidence in themselves to handle any situation that comes their way. Not knowing how to handle a big issue can lead to uncertainty and ultimately the question of whether the job is right for them.
Once trained, further establishing direction means creating well-defined career goals. If there’s not a goal at the end, the guard is just spinning their wheels until something more attractive comes along for them.
Lay out the groundwork for promotional advancement. Without a sense of purpose or a long-term goal, any employee can burn out quickly. The chance of making a supervisor position can keep your good guards in place, even if they’re presented with a better-paying opportunity from a competitor.
5) Poor Leadership
Many of the reasons listed above come down to one thing - poor leadership. It’s not intentional, and many times it’s not even realized. But your leadership team needs to have a vested interest in your guards’ lives. Talk to them about their personal lives; their interests; the game last night; anything to make a personal connection with them.
This empathy and genuine caring will lead to better communication, better morale, and more accountability. As a result, employee satisfaction rises along with retention.
Make no mistake - there is some turnover in the security industry that is unavoidable. Your job is to mitigate the risk as much as possible. Reducing your turnover can be the difference in winning major accounts and plateauing as a business. Transparency and empathy are the keys to success!