Building a Better Officer: New Ways to Decrease Turnover and Increase Efficiency

Intermediate patrols offer another option to sworn, armed officers and nonsworn, unarmed officers.
Published: October 1, 2014

Recently, a discussion on LinkedIn asked the following question: “How do we reduce turnover among our security staff?” While many of the responses focused on training and recognition, there exists the notion that something is inherently wrong with the people who take those hourly officer positions.

The real underlying concern isn’t, “Are we hiring the wrong people?” but instead, “What’s wrong with the way we are managing our people, and how do we develop the most effective and valuable security force possible?”

The answer begins with a close look at the way we traditionally classify the more than one million security officers in the United States: unarmed or armed? Armed security officers are more likely to be aligned with law enforcement, have tactical training, and be experienced with lethal weapons that are disallowed in some campus settings. Unarmed officers are typically younger, less experienced, earning a much lower hourly rate or salary (as low as $8.43/hour and a mean annual wage of just over $27,000 [BLS]). Ultimately, these unarmed officers are the employees who are expected to deliver an appropriate response, frequently without appropriate equipment or training.

The reason that security guards turnover at an astonishingly high rate – 400% – is also an indicator of operational risk. The avoidable risks that create a dispirited workforce also get companies in trouble with liability litigation. A security company executive said to us recently, “When they’re quitting your company to work for 50 cents less at McDonald’s, they aren’t quitting because of the pay.”

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The True Cost of Avoidable Risk

A liability legal judgment can cost enough to put a smaller guard service company out of business overnight. For a large organization like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were recently found partially liable for the beating of a fan that left him brain damaged, the judgment of $13.9 million is just the beginning of the fallout from inadequate and poorly prepared security forces.

If building a better guard is the key to avoiding litigation, then why isn’t everyone doing it? There’s a misconception that it costs too much. Even a large organization like the Dodgers isn’t exempt from these mistakes. One former officer testified that the organization was ill-equipped to handle the massive crowd that arrived for opening day in 2011 when the beating incident occurred: “This is the first security job that I had worked where there really wasn’t any order to how things should be done as far as my safety, the protection of fans.”

You can figure out how much that type of mistake is costing your organization. Assign a true dollar value to each of the following operational costs associated with lost employees.

  • No-shows: To re-assign staff and pay overtime covering absent officers will increase costs.
  • Above average turnover: A study from the Center for American Progress on the cost of turnover says it will cost you about 16% of that person’s annual salary to replace him.
  • Replacing lost business with new business: You’ll typically spend eight times as much earning a new account as you will maintaining the one you have.

If you’re spending more to recover from turnover than you are on your equipment, it’s time to invest in better equipment.

Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series