The nature of security work is changing. Higher demands for customer service; increased use of technology; evolving threat scenarios, even language skills remain at the core of day-to-day security functions.

At the same time, the labor market continues to tighten and the challenge of attracting and retaining qualified staff becomes more perplexing. Still, many corporations are choosing to outsource non-core service functions, such as security, to focus on their core competencies and rely on their security partner to recruit, develop and retain quality security staff.

While the conversation continues to evolve regarding effective recruiting strategies in the industry today, the underlying challenges won’t go away. This is forcing security managers to get creative in developing a multi-generational environment in an industry rooted in traditions, silos and stereotypes.

In this blog Senior Vice President Christina Duffey, CPP, shares key lessons learned on keeping up with the evolving challenges of building and maintaining best-in-class security officer teams.

1. It starts with recruiting. How you attract future team members to your program is crucial. Your job postings should clearly promote the benefits and opportunities of being part of your team. At the same time, you need to get out into your community and talk about the team and the environment you are creating with your security program. Share the skills, culture and values you are integrating into your program. This will attract officers that have similar values and skills sets that you need to build a team, and the clients that want them. 

2. Meet basic needs: There are three specific elements that must be met to attract the right staff. If these three needs are not completely met, the revolving door will ensue:

  1. Wages
  2. Distance from residence
  3. Shift preference

First, there must be a livable wage to reduce your officers from having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, which is so common today.  Also consider the distance from home and working a schedule that meets family and lifestyle expectations is also just as critical.

Happiness surveys consistently correlate time spent on commuting to satisfactions or dissatisfaction. Many new recruits tell themselves – and potential employers – that a lengthy commute is doable. While the applicant will agree to a location or shift that is not ideal, they will likely continue looking for another job until they meet this basic need. That’s why it is important for managers to consider and adapt schedules to meet the needs of a varied workforce demographic. Once you get these three elements right, you have the foundation on which to build a solid team.

3. Develop security staffs’ hard and soft skills: Training is an essential requirement for anyone wishing to work in security, and is also a key component of recruiting, developing and motivating high-quality security teams. Security work has always depended on a range of “hard” skills. Typically, these skills included knowledge of and execution on policies and procedures, such as access control and emergency response. But in today’s information age, where people rely on the internet for information, this has never been more important. Managers must implement innovative training to help security officers know procedures, like the back of their hand. Having a team that knows what to do instantly – without referring to standard operating procedures – will affect competency and reaction time.

As the nature of security work changes, so do the skillsets required for success. Security officers are increasingly considered a “brand touchpoint” – those who represent the client and corporation for whom they work. That’s why we have also seen how soft skills, such as communication; collaboration and working as part of a team; business resiliency and how to deal with adversarial situations have all played such a significant role in the success of a security program. These skills will continue to be just as important in the future as they have been over the past decade, which is why focusing on development of hard and soft skills will pay big dividends in any program.

4. Career pathing to your team member’s best potential. Whenever hiring and retention gets tough, we all rationalize it by claiming “it’s the money.” Without a doubt, wages will always be a key component and basic need of any employee, which is why it ranks as Number 1 on this “Basic needs” list in point 2 above.

But once someone is onboard, is it always money that leads them away?  No, not always. Many workers are looking to learn and develop in order to build a security career. If they don’t see opportunity with your program they will go looking for it elsewhere. Companies that can’t promise any kind of advancement opportunities soon fall behind those that do. Entry-level staff need to be able to see how they can become supervisors. Qualified supervisors must be able to see themselves growing into managers.

So, when more money isn’t an option, make sure a future can be. Pave the way for your team through succession planning and skills development. Promote step-up job opportunities internally before looking externally. Value your team’s time and effort; do not take them for granted. By offering opportunity, and listening and coaching more rather than enforcing, you help your staff build transferable skills sets that improves your own team, reduces and stabilizes attrition, and ultimately strengths our industry.

5. Communication and recognition goes a long way: The way officers are treated will go a long way towards building ownership in your program. I touched on communication above, but it is fundamental to this point – employees want to be respected, informed and appreciated. Great security teams are engaged, provide feedback and feel part of the overall strategy. They know they will be recognized for good work and are challenged to grow. That’s why it is important for leaders to establish a baseline recognition program that is equitable, public and repeatable. But don’t stop there. Recognition doesn’t always have to be formal. And while one-on-one recognition is appreciated, a public “pat on the back” can have a monumental impact.

6. Teach your officers about the business of security. Understanding business acumen is not only critical, it’s mandatory. It helps change the perspective of your team from the moment to the future. Sharing your long–term strategy for the security program is a way to engage your team beyond the now, and make them feel part of the big picture. It is also important that security leaders be able to present ideas to senior executives, learn how to budget, and integrate existing systems and technologies into the overall strategy.

7. Know where the security industry is going. It is important to help your team understand where the industry is headed and help them to speak the language. For example, Enterprise Security Risk Management (ESRM) is the future. ESRM, a holistic philosophy on how to manage security risk across your organization, is the approach needed to tackle security matters across your business. Find all that you can on ESRM and share it with your front-line staff. Teach your team how to break down the internal silos and engage all aspects of business and its people to execute on your security plans.

About Author: Christina Duffey, CPP

Christina Duffey, CPP, is Senior Vice President/Regional Director, Midwest for SOS Security. Previously, she served as President of Anderson Security Agency, Ltd., a women-owned security firm. She has also held executive positions with Paragon Security, Levy Security Corporation and Intercon Security. Currently Treasurer on the ASIS Board of Directors, she has served in leadership positions on the Professional Certification Board, Security Services Council, and on the Board of Trustees for the ASIS Foundation. She holds a B.S. degree in Commerce from DePaul University, an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the College of DuPage, and is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP). A frequent speaker and author on topics encouraging women in security, Duffey is a recipient of the ASIS Ron Minion Canadian Security Pioneer Award (2014), and the First Karen Marquez Honors – ASIS Women in Security (2013).