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Employee Turnover in Security – How to Reduce & Manage it

Employee turnover is a struggle for most employers, but security companies experience much higher levels than any other. Here, we examine why that might be, and how security companies can reduce turnover and improve retention.

Employee turnover is a common issue across many industries. However the security industry has always seen higher levels of turnover, and the global pandemic has only added fuel to the fire. The nature of the work coupled with pay rates and the general working environment has made it very easy for security guards to leave their jobs. What’s interesting, is not only are guards leaving their jobs, but they’re often leaving the industry itself.

Gone are the days when security companies only had to worry about losing employees to competitor security companies. In the current job market, employees can obtain better wages and easier work in other industries. This leads them to leave the security industry altogether. Taking all of this into account, it is easy to see how big the issue of turnover in security is.

How Big is the Issue of Turnover in Security?

Before we break down turnover in security organizations, let’s take a look at the national rate of turnover in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020 saw national turnover rates hit 57.3%, however, we will only be focusing on voluntary turnover. In 2020, voluntary turnover was approximately 25% across all industries. This can be used as a benchmark when looking at turnover in security. In 2020, security companies saw average turnover hit 34%, which is significantly higher than the national average. Although we mentioned some causes earlier, there are a handful of reasons that turnover in security is higher than other industries.

featured image of security guard
  • Job related stress
  • Poor recruiting
  • Lower wages
  • Lack of training & support
  • Job security
  • Lack of work-life balance/flexibility

When we consider these reasons, it really is no surprise that security guards look for work elsewhere.

Consequences of Employee Turnover in Security

You might be wondering why you even have to worry about turnover. In reality, employee turnover is extremely costly to organizations, both financially and indirectly. Let’s break down those costs.

Direct Costs

Of course, when a guard leaves an organization, they must be replaced. This is one of the largest costs associated with employee turnover and includes costs associated with advertising & interviewing for the role. Not only that, but these costs also include orientation, induction, and on-the-job training. These replacement costs are generally the highest of the process of turnover and often go uncalculated. Research indicates that the direct cost of replacing an employee is approximately 16% of the salary for the role being filled. When you consider the high rate of turnover in the security industry, these costs will often occur multiple times a year, and really impact the bottom line of the company.

Indirect Costs

While indirect costs are more difficult to measure, they generally have more of an impact on the company. For security companies, when they are a guard or two down, they must use overtime to compensate and keep client sites protected. This overtime cannot be passed over to the client, and therefore ends up coming from your bottom line. Client satisfaction can also take a hit when turnover is high for guards, which can lead to loss of clients, and bad word of mouth. And then, just for good measure, throw in the fact that if turnover is high, more guards are likely to consider leaving, impacting overall team morale. Basically, if it gets to a certain point, turnover can be the downfall of a security company.

So, what can you do as a manager to avoid this scenario?

Preventing High Turnover in Security  

Now that you know what causes guard turnover, and you see how much it can cost you, it’s important to put a plan in place. Of course, this plan should be tailored to your unique business needs, but there are some general steps you can take to make a positive change.

The Hiring Process

Believe it or not, reducing employee turnover in security really starts at the beginning. Consider how hiring the right person for the right job will increase the likelihood of retaining them. It is the key to long-term success in employee retention. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach here, but generally educating applicants is a great place to start. Inform them of your commitment to your clients, and the expectations and reality of working as a security guard at your company. This will help to whittle out applicants who won’t be committed to the role, to some extent.

Next, given the nature of the work, it is recommended to carry out extensive background investigations. Cover all bases with criminal checks, drug tests, skill testing, and of course, work/personal references. This can further eliminate poor-fit employees before a series of interviews, with multiple different managers. Yes, this all sounds like a lot of work, but putting in the time and effort during the hiring process really does save time and money overall.

Support & Training

guard talking into walkie talkie

Once you’ve found the right guards, it’s important to put them through the right training program. This training is another opportunity to reinforce expectations for both the guard and the employer. It is important to incorporate both classroom training and on-site training for all guards. Cover all client needs and how guards can meet them, break down the day-to-day responsibilities of your guards, and include scenario-based interactions. Once the training is complete, ensure all guards are tested to ensure comprehension and retention. Providing this training sets expectations for guards, reducing the likelihood of them leaving.

Wages/Benefits

Security guards have historically had lower wages than any other industry. Although most states have introduced a minimum wage, the mean annual wage for a security guard in 2020 was only $34,360. When we consider the job stress associated with the job, and the nature of the work itself, this is incredibly low – no wonder turnover in security is so high. Security companies should do their best to offer competitive wages. Of course, with security companies, this all depends on contract bill rates decided with the client. So, start there! When dealing with contract negotiations with clients, do not undervalue your guards. Explain how better wages for your guards leads to improved service for the client as turnover declines.

If offering higher wages isn’t an option for your organization, look at alternatives such as benefits. Living off the low wages of a security guard is challenging for anyone, let alone those supporting a family. Even offering something like medical/dental coverage can truly make a difference. Where possible extend those benefits to cover other care benefits that can help with job related stress, such as RMT, counselling or parental leave. These improved wages and/or benefits will help with both attracting the right guards, and reducing turnover.

Employee Recognition

How often do you check in with your guards, offer support, or thank them for their work? There is countless research that has been carried out to prove that regular, simple displays of appreciation is a great way to satisfy employee needs. One study shows that 50% of employees believe simply being thanked by managers would not only improve their relationship but also build trust with their higher-ups. A great way to show recognition and discourage turnover is to offer incentives to guards based on years of service. That way, guards are more likely to remain in their position, and will feel a sense of appreciation after working there for a long time.

Provide Flexibility

The final step that employers can take to reduce turnover in security organizations is to provide some level of flexibility. Lack of work-life balance is a contributing factor to turnover, and flexibility is a great way to provide it. 68% of employees say poor work-life balance negatively impacts their morale and motivation at work. Of course, given the nature of the work, you can’t exactly allow guards to work from home, right? So, the other area you can introduce flexibility is employee scheduling.

With employee scheduling software, your organization can offer flexible scheduling options such as self-scheduling or shift bidding. For both options, schedulers fill the schedule with the required amount of shifts but do not assign an employee. With self-scheduling, guards can pick up shifts on a first-come, first-served basis. With shift bidding, guards can “bid” on a shift by expressing interest, and the scheduler has the final say on who gets assigned.

Not only will this reduce turnover, but it will also improve absenteeism issues such as no-shows, late check in and sick calls. When shifts are chosen by the guard, they can build their schedule around their personal life. Turnover & absenteeism decline, and morale and retention go up – win, win. If you’d like to hear more about Celayix’s flexible scheduling options – contact one of our Solution Advisors today.

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