As a leading provider of security workforce management software, Trackforce Valiant & TrackTik ran an annual survey report to help our industry partners maximize employee retention and profitability, and take advantage of trends and best practices affecting the security industry.
As life slowly returns to “normal” in America, the future of the manned guarding industry is bright. People are returning to life pre-pandemic, going back to work, school, restaurants, etc. Sporting events and concerts have lifted attendance restrictions and the stadiums and arenas are full once again. Marijuana dispensaries are popping up on every corner. All of this points to an increased need for private security services, surpassing pre-pandemic hiring levels. At the same time, the industry is not without its challenges.
Unarmed vs. Armed Security Guards: Pay rates
It comes as no surprise that pay rates for security officers have fluctuated post-covid, due to lack of qualified or trained candidates. In 2022, the predominant pay range for an unarmed security officer is $13.00 to $18.00 per hour, while armed guard pay rates average about 25% higher, with 28% of firms paying between $18.50 to $23.50 per hour. The higher hourly wage can be attributed to the additional skill set and experience required for firearms training and armed assignments.
Of course, there are multiple other factors that play into the pay rates of these security officers, such as state level minimum wage rates, rising costs post-pandemic, and simply a lack of applicants suited for the positions. In fact, as labor markets strive to rebound from the impacts of the pandemic, a historic talent shortage has occurred. 75% of companies have reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring (a 16-year high). So, of course, when the right talent comes around, demand equates to a higher rate of pay.
Applicant Recruitment & Hiring Practice Trends
With the previously highlighted lack of qualified candidates in the job market, it is now more important than ever to master recruiting efforts. Effective recruitment practices can reduce turnover, lower operating expenses, and relieve stress on hiring managers.
The way of the world is moving toward technology, especially in a post-pandemic world. Naturally, online jobs boards such as Indeed have become the most popular tools for hiring. Over 20% of respondents to the survey use them for recruiting. Candidates are looking for a simple, un-complicated application process, and online job searching allows for easy access to a plethora of positions that are geared towards a candidate's specific needs. For example, a job seeker can filter their job search to include “remote,” or “security guard” and narrow their searches quite simply. Likewise, recruiters can also easily find potential applicants with backgrounds suited for the positions they are looking to fill.
- Another interesting recruitment trend mentioned in respondents’ survey comments is the growing use of social media channels such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook Jobs, and TikTok. Here again, security HR managers can execute a short promotional piece once to reach huge audiences with a consistent hiring message across multiple platforms, maximizing their productivity. With video, security firms can paint a more exciting employment picture than a static job posting, using testimonials and graphics against backdrops of security events to cost-effectively promote job openings and expand candidate pools. These channels also tend to target younger and more technically savvy audiences.
Retention Strategy Trends
Turnover is perhaps the most pressing issue for security guard firms. Once you find talented personnel, how do you keep them from leaving? Popular retention strategies for security firms include:
- Offering Continual Training and Certifications
- Providing Incentives
- Offering Competitive Wages and Benefits
- Providing Opportunities for Advancement
Employee retention is a top priority for security guard firms, especially since the costs for replacement are high. Less than 6% of respondents say they do not have processes in place to support employee retention. To accomplish this, most firms use a mix of incentives.
Firms that reported the lowest rates of turnover are those that offer competitive wages and work to ensure the best possible working conditions for officers in the field. That means reasonable access to amenities such as bathroom facilities and places to eat or take a break with some level of comfort. It means providing shelter from extreme weather conditions when possible, such as a fan or heater in the guard house. It is also important to check in with your employees regularly, it goes a long way to ensure that your people are doing well and that you are doing everything possible to provide a positive working environment for them. When your employees have enjoyable experiences, they are more likely to refer other sot join them. Companies can expand their recruiting searches 10x by utilizing their employees’ social and personal networks.
Security Technology Adoption Trends
With labor shortages and turnover rates continuing to affect operations, many contract security firms have moved to technology to fill the gap and reduce the number of guards required on site.
Most of the technology-related tools employed by security guard firms center around making the officer’s job easier, automating processes, or using remote monitoring technology to compensate for staffing shortages. Many of these technologies like closed circuit television, automated access controls, remote video monitoring with motion detection, and alarm systems are not new, and have been adopted more than a year ago by most firms. These solutions keep officers in a central monitoring location to minimize labor needs on site. Software tools like incident reporting and visitor management applications are also widely adopted, helping officers capture incident information in a consistent, detailed format, and accurately tracking visitors entering and exiting the building.
These modern technologies make it possible to continuously monitor locations even when there is a lack of guards to staff them. They also aid in the ability to rapidly respond to incidents and mitigate security risks in real-time. Technology has the ability to catch anything a human being may miss, making for higher quality security operations.
Billable Hours Forecast
74% of survey respondents believe that billable hours for manned security will increase over the next 2 to 3 years. Here are some responses expressed about current socio-economic trends and other reasons cited why billable hours are expected to increase:
- Our clients have increased concerns about firearms and workplace safety.
- We fear a COVID surge may affect on-premises work.
- There is a need for physical security with all the incidents that continuously happen. Companies are more than likely going to feel safer with the presence of physical security.
- I strongly believe that the security industry will increase simply because things are getting worse. For example, all those shootings in schools, supermarkets, churches, housing, and out in the streets. We all need protection.
- It seems that security needs are continuing to rise across all sectors of business. The need for physical security isn’t going away and I believe it will continue to grow in the wake of active shooter situations at common places.
The post-pandemic state of the world has clearly raised concerns for safety. In the year 2022 alone, there have already been over 470 mass shootings in the United States. With violence and fear for safety on the rise, the need for physical security stays incredibly relevant. Compared to 2021, 88% of business and security leaders note an increase in physical threats to their enterprise organizations.
In all, security firms need to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the field in order to hire, retain and provide a solid environment for their guards in the field.
Having access to the proper tools to communicate with officers on patrol in real time, plus utilizing technologies with motion detection and visual and audio alert capabilities to notify intruders they have been spotted, provides the necessary level of theft deterrence with a minimum of labor to maintain profitability even considering record inflation or a looming recession.
The key to lifespan in physical security remains the ability to attract and retain quality employees at a level to satisfy workforce requirements. Compensation rates will need to rise, and billing rates must increase in lockstep to maintain profitability. Using technology and social media can prove to be game-changing for your company and attract a whole new wave of talent.