Recommendations for Guard Managers and Operators: Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Hire Security Guards Slow, Fire Fast

Hiring new guards is an investment.

You’re spending time and money on training, and you want to hire people who will help take your business to the next level.

Gone are the days you could post an ad on Craigslist, and pick up everybody in one day. Now, the economy is doing better, guards are more expensive, and job applications are scarce.

As a guard manager, it feels like time works against you. It’s hard to interview, train and give post orders to every new guard — and a lot gets thrown out the window.

It’s tough to sort out good candidates, and even tougher to let them go — primarily if you’ve invested time and money on them. However, these are the guys and girls you trust to deliver excellent service to clients and retain contracts. So establishing hiring and firing best practices is critical.

The solution? With a little extra time and effort, you can improve your employee on-boarding process and ensure new employees will work for the greater success of your business, and not against it.

It starts with building a solid hiring framework

It takes a certain kind of skill to hire guards successfully. Big companies have the help of an HR department, but most companies don’t. Guard managers and operators are typically tied up and leave the application and interview process until the last minute.

More often than not, leads to guards on the job without a proper interview, background check, or training — which in turn leads to high employee turnover, poor quality, lawsuits, and potentially lost contracts.

To build a good hiring framework, follow the guidelines below to hire slow.

1. Keep applications coming in.

Lack of applications leads to hiring the wrong person in that they’re unable to handle basic responsibilities, orders, or training. Most times you’re in such a rush that you can’t give appropriate training so they can even have a shot, and that hurts everybody — including your client.

A related problem is when new guards don’t go through a proven interview process; rather they’re rushed onto the job site. Much better if you slow down and talk to your guards during interviews — especially when they’ll be on exclusive contracts.

Getting applications coming in on a routine basis is your lifeline. Even though it feels easier to get everything done quickly, more applications usually work better, and a security guard software can help you manage that and give you more time in the interview process.

2. Do a full background check on each potential guard.

Background checks seem obvious, but easy to skip when you need an urgent hire. Even simple things like guard licensing agencies not catching up with a license could be detrimental,  because a criminal background may not show up right away.

Worse off, the missing background check leads to liability risks.

For example, you don’t want to place a registered sex offender near a school. Or the guy with a theft background in a jewelry store. Placing the wrong guard in the wrong area leads to problems for the contract. Instead, take time to talk to potential guards and document any contract-critical information before hiring.

3. Look into prospects health concerns.

Minimize your workers' comp payouts by looking into prospects health claims. Your guard should not have multiple comp complaints, injury claims or cases pending — because you could be next. Rush hiring fails to account for this compared to hiring slowly.

4. Match shift hours with contract type.

A good grasp on a prospect's work hours helps you understand the best placement for them. The following are some, but not all, considerations when hiring:

  1. On days when you need a guard on a public site with client interaction, it’s important that you put someone there who is good with people.

  2. On nights where you need a commercial site guard with minimal communication, place the older guy who doesn’t want to talk to the public.

  3. Need to stick someone in a security patrol car? It’s probably your best bet to place someone friendly, over 25, and with a clean driving record for lower insurance payments.

While you need to be aware of your employees' strengths and weaknesses in a role, they also must take direction well. Your goal is for management or you to communicate with the right person, at the right time, so you can avoid liability and no-shows.

5. Steer clear of part-time guards.

There’s always a risk that part-time guards won’t be as loyal to your company as full-timers. Part-timers typically have jobs somewhere else, and often don’t get benefits from your job. Many show up late, call out, or no show — unlike full-time employees who’ve invested time and rely on the job.

And if you like your uniforms and equipment, don’t hire part-timers. More often than not you lose shirts, shoes, belts, and other supplied equipment. Because a lot walk out the door without earning enough even to collect their first paycheck.

It ends with fast, but respectful firing

Firing an employee is messy and most of the time necessary, but remember that your guards are people too. It’s normal to fear losing someone because of temporary overtime pay and hiring someone new. But turning a blind eye to bad behavior is not better for you, your team, and most importantly — the contract.

Again, it’s hard to terminate someone. Fortunately, with a good system in place, you can smooth out the process, make it faster, and more human than recklessly firing someone on the spot.

Here’s how you can reduce employee conflict and manage delinquent employees.

1. Establish proper channels for reprimanding guards.

Let’s even out issues involving write-ups and firing. As a guard manager or operator, clearly define who wears corporal stripes and who doesn’t. A trained supervisor or manager is invaluable because they represent both you and guards, and can effectively communicate between teams.

Never send an inexperienced guard who can barely do his job to reprimand another guard. Often they do not give a proper write-up and talk down to employees. The only result is an unnecessary conflict between your company and this now irritated employee. So it only continues to go downhill from there.

Invest in training a supervisor or manager. If you’re using a senior worker right now (and they’re good), give them the chance to learn and improve their job. And, to avoid confusion, develop a handbook to ease the firing process for future supervisors, and offer additional training to enhance their skill set.

2. Put a policy in place, and follow it.

A policy standard gives you a transparent and repeatable process for termination. It creates an organized plan for defining what steps to take and how you’ll get there — acting as the base for your entire HR process. Utilizing a tool like Trainual

Your policy acts as the blueprint for supervisors to prevent conflict and manage bad behavior. There are a few things you can do to better communicate with supervisors, so the firing process is legal and straightforward:

  • Create & document your company policy standards - a step-by-step guide to write-ups and immediate termination
  • Go over procedures with guards at hire - Before they go out on the job, make sure they sign off on employee handbook. They need to know how to conduct business, treat clients, and the day their paycheck arrives.
  • Copy and lock away signed documents - Always keep your own copy of all signed legal HR documents. Then, put them in a safe and secure place away from everyday office activity.

3. Do not play favorites.

You probably already know that playing favorites can affect team morale and your bottom line. Have you considered why? It de-motivates other guards, promotes bad behavior, and can lead to lawsuits.

You can’t discipline one person and ignore the other. Or should you wait three weeks to deliver a disciplinary — Even if one guys been with you for a while. Whether it’s verbal, written, or termination, always go back to your handbook and follow your process. Because to fire fast, there cannot be any shortcuts or favoritism.

4. Never discipline based on emotions.

When you discipline based on your feelings, it’s problematic. And in worst case scenario it ends in a lawsuit. As a manager or operator, it’s easy to be frustrated when you lose a contract because of an employee mistake. We completely understand that. Regardless, you need to gather your senses before firing a guard or find someone who can.

Want to make firing a little bit easier?

Start by making employees understand there’s a chain of command. If employee concerns are not getting funneled through the chain, put an open door policy in place. Allow employees to speak directly with you whether in-person or by phone.

There’s one thing to remember here: copy any legal documentation with signatures. It will back up your actions with proof when an attorney hits you with the “he said, she said” argument.

5. Be respectful of terminated employee.

Firing fast doesn’t mean stripping a guard of their uniform while their replacement stands by. Many companies are starting to sit with employees and have a conversation rather than firing on-site — not a strategy that we recommend.

Firing an employee in a private setting benefits both parties. It gives you time to get your ducks in a row (e.g., prepare documents). And it saves them potential embarrassment in front of their peers. There’s also one advantage of doing this that most companies miss out on — and it seems counterproductive.

If you’re willing to talk and open up, you’ll find out things about your company that you never knew. Fired employees have more respect for managers who discharge them with esteem and consideration. Maybe it was a mistake of the heart, nothing was done on purpose to hurt you or the company. It happens, but you may still need to fire them. 

Taking this approach allows you to give them a recommendation letter and paycheck at that moment. If you do this well, you empower this guy or girl instead of making them feel down about you and your company.

6. Have their last paycheck ready.

There’s nothing wrong with letting things calm down when firing an employee. You can take the time to get everyone in the right place and let them out the door in peace. Before they go, they’ll ask “where’s my paycheck?”.

That’s why you want to have their last paycheck up front. Be prepared.

Don’t forget to be honest with them. Maybe a guard wasn’t your best fit. Maybe they’re embarrassed. Who knows? When you understand why something happened, you can help put this person in a better spot. It’s not always easy to reason with someone and get feedback. But when you do… they might tell you something — a big plus for you.

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Johnny Page

Johnny is a Customer Success Enthusiast for Silvertrac Software who is passionate about business, technology, and (of course) our customers! Johnny spent time in the security industry in Business Development, Marketing, and Operations before joining the Silvertrac team.