Most companies in the security guard industry are paying at or near minimum wage for many of their employees. The median wage for security officers is around $11 per hour, which means a good portion of officers out there are earning wages very close to the legal minimum.
Officers earning such a small amount can be difficult to manage. It can be hard to support a family on that amount, meaning they might be working a second job or depending on their spouse to also work, and they’ll constantly be looking for other work.
At a certain point, some security guard turnover is unavoidable. If your margins won’t support a wage higher than $10/hour, and someone comes and offers them $11, it’s not going to be possible to hold on to that officer. However, adopting the following strategies can keep your officers more engaged and make sure they’re not going to jump ship the moment someone offers them a nickel an hour more.
Different accounts have different requirements. On some properties, you can staff the area with new hires, while other accounts will need experienced guards that can handle a variety of different situations. Stratifying these accounts allows you to hire minimum wage officers and give them some experience before potentially moving them to an assignment with more responsibility.
“I had accounts I called my ‘minimum wage starter accounts’,” I told Johnny on today’s episodes. “These were construction accounts… it wasn’t a high priority account.”
I’d start young kids, guys that were just looking for experience, and I’d tell them that if they showed the ability to meet the minimum requirements at those types of accounts—which are essentially just being on time, in uniform, and being at their post—I’d raise their pay a little bit and move them to accounts with more responsibility.
By categorizing accounts, I could get a look at new hires for a cheap price and then still have options to move them around, give them some more stimulation so that they’re not just standing around looking at the same pit day after day.
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Give Training And Advancement Opportunities
Most people aren’t looking at minimum wage jobs as a long-term career. In many cases, these minimum wage employees are hoping a guard job can be the first step to a career in law enforcement or can help them rise through the ranks to be a supervisor or manager.
Offering training opportunities for employees, chances for them to develop their skills and learn the ins and outs of the industry, can be an attractive selling point to retain employees that you can’t afford to pay more.
Importantly, however, training alone is not enough. In fact, training without opportunities for advancement can actually increase turnover. If you’re teaching your officers new skills without giving them opportunities to use those skills, then all you’re doing is training your competitors’ employees for them.
Start out in the interview process with a clear roadmap for advancement and career growth, and check in with your officers consistently to help them continue to move along that path.
“It’s not just the initial interview… you have to have a follow-up process. Because if you don’t have a good operations manager, you don’t have a good field supervisor that doesn’t check in with the guy, that’s why these guys get discouraged,” I told Johnny.
Do The Little Things Right
Even if you rotate guards around different properties, train them well, and give them career advancement opportunities, there are still plenty of ways you can sabotage all that good work.
One of the most consistent ways we see companies shoot themselves in the foot is through scheduling. When an officer making minimum wage can’t ever get their preferred days off and gets totally ignored by their supervisor when they come with any scheduling requests, that’s extremely discouraging.
It’s crucial that security companies have an open door policy so officers can address scheduling concerns, issues with supervisors, or other frustrations. Little things like messing up on tracking hours can pile up frustration for guards and make them eager to jump if they get another job offer.
Turnover is unavoidable in this industry. The slim margins require low pay, and that’s always going to mean employees looking for more lucrative work. However, if you can show your officers that you’re committed to creating an environment where they are respected, valued, and given an opportunity to grow, they’ll think twice before chasing a slightly higher paycheck.