In part 1 of this article series, I wrote about the importance of using the term security officer instead of security guard, and I explained how owners and managers can begin the process of training their guards, both during the hiring process and on the job, to become officers.
However, there’s a lot more to the process than just giving your officers the tools to succeed. You also need to evaluate their capabilities, observe them in the field, and encourage them to go above and beyond for your customers.
While training is the first step, testing needs to come immediately after. If you don’t test your officers, you can’t know whether they actually learned and retained what you tried to teach them. Just as importantly, they won’t know if they need to do more work to improve. Testing your officers establishes clear expectations and makes it easier to correct issues in the future.
Whether your training is in the classroom, on the job (OJT), or just a yearly refresher course, you should have written tests after every session. Essay questions force the officer to think out their answer and express it in their own words, proving their understanding of the concepts.
Informal oral tests can also be useful. Whether you see your officers in the office or on a random post inspection, ask them a question about their assignment and require them to answer in as much detail as possible. This demonstrates their understanding and polishes their communication skills, another key quality that a professional officer needs to have.
Both of these kinds of tests will keep them on their toes and learning about their assignment. Additionally, preparing for these tests will keep them up-to-date on their post, client needs, and developments within the company and the industry.
Either you or trusted managers should be conducting regular post inspections. This needs to be more than just making sure they’re at their post and shooting the breeze. Ask them questions about the post, post orders, and anything they think could be improved. Be receptive to their feedback and make them feel respected and valued.
On top of reviewing the major points of concern, you’ll want to ensure all the little things are meeting your company’s standards. Checking on their uniforms, duties performed, and passing along memos will reinforce the expectations of the officer and let them know the company really does take an interest in them.
Here again, we see the differences between a security guard and officer. Most guards will see field management as a royal pain in the butt, but officers will see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Make sure you or your managers pass along the benefits of your knowledge and experience during these inspections.
Of course, that doesn’t mean your talk has to be all business. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to shoot the breeze, getting to know what your officers enjoy off the job. In fact, it’s encouraged! You can’t just walk onto a post and be all business and then walk off. Whether they are guards or officers they will see that as nothing more than someone who wants to find something wrong and fire them rather than assist them in becoming better at their job.
Don’t be afraid to even get deeper than just the latest latest football scores. Learn about the officer, find out what makes them tick, and get a sense of if there’s anything going on in their personal lives that might affect their work performance. Don’t pry, and keep a line between personal and professional, but if they’re willing to discuss issues, then be receptive and offer constructive solutions like counseling or coaching.
Go Above And Beyond
Encourage your officers to go beyond what most people would expect, or possibly even consider reasonable. They should be constantly aware of their surroundings and following up on any potential threat, almost to the point of being paranoid. That’s right, paranoid.
Does that mean call another officer, supervisor, or the police every time they hear a sound? Of course not. What it means is that they should take nothing for granted. If they hear a noise in a dark facility, no matter what kind, then inspect it. It might just be a rat or mouse, but it could also be a criminal breaking into the facility to cause who knows what kind of havoc.
Let your officers know they’re expected to show the same level of professionalism in their interactions with customers as well. There is so much more to customer service than smiling and being respectful. It includes items such as being friendly, knowing the facility, and being aware of who is in charge so they can contact them right away about any issues.
As Aristotle said, “excellence is not an act but a habit.” That applies to customer service as well. For your guards to become excellent at customer service, you need to instill in them regular habits of efficiency, professionalism, and communication.
This is the one area that everyone in security needs to work harder at. It’s not just “smile training”, but instead requires officers to be firm but courteous and attuned to the needs of customers.
No one reaches a level of expertise in security by sitting around and doing nothing. There’s no magic elixir to turn average guards into officers. It takes a lot of hard work for your officers to gain the knowledge and effective habits they need to live up to the name. That means you need to encourage them to be constantly learning and improving.
Have your officers observe everything and record it mentally and in their mandatory pocket notebooks. Make sure you and your managers serve as examples of professionalism. Start by making sure they perceive themselves as officers and not guards, and then help them live up to that perception.
See part one: Training Your Security Guards to be Security Officers (Part 1)