Three questions to ask when evaluating your security program
For over 40 years, ICTS has been partnering with dozens of organizations while evaluating the performance of their security programs. Our involvement provided access to a variety of customers in several industries, each with their own unique needs.
What matters most
Our conversations often include the perspective and concerns of leaders from ownership, procurement, property management, facility operations, and the security program. Despite their varying responsibilities, these prospective customers all shared a desire to design a value-driven, cost effective security program which protected their company assets, ensured the safety of their environments, provided peace of mind to employees and guests, and exceeded their quality standards. Admittedly, every Request for Proposal (RFP) process is different , and every organization defines their own evaluation criteria in weighing one vendor against another. However, in looking back on the success of these assessments, I believe there are three key questions which must be answered in creating an optimal security program.
What is the hourly wage paid to the security officer?
Prospective customers often expressed frustration at the quality of the security officers assigned to their facility. The lack of attentiveness to the post orders, poor attendance, and an unprofessional appearance which did not align with company’s image, were often the biggest complaints.
These issues can often be directly tied back to below market compensation for the security officer. While wage is not the only factor in attracting and retaining the most suitable officers, a better wage will often enable an organization to hire a security officer with greater experience, education, and professionalism.
If a security vendor attempts to staff their program with poorly compensated officers, the facility will not only receive an officer who lacks the experience, education, and engagement necessary for a quality security program but the amount of turnover within the security team may lead to inconsistent performance. Retaining a greater proportion of officers experienced in your environment contributes to higher performance, ensures understanding of the finer details of the post orders and contributes to greater operational stability. Perhaps most importantly for organizations attempting to create a welcoming culture is that higher retention builds trust between employees and the security officers. Constant wage-driven turnover results in a lack of recognition and relationship between employees and the security staff and leads to diminished faith in the facility’s security team to respond to the company’s changing needs.
These issues also ignore the larger concern: If the wage is not sufficient, particularly in these challenging economic times, the security vendor might not be able to adequately staff your site. There could be few, if any, applicants to staff your security posts. Low pay could also result in a pool of applicants which does not align with the reputation or hiring mandates of your organization.
Collectively, the shortcomings caused by a below market wage can be prevented by pressing a prospective vendor on what hourly compensation they will provide their security officers.
“What management oversight will your organization provide and how will they be involved in the performance of the security team?”
To reduce their expenses and supplement the profitability of their accounts, many security organizations have reduced or eliminated middle management from their operational set-up. This level of leadership often served as the connection between an organization’s branch executives and the frontline officers who protect a client’s site. The middle management would support the security team, addressing concerns from the officers, integrating changes requested by the customer, and ensuring the satisfaction of both parties – employee and customer. Unfortunately, this reduction has left many security officers exposed in the field. They lack a supervisor with whom they can elevate issues, ask for guidance, or obtain training. Prospective customers identified the predicament to me as “An officer on an island by themself.” Since every security program should evolve as the organization’s needs change, the lack of connection with experienced security managers to shepherd the guarding staff through day-to-day operations, as well as occasional adjustments, caused confusion and chaos, not only for the officers but often the client, their employees, and guests.
A prospective customer should be able to decipher if the security company is investing in its operational team and providing the resources necessary to deliver upon their promises. Ask how often middle management will visit your site. Can you, as the paying customer, expect weekly, monthly, or quarterly visits? Identify the key performance indicators (KPI) which these leaders will be evaluating during their meetings with the security staff and how their discoveries, both positive and concerning, will be reported to you. These answers set clear expectations for regular interaction between management and the security force as well as standards for the topics which will be covered during quality assurance meetings. With management providing a detailed report of their visits, the customer remains engaged in the security operation and receives assurance that the officers in their facilities are supported, not left alone on an island.
“What are the key components of your compliance program which drive quality assurance and satisfaction?”
How can a prospective customer trust that their security vendor will conduct the duties assigned to them? What assurance can the security provider give to demonstrate that their officers are responsible in completing the post orders as defined by their client?
Many organizations simply rely on “Daily Activity Reports” or DAR, to show what a security officer accomplished during the shift. These reports detail patrol routes, unusual circumstances uncovered, or potential threats which should be addressed. Unfortunately, many security officers fail to complete these forms, as requested, or provide a truthful explanation of their activities. Therefore, the customer is left questioning whether the responsibilities entrusted to the officer have been fulfilled.
The best solution in driving compliance is for collaboration between the customer and the vendor. Initially, this interaction should result in the definition of KPIs which will be tracked and reported. This sets a base expectation from the customer of the officers’ responsibilities and the oversight from management in ensuring these duties are completed on-time, each time. By defining these together, the partnership is forged as the customer clearly defines their expectations and the vendor demonstrates their plan.
Showing how the duties will be accomplished is the result of a compliance program in which senior management is engaged with their staff to ensure they are fulfilling the duties assigned. If security cameras are present, ideally the security vendor will be provided access so “spot checks” can be conducted, infractions identified, and training administered in meeting the customer’s expectations. If technology is not available, the responsibility rests with middle management to conduct random inspections of the security force. During these visits, management can check the details of the DAR, identify potential security gaps, and coach the officers in documenting the KPIs. The outcomes of these visits should be reported to the customer, demonstrating their dedication to fulfilling the quality assurance standards defined at the start of the partnership.
Finally, a security vendor should regularly test their staff to ensure not just that they are completing assigned duties, but that the security program is actually mitigating potential threats. This is done through frequent and consistent testing of employees including standardized observation for compliance, audits to test knowledge, and conducting drills to ensure that the correct response to a security threat is made when presented with a simulated threat, whether a person, item, or scenario.