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  • A hard look at major contract security.

    Several officers on this forum, including myself, work for large contract security companies. It's common to hear complaints that many of the security officers employed by such companies leave much to be desired. Why is that? Some of the reasons are listed below:

    * Low pay/no or substandard benefits
    * High turn over
    * Inadequate training
    * Poorly educated/unmotivated employees
    * Morale issues
    * Management that understands sales better than security services
    * Clients who contract with the lowest bidder supposedly to save money, and because insurance requires 24/7 security before issuing coverage

    * Clients who insist on value added services that are not security related

    I'm sure that there are other reasons too. Of course, there are security officers employed by such companies that are conscientious and strive to set the example of what a professional security officer should be. Unfortunately, it seems to be a losing battle. In fact, you're more likely to be terminated if you are conscientious because so many clients simply want a security presence, not a proactive officer who enforces the post orders or documents security and safety problems that should be corrected. Security companies that sacrifice the security officer who does what is right rather than lose the client by backing up the officer, further compound this problem.

    Is there a solution? If so, what is it and how can security contractors be compelled to accept the solution(s)?
    Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

  • #2
    In the short time I've been in security I've worked for 2 contract security companies. The first one is one of the largest in the US and has branches all over the world. They also tend to get these big contracts by underbidding other companies. The benefits with that company were awful and most of the employees were poorly trained and barely employable.

    I'm now with another contract company. This one is much smaller but has some high profile accounts and is growing. They're also more selective about who they hire and try to put their best people on the bigger more important accounts, though there's always the few warm bodies that just want to collect a paycheck. The company is owned and run by ex-law enforcement and offers excellent benefits/training (depending on the client) and decent pay (though of course it could always be better).

    The account I'm now working at also use to belong to my previous company. Some of these contract companies have a habit of growing too quickly, hiring anyone to fill the shifts, then later lose the accounts.

    Comment


    • #3
      So I work for a large company, and they're about to lose the account I'm at. I just wrote a letter to the branch manager explaining why no one stays at the account... he thought it was brilliant. Will anything be done about it? I do not know. Should I attempt to do more than that letter? I don't get paid to do that. That's what the branch manager get paid 60K a year to do, save contracts. The manager actually told me he was going to try to get raises for everyone, managers don't realize it's not about the money at this point. Everyone thinks they can fix things by throwing money at it, there comes a point where that won't work. Try applying Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, true leadership, and listening to your employees.......

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Mr. Security
        Several officers on this forum, including myself, work for large contract security companies. It's common to hear complaints that many of the security officers employed by such companies leave much to be desired. Why is that? Some of the reasons are listed below:
        I'm gonna put my thoughts to the billet points.
        * Low pay/no or substandard benefits
        Security companies require profit. The easiest way to generate acceptable levels of profit is to minimize expenses. Employee payroll is one of the largest expenses, and one of the easiest to minimize. There will always be someone who "understands" the fantasy portrayal of the "security guard," in which they are responsible for watching things, writing them down, and sleeping.

        This attracts the low wage worker who does not want to do anything, really. This is just fine to the company, as it does not require to expend that much money on the worker. Its understood that if they show up, keep awake when someone's around, and attempt to fill the log out - everything is fine.

        * High turn over
        Many people become bored with security work, figure out that its not for them, encounter stressors, or find "a real job." Stressors usually include internal politics at the company, client politics, having to take abuse from the public, etc.

        * Inadequate training
        The larger companies will argue that there is no inadequate training, and that their training methods are top notch. They are, for untrained observation and reporting events into the log. To train employees in more, such as conflict resolution and other things (not even protection or enforcement, merely getting away) is time and money they don't have to spend. After all, the guard confronted someone, and therefore is in violation of company policy, so their worker's comp claim is invalid.

        * Poorly educated/unmotivated employees
        This is the folks they want. The ones who will walk around, hit key clocks, feel real fear for missing a key clock hit by 1 minute, don't ask questions of their supervisors, don't question company policy, and are easily replacable if they do or don't do things.

        * Morale issues
        You make more money working at McDonalds. People dislike you for both your profession and the sense of quazi-authority that makes them almost feel the need to curb their activities near you. Your client doesn't understand what you're there for, and your company understands its to make them money. Wouldn't you have a morale issue to?

        * Management that understands sales better than security services
        Its fine to have salesmen in management. We call them sales managers. However, with the easier route of simply combining supervision, management, and sales, you get salesmen guard supervisors and salesmen account managers. Their primary and sole function is to sell the company to the client from bid to renewal. Actual security services are secondary, sell the company, get the money.

        * Clients who contract with the lowest bidder supposedly to save money, and because insurance requires 24/7 security before issuing coverage
        Nothing you can do about these folks except attempt to educate them. But if they're going with the lowest bid, they're after paper protection.

        * Clients who insist on value added services that are not security related
        This makes sense to the client, after all, "Security doesn't do anything." Proving a negative is hard, so companies go after proving positives.

        I'm sure that there are other reasons too. Of course, there are security officers employed by such companies that are conscientious and strive to set the example of what a professional security officer should be. Unfortunately, it seems to be a losing battle. In fact, you're more likely to be terminated if you are conscientious because so many clients simply want a security presence, not a proactive officer who enforces the post orders or documents security and safety problems that should be corrected. Security companies that sacrifice the security officer who does what is right rather than lose the client by backing up the officer, further compound this problem.

        Is there a solution? If so, what is it and how can security contractors be compelled to accept the solution(s)?
        The guard doesn't make them money. The client does.
        Some Kind of Commando Leader

        "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

        Comment


        • #5
          N. A. Corbier hits the nail on the head with the above post.

          The industry survives (thrives) on the back of low wage earning, poorly trained and unmotivated employees. If you are currently employed by or have ever worked for a contract company, look around, how many people are re-deployed/fired based on when they become a "trouble employee".

          This includes, among other things, the following:

          1) You "question" your supervisors/managers about certain company policies or start talk of pay rate hikes. Don't even think of mentioning labor-related issues (unions, back pay).

          2) An employee is motivated and viewed by a site/event supervisor/manager as threat to his/her own job security. I have seen this happen several times at sites/events that I have worked.

          3) Simply showing too much initiative can put you at risk. I worked at a site where we had an extra hyper keener who "took the ball and ran with it" thinking he would "get ahead". He would attempt to re-write site orders and play supervisor on his shift (a night shift with only him and one other S/O). This only went on for a few shifts before the S/S buried him forever.... That was five years ago and I see that the keener is still guarding mud piles!

          Just my $0.02 (albeit Canadian funds)
          ========================================
          Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out! - Unknown

          Comment


          • #6
            At the hospital I work at we have contract officers who work with our in-house security department. The first year I worked at the hospital (before going in-house) I worked as a contract officer for the company that had the contract at the time (since changed). For the last eight months I was a contract officer I was the companies site lead on the account. In those eight months I terminated 17 of the officers sent out by the company to work the site - for a wide variety of reasons. The bottom line is that the officers sent to me fell into the poorly educated/unmotivated group described by N.A.

            Take for instance the female officer assigned to day shift in our parking garage. After getting a complaint that she watched a woman park, get out of her car and gain entry to the car next to her (a possible auto burglary you say?) she (officer) took absolutely NO action. This happened 20 feet from her, in her direct line of site. I reviewed the security camera footage and sure enough could watch the whole thing as described to me. So I questioned the officer and she said nothing happened. Turns out she lied (obviously) and when I confronted her with the camera footage she explained it away by saying she never saw it because she was spending the morning sitting on a bench watchng the clouds pass by!

            Another one I fired because she was using the security golf cart to practice her power slides and 360 degree turns on the top floor of the garage one fine morning.

            I could go on.....and on. Granted the pay wasn't great (9 AH) but it was higher than most of the other sites the company had contracts with. It drove me crazy many days (maybe why I passed the psych so well for in-house )

            It is very hard to get a better quality officer at low rates, with no bennies, and little to no training or understanding what they're getting into.

            Oh by the way, it wasn't an auto burg - the car belonged to the ladies' mother and she was meeting her mother to go to lunch with her.
            Last edited by aka Bull; 05-22-2006, 12:43 PM.
            "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -Aristotle

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by aphilpot
              N. A. Corbier hits the nail on the head with the above post.

              The industry survives (thrives) on the back of low wage earning, poorly trained and unmotivated employees. If you are currently employed by or have ever worked for a contract company, look around, how many people are re-deployed/fired based on when they become a "trouble employee".

              This includes, among other things, the following:

              1) You "question" your supervisors/managers about certain company policies or start talk of pay rate hikes. Don't even think of mentioning labor-related issues (unions, back pay).

              2) An employee is motivated and viewed by a site/event supervisor/manager as threat to his/her own job security. I have seen this happen several times at sites/events that I have worked.

              3) Simply showing too much initiative can put you at risk. I worked at a site where we had an extra hyper keener who "took the ball and ran with it" thinking he would "get ahead". He would attempt to re-write site orders and play supervisor on his shift (a night shift with only him and one other S/O). This only went on for a few shifts before the S/S buried him forever.... That was five years ago and I see that the keener is still guarding mud piles!

              Just my $0.02 (albeit Canadian funds)
              This doesn't only happen in contract security. It happens in-house too. After working 11 years at the hotel the 70+ year old Security Director became paranoid that with him getting up in age & me showing a lot of inititive (sp?) he thought I was after his job. There was another Officer he was also afraid of. She had less than 5 years experience. She was fired. Luckly for me we have a very strong labour law in Quebec. After 5 years it is almost impossible to fire someone if they have not committed a very serious offence. He tried to force me to quit by sending me to one of the hotels by the airport & put me on the overnight shift etc etc but I stuck it out until he died!
              I enforce rules and regulations, not laws.
              Security Officers. The 1st First Responders.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by HotelSecurity
                This doesn't only happen in contract security. It happens in-house too. After working 11 years at the hotel the 70+ year old Security Director became paranoid that with him getting up in age & me showing a lot of inititive (sp?) he thought I was after his job. There was another Officer he was also afraid of. She had less than 5 years experience. She was fired. Luckly for me we have a very strong labour law in Quebec. After 5 years it is almost impossible to fire someone if they have not committed a very serious offence. He tried to force me to quit by sending me to one of the hotels by the airport & put me on the overnight shift etc etc but I stuck it out until he died!
                Unreal. Pretty sad when you have to outlive someone because your viewed as a threat.
                ========================================
                Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out! - Unknown

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by aphilpot
                  Unreal. Pretty sad when you have to outlive someone because your viewed as a threat.
                  I think we killed him actually! He was paranoid about a 3rd person who he was able to get rid of. This person got a job working directly for the owner of the hotel. He became corporate Director of Security. The old man was ordered to report to him. He called in sick the next day & died a month later J-U-S-T-I-C-E.
                  I enforce rules and regulations, not laws.
                  Security Officers. The 1st First Responders.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by aphilpot
                    Unreal. Pretty sad when you have to outlive someone because your viewed as a threat.
                    I took a part-time job with a company just to learn the ropes of corporate security. I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I followed the SOPs and post orders and wrote up those things constituting security and safety hazards. I was moved from place to place and continued in that vein until offered another civil service job in Georgia.
                    Since I was part-time, they did not fire me, just moved me around a lot. I learned a lot and have to the best of my ability used those experiences in fashioning the security guide I use.
                    Posts in this forum have also played an important role in the guide and in separate stand-alone articles posted. For that I am grateful. These are in a binder I take with me on various surveys.
                    Nathan, when travel takes me to Wisconsin, I shall treat you and your companion to a steak dinner. There shall be other invitees as well as I travel.
                    Enjoy the day,
                    Bill

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Logged and filed, Bill. Thanks.

                      You know, we have great stories about how we're all right on this. You wanna know the best part? The reason that companies can succeed in the niche market is because we are right about this.

                      For every 100 security companies that are warm-body, there is one that does everything "wrong" by warm-body standards. The objective, of course, is to patronize that one. Now, this one company may be run by an insane person, may be full of wack-jobs who want to run their own private army, etc.

                      The only downside to searching for these niche market companies to work for is that job searching doesn't pay the bills.
                      Some Kind of Commando Leader

                      "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        More Comments Requested.

                        Based on the comments above, it’s clear that most s/o's agree with the problems that I listed. However, the most important part of this thread has not been addressed:

                        * Is there a solution? If so, what is it and how can security contractors be compelled to accept the solution(s)?

                        I welcome your thoughts on this part of the issue.
                        Security: Freedom from fear; danger; safe; a feeling of well-being. (Webster's)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mr. Security
                          Based on the comments above, it’s clear that most s/o's agree with the problems that I listed. However, the most important part of this thread has not been addressed:

                          * Is there a solution? If so, what is it and how can security contractors be compelled to accept the solution(s)?

                          I welcome your thoughts on this part of the issue.
                          An excellent quesion Mr. Security. One of the big reasons I joined this discussion board was to get an understanding of the general state of the security field overall.

                          Colorado has no state level regulation of security officers. Some cities have municiple regulations. Colorado Springs charges $130 for a guard license for the first year with renewal costing over $100; requires an 8 hour class for unarmed officers, with an additional weapons class for armed - all at your expense of course. This regulation applies to contract security officers - as a proprietary officer I am not subject to these regulations.

                          The only initial thought as to a solution I've come up with would be a national level association of officers bent on improving the field by standardizing many of the requirements for working in the field; training; legislation to improve the abilities, capabilities, expectations in the states; etc.... While there are groups like ASIS and IAHSS, I feel they are geared to security from the management level, not the "trenches" level.

                          I see several downsides to this solution however. 1) Getting officers involved (as there are a lot of people working security only as a temp job), 2) Gaining acceptance from the many, many security companies or businesses that have proprietary officers, 3) The wide range of types of security involved, 4) Gaining acceptance by politicians that such a group wields the strength to be paid attention to, 4) Gaining acceptance by the clients that this would increase the costs of services, and 5) The fact that it would be a long road to build such an organization.

                          Sorry, a bit long winded on my part, but the subject is not a small one.

                          "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -Aristotle

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            This is my problem with ASIS: ASIS is squarely a security (insert one of several titles including manager, integrator, installer) society. They work with technical and physical (alarm) dealers now. It is no place for a security employee.

                            ASIS has some recomendations, but lets face it, if ASIS starts saying "Minimum rules for security on a national level," they will fly directly in the face of their membership who is saying, "We don't need that, because our internal training programs produce exactly what we need them to. Low cost employees with moderate to high return on investment." Imagine the ROI when you start making everyone take a few thousand dollars of training like a professional does.

                            IFPO has some training standards, however, most of them are geared to their CPO program and beyond. They push for companies to voluntarily accept this training, but they know better than to demand the government use it.

                            SEIU is trying to lobby for training, however, its the same standard of training that you get in say... Florida or California, and its the SEIU doing the training. Which means that only union clients and union guards get the training, as a condition of being a union job.

                            What needs to happen, unfortunately, is that the workers themselves have to be allied with the "public at large," and demand higher standards of training. Then, they have to figure out a reason why they should recieve this training that doesn't irk the National Faternal Order of Police; as well as Group4Everything. Only then are legislators going to care enough to start drafting bills at the federal level, annoying the important people in the industry, as well as the police lobby.

                            Yes, that's their new name. Group4Everything.
                            Some Kind of Commando Leader

                            "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by N. A. Corbier
                              This is my problem with ASIS: ASIS is squarely a security (insert one of several titles including manager, integrator, installer) society. They work with technical and physical (alarm) dealers now. It is no place for a security employee.

                              ASIS has some recomendations, but lets face it, if ASIS starts saying "Minimum rules for security on a national level," they will fly directly in the face of their membership who is saying, "We don't need that, because our internal training programs produce exactly what we need them to. Low cost employees with moderate to high return on investment." Imagine the ROI when you start making everyone take a few thousand dollars of training like a professional does.

                              IFPO has some training standards, however, most of them are geared to their CPO program and beyond. They push for companies to voluntarily accept this training, but they know better than to demand the government use it.

                              SEIU is trying to lobby for training, however, its the same standard of training that you get in say... Florida or California, and its the SEIU doing the training. Which means that only union clients and union guards get the training, as a condition of being a union job.

                              What needs to happen, unfortunately, is that the workers themselves have to be allied with the "public at large," and demand higher standards of training. Then, they have to figure out a reason why they should recieve this training that doesn't irk the National Faternal Order of Police; as well as Group4Everything. Only then are legislators going to care enough to start drafting bills at the federal level, annoying the important people in the industry, as well as the police lobby.

                              Yes, that's their new name. Group4Everything.
                              N.A. I completely agree with your comments on ASIS, SEIU, IFPO. I can't see those organizations working for the officer's professional development. They have their own interests and wouldn't like anyone walking on their "turf". It would be an alley fight over it.

                              Saying that I come to what the FoP and other police organizations could scream about. They lose already on some issues as security officers get training in defensive tactics, weapons (ASP, Taser, OC, etc) and work to learn skills for verbal de-escalation, basic legal requirements and such. If they wanted to yell I feel, and please I hope others wade in on this thought, it would be if they felt their status and authority as peace officers was being tromped on - say like expanded powers off the job site - in general.

                              Security business providers, and clients, wouldn't be happy due to the increased costs of employing a better trained, equipped, educated, motivated, professional security officer. Certainly officers would demand more/better compensation for their work (and, from some of the posts I have read - deserve that now).

                              Only an organization focusing on the officer level, the grunt, that has no commercial self-interest (contracting security services, alarms, etc...) aiming at increasing/improving/professionalizing the security field operatives (whether they be uniformed, investigative, loss prevention, hospital, pick the area) may stand a chance of, in the long run, succeeding.

                              I could be wrong, just how it appears to me at the moment. Either way, it's a rats nest you'd be digging into.
                              Last edited by aka Bull; 05-24-2006, 04:46 PM.
                              "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -Aristotle

                              Comment

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