Effective Employee Incentives for Security Guards

If you are a security business owner and you have issues with your guards slacking off or falling asleep on the job, don’t go for the obvious employee incentives. Turnover rates in your industry are already incredibly high.

Unfortunately, popular culture is not kind to the security officer. Depictions of guards falling asleep on the job, missing the obvious safety threats, and generally having a clueless disposition are rampant in the media.

However, a quick glance at a newspaper is enough to play the heartstrings and understand the importance of security. Certainly, the general public under-appreciates guards for their often monotonous work. Truth be told, many security businesses do face problems with boredom, sleeping on the job, and accountability among their employees.

In any industry where an employee feels subordinate and out of control of his schedule there are issues with accountability. Giving employees a purpose, goals, and as much autonomy as possible to achieve that purpose and meet those goals allows them to be more alert and focused on their job. They more closely “own” their work and can take pride in it. These perks make them feel like people, not workers.

The old go-to employee incentives will not work in the same way. Here’s why.

Employee incentives done the wrong way.

There are two natural reactions an employer has when he or she wants an employee to behave differently: take things away or give them things. It’s the proverbial carrot or stick. Neither foster positive, long term relationships. Neither make the employee feel more appreciated for extended amounts of time.

De-incentivizing your employees widens the gaps between management and managed.

Many employers use negative employee incentives when frustrated with performance. This could be anything from taking away monetary benefits, reassignment to less desirable roles or sites, or random inspections. In the case of security guards, this could mean management walking in mid-shift to make sure an employee is where she is supposed to be.

Holding employees accountable is key to managing a successful security business. There are ways to complete that task, however, without using negative employee incentives.

For instance, using a software system with geo-tracking services is a more transparent way of holding guards accountable. With these services, guards know that they can’t slack off, managers can easily check if they are, and all of this is done without a de-humanizing sense of babysitting.

It’s all about expectation-setting, as well. Making this kind of oversight part of the recruiting and hiring process works wonders in bringing a security business higher-quality candidates. Higher-quality candidates and staff have a wonderful way of reinforcing and strengthening company culture, and bolstering a security company’s reputation.

Short-term incentives might be fun, but only work short-term.

Throwing parties, organizing giveaways, passing out gift certificates as rewards: these are all wonderfully fun things but will not work as employee incentives. Handing out a prize every three months when employees need motivation is not a sustainable model to bring down employee turnover, but it can benefit company culture. A friendly environment should not be an incentive, but the given mode of operation.

The most effective way to build community is also the most simple: provide space for employees to interact with each other.

The biggest roadblock to bringing fellow employees together is that guards almost always work alone and therefore hardly ever see their teammates.

Not only do they usually work alone, but guards can also be separated by rank. This separation is embedded in the security industry, mostly for the simple reason that certain clients require different types of security.

Any effort that brings guards together, including of different rank, decreases employee turnover rates through a sense of belonging and community. For instance, civilian based service guards who meet and interact with dedicated law-enforcement are more likely to motivate themselves to move up in their careers. Likewise, more seasoned guards and officers may feel reinforced in their duties when they meet newer recruits who may view them as role models that benefit from their support. Finally, providing a sense of upward mobility and opportunity can make a positive impact on turnover.

Beyond the idea of inspiring guards of different ranks, simply seeing another guard and having the opportunity to chat about the daily grind will decrease employee dissatisfaction. No one wants to feel like they’re the only one working hard…or at all.

These simple interactions may happen briefly before or after shifts, but be intentional about ensuring a space and structure where interactions can happen outside routine duties. Doing so can have profound effects when tied with long term employee incentives like the examples that follow.

Thinking outside the box: employee incentives that actually work for security guards.

The first should be obvious, but security employers fear it nonetheless: cure your guard’s boredom by assigning them clear tasks. These tasks can have the dual purpose of engaging your guards, while bringing more value to your clients.

Once an hour give him a task to complete while onsite. Work with your clients on what makes sense for the service location. This could be making an appearance for tenants in the community center, calling in a safety report, making note of maintenance needs and concerns, checking electrical or alarm systems, anything that drives engagement and proves coverage and the value of your security service. Make sure that your guard has routine assigned tasks that transcend mere busywork. This will give him a feeling of accomplishment, something walking in circles or standing around can’t do.

Using software can help assist in these types of activities. Choose a software where you can upload post-orders, instructions, and curate the types of things that your officer will likely encounter, along with their responses.

This, along with creating long-term positive incentives will let the guard know he is valued. As to what the long term incentives are, this is up to you.

Shea Degan, founder of Signal 88 Security, had the brilliant idea of helping his guards advance their careers into law-enforcement through his extensive network of relationships with local and regional agencies. This personalized program allowed his guards to move up in their careers to patrol officers or managerial positions, and, eventually, on to police academy and active duty law-enforcement.

Or maybe your guard has other career goals. Get to know them personally through weekly meetings and find ways to help them attain the specialized education they need. Give them autonomy over their hours to accommodate school and family time.

People should want to work for you.

Build community through social events. Assign extra tasks that give guards a sense of purpose in the daily grind. Let your employees know that you care about their career growth. Give them options for education and savings, and promote an environment that lets them interact with and learn from their peers.

Security work can be very isolating. The very nature of the job sometimes demands solitude. Be mindful of this and the effect that it can have on the morale of your guard force. Understanding how this detachment works against a sense of community can give you cues into how to build in more opportunities for guards to connect with one another.

This will set you apart from others. This will bring you a stronger team. Break the security guard stereotype. Implement long term employee incentives for personal growth in your security business.

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