It was always the most hateful remark that I would hear. “Boy, them guards are dumb. Really stupid. They can’t figure their way out of a paper bag.” My first thought, of course, would be “Them guards?” and now you want to tell me whom is dumb? OY!
Let’s face it. The average guard is not paid well. We see rates that vary from minimum wage to about $11.50 an hour or so on the unarmed side. I think it’s fair to call an average rate at about $9.25. This is a guestimate, but I venture to say reasonably approximate. This piece is not about pay rates per se, although several people will place comments complaining about security guards being poorly paid. The pay rate noted as an average comes to $370.00 a week or $19,240.00 a year.
Too few hours are invested in training. Security guards are trained either by the computer program at a gate house, learning the camera system in a surveillance operation, told briefly how to do a wand tour and routes to follow, etc. Not a lot. Maybe 8 hours if that. That’s what this piece is about.
To be sure, there are companies that have clearly defined programs listed on websites and brochures that show introduction to security, certification and specialized training. Additionally, job sites may request that security have life safety skills such as First Aid, use of an AED or CPR. Other companies have extended tours and massive books for post orders. Still others actually do ongoing training on shift basis right on the job site.
But (yes here comes the but), there are numerous operations that are simply putting a uniform on a warm body, giving them an address and a time to show up and done. The hapless new employee is told the guy going off will show you what to do. New guy shows up, the employee going off shift (who knows little more than the new guy), points to the phone and clip board and waves good night. This is the level and extent of how too many staff get trained. This process gets repeated daily in cities all over. Our industry is filled with uncaring security companies, clients looking for scape goats, and guards who perform their jobs with no basic training. Not being trained on how to fill out a report to who they should call in the event of an emergency. The simple things every guard should know.
Does this sound like a company you have worked with? Does it sound like the company you ARE working with right now? Anybody else hiring in your area?
For many years, I worked in the Convention and special event security industry. One day, I went to a convention center where (darn it) we didn’t get the show. I asked the guard at the door what the name of the show was and his reply, which still echoes in my ears, “Uh, not sure, the National Association of something.” Lack of training.
So what do we need to train the guards about?
Nope, that is not the question to ask now.
Instead, ask: Does the security company want to invest the time and money in training the staff?
If yes, keep reading and know that this choice becomes your key differentiator among your competitors.
Now we can divide this into two parts. The first is what is the standard training that the guard needs to have?
In Florida, this can be handled by many courses offered so that an individual can attain an unarmed security license. That curriculum includes:
- Legal Issues (Liability)
- Basic Emergency First Aid (non-certified by AHA or ARC)
- Emergency Procedures
- Ethics/Professional Conduct
- Access Control (people and vehicles)
- How to Patrol
- Observation and Report writing (3 hours)
- Interviewing Technique
- Fire detection & life safety
- Crime & Accident prevention (technique and practice)
- Crime and Accident scene protection
- Terrorism awareness
- Public Relations
- Courtroom procedures
- Fundamentals of Personal Security
- Interpersonal and Professional Communications
- Traffic Direction
- Crowd Control
- Special problems for Security (4 hours)
- Terrorism Awareness (more)
The total curriculum comes to 40 hours, inclusive of being given information on the legal authority which oversees security activities in the state via Chapter 493 of state Statutes. This is not bad at all. This curriculum offers a basis to give a security officer a working knowledge and awareness of what is expected.
The second aspect of training should involve the application of interpersonal skills in dealing with real life probable situations. Examples? you ask. Happy to oblige.
What does the guard do when the person at the control gate for entry in the guest lane says, “I am not leaving until you let me in. I will just sit here. You better let me in!”
- What does the guard do when driving a patrol in a designated area?
- What does the guard do when they ticket a car for parking violation and the owner comes out with a baseball bat?
- What does the guard do when the pool is closed but the kids won’t leave the pool?
- What does the guard do when a water pipe breaks?
- What does a guard do when a woman is screaming and begs for help down the street from the post?
What DOES the guard do? That’s what training is for!
Oh but this costs money and time and what a headache. Yes, I see your point entirely. I just have some questions.
How much are those untrained security guards really costing you? How many accounts have you lost because your guards were not trained? Bluntly, how much money are you losing right now?
You need to think again about that training. You may be thinking - the guards can figure it out. They will get it. It will work. WRONG! Untrained guards will do it their way. It will be inconsistent and not follow a procedure that is specific to how you want them to perform. Lack of training is why you will hear from your client, “Mandy does access fine but Herbert changes it always. What is the procedure being followed?” Now who looks foolish? It isn’t the guards. Training!
It is incumbent on the part of ownership and management to TRAIN. Thus, ownership has to develop and maintain ongoing training to assist staff in dealing with every day, real life situations that the guards will encounter. This means site checks not just phone calls, virtual hits, etc. It means better trained field supervisors coming and checking posts. It means setting a training regimen which the staff are expected to review and understand. Tip -capture this so that you have a metric of accountability. This means role-playing. We write a lot about this in our blogs, as it is an essential piece of staff education and ensuring consistent, measurable performance.
Training programs can feel daunting to put in place, as a good program has a lot of pieces to put together. Take a deep breath and simply start at the bottom and work up. For example, you expect that staff will know how to work a radio right? Easiest thing in the world. Push the button and talk, let go and listen. Right? Wrong!!!! Many have no idea and have never used such a device or if they have, it was very limited; most learn while part of a large class and probably never even touched the radio. Proper training begins at the beginning and makes no assumption of prior knowledge.
Cut the learning gradient down by making valid investments in your infrastructure. Invest in the right equipment, technology and invest in the right software. For example, the right software should be so easy to use that it gets used. Intuitive software is utilized at the same time the guard is performing his job. So, as your guards are doing their job, and are able to capture the data that you need to assess them and your business. Bonus - now you will have data and reports to validate the great job that you are doing to your Customer. Work with vendors that allow you to leverage their knowledge to your staff. Do they offer online training? Online manuals? Implementation training and ongoing support?
Designate a specific team tasked with creating consistent processes and procedures. Once approved, connect them everywhere. So, when the security guard is faced with an expected, yet out-of-the-ordinary event, he will be able to access your instructions when he needs it. Empowering your guards with knowledge and ability will go very far in achieving your success.
As you move forward, grow your program to include such things as:
- CPR/First Aid and AED certification.
- Security management and criminal justice.
- ASIS and its certification programs. PSP, CPP are great goals and is not only for retired law enforcement.
- Life safety.
- Drug education.
- How to identify odd behaviors, body language.
- The rudiments of investigations.
Finally, connect this professional training to compensation and promotion. Reward those that invest in their profession. What are you doing then? You are taking the hourly employee who has zero light at the end of the tunnel and are developing a professional. Now what does your company look like? What peace of mind does a team of trained professionals give you?
Investing in your staff and elevating them from a warm body in a uniform to a trained guard, is the game changer. Now you have client retention AND referrals. Now you have substantiated value to your rates and a clear differential to your competition. This is very realistic. But in order to realize it, you have to make the commitment. Who’s ready?
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