By Mike Bowles

The pandemic crisis of 2020-21 has challenged us all in many ways. And, the private security industry has faced its own unique struggles, changing the way we approach the most basic protocols, processes, and use of technology. Many of these changes will likely be in place for the foreseeable future. Top Guard has certainly learned to evolve with the times to create safer, more effective security operations for our customers and employees. In a broad sense, here are some of the more critical challenges Top Guard has tackled head on throughout this crisis:

Recruiting and Employee Turnover

Despite challenges on many fronts, the most significant are associated with hiring and turnover. In an industry where vying for higher wages has been a struggle for years, the pandemic has only magnified the problem. Not only is it hard to find good talent and retain those employees in the private security sector, but other industries are raising competitive wages to fill open positions, many less strenuous, and therefore more attractive to an individual seeking employment. Couple this reality with record unemployment and the economic downturn, and we find ourselves under continuous pressure to find new and creative methods to stabilize our workforce. In today’s competitive labor market, employee turnover is a real threat to the hard work we put into recruitment. More than ever, our recruiters are taking the time and effort to consider whether the candidates we recruit will stay with Top Guard long-term. Turnover is both expensive and detrimental to team morale, and we are frequently evolving our approach to keep it under control. Up to 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days, but roughly 70% of employees who had a great onboarding experience are likely to stay with a company for at least three years. Following the recruitment process, Top Guard makes every effort to set new hires up for long-term employment with a great employee onboarding experience. Top Guard strongly encourages employee referrals on a consistent basis. Our best performing employees intuitively know who in their networks would be a great fit for Top Guard, and often assist their referred hires settle in and become successful, helping them stay longer.

Health and Safety Protocols

With so many changes to processes and guidelines for a safe operation within the average business, companies are struggling to not only keep up with the guidelines, but also effectively implement procedures and training for their team, and ours, to enforce them. Beyond the actual processes themselves is the ability to operate effectively while maintaining a paperless and contactless operation. Top Guard is continuously searching for the best methods and technologies in this regard to serve our customers. Our pursuant objective with our own employees continues to be training and education in response to COVID-19, providing our employees with safe practices and examples, concrete steps for intervention, and tactical action checklists. Given that most security programs are now operating in completely different environments and mindsets, we have had to adjust incident response plans and protocols. Even incidents that would normally be well-managed risks can become bigger issues if our security teams can’t respond effectively. Ensuring that monitoring tools and capabilities are providing maximum visibility have been hallmark. Consistent oversight has been a priority to make sure security officers are adapting to monitoring and logs in a manner that makes sense for the new operating landscape.

Compliance Risk and Liability

With the pandemic creating a consistent measure of anxiety, our employees in the field have understandably been concerned about risk. Frequent concerns about wage and labor issues, hazard pay, and more, have been voiced by our employees and addressed appropriately. Top Guard has been especially concerned with worker safety and regulation compliance in these exceptional times. Having proper documentation, traceability, and written safety protocols to ensure compliance has been key. To keep our businesses viable during this crisis, our risk managers and compliance officers have drawn on their skills and knowledge to make the best decisions they can with limited information. Federal and state directives—most notably social distancing—are impacting both customers and our own employees. The lack of transparency with customers and employees is of great concern, both out of fear that people will take shortcuts and that there is an unprecedented environment for unethical behavior. Remote work and the cessation of travel has impacted core compliance processes that were formerly hands-on, such as investigations, reporting concerns, monitoring and auditing, and in-person training.

Top Guard/Customer Relationships

Efforts to retain customer business have often presented unique challenges, but as some businesses continue to remain shut down or reduce operations, customer turnover in the physical security industry is greater than ever before. Even those struggling customers who keep their security contracts in play, often make delayed payments in order to support their core business operations first. It is not uncommon for customers to delay payment of invoices to pay their own employees or vendors who provide them with critical goods first. Private security firms are often dealing with slow receivables and are relying on credit to keep up with business operations. Top Guard has always understood that no two customers are the same and that cultivating an understanding of their needs guarantees longer-lasting relationships. This pandemic climate has underscored patience, understanding, and commitment to partnerships. Businesses that run on the basis of core fundamental principles, know their customers well, and maintain a close relationship with them can survive any crisis, provided they also stay nimble and adapt to shifting forces.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our everyday lives upside down. It has created fear, uncertainty, financial shockwaves, and massive loss of life. But some things haven’t changed. The basic principles of doing business successfully, maintaining company culture, and ethically, remain a rock-solid foundation for Top Guard during these turbulent times.

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