Written by Mike Bowles
Erratic attendance trends have plagued private security for much of my 35 years in the industry. I’m confident this plight existed well before my arrival and will remain upon my departure. To make matters more frustrating, recent statistics suggest that the number of security officers who call off sick (when they’re actually not) is close to a staggering 50%!
Here’s a common scenario:
An officer calls off less than an hour before assigned duty due to “not feeling well.” The week prior, said officer was 2 hours late due to being confused as to their schedule (despite informing dispatch they’d be only 15-20 minutes late). In reviewing attendance logs, it turns out the officer had a history of calling off for any number or reasons related to childcare, transportation, medical and dental appointments, creative personal issues, and even multiple deaths to the same family member (this one always strikes me as bad karma). In the private security industry, this situation or something similar, is a steady reflection of reality (and becoming a bigger problem now more than ever). While it is critically important to be sympathetic to employees during times of distress (some things just can’t be avoided), there is no excuse for consistently poor attendance. Accountability is extremely important, as all officers are expected to respect the time of others on the team who are dedicated to professionally reporting to work, on time, every day.
To set the stage for higher expectations, each new officer Top Guard hires agrees to an outline of specific rules, actions and outcomes for poor attendance. The purpose of this outline, especially in a para-military service industry like ours, is to communicate clearly the procedures that must be followed and the documentation required with regards to requesting time off. Top Guard clearly defines what constitutes scheduled and unscheduled absences, how attendance will be tracked, and the strict standards for attendance. This is the foundation used to determine the scope of disciplinary action and avoid any future confusion. Every new officer is provided with a copy of Top Guard’s attendance policy for reference and is required to sign off on its terms of agreement. Attendance is a strong reflection of ethics at work. If Top Guard failed to address chronic absenteeism successfully, it would send the message to employees that we do not prioritize ethics in general, nor do we uphold punctuality as a value-added soft skill. There is little wiggle room to abuse the system. By the same token, Top Guard strives to incentivize our officers by recognizing and rewarding excellent performance pursuant to a record of outstanding attendance and punctuality.
Top Guard now has the unenviable task of managing security officer absenteeism through the Covid-19 Pandemic. It seems that no one in the private security industry is immune the impact. Poor attendance places challenging burdens on our executive management support team and the vast majority of reliable Top Guard security officers who continue to dedicate themselves to their essential duties every day. The stress of reassigning tasks and the adverse effects rampant absenteeism has a company’s productivity are realities we simply cannot afford.
Currently, the firm is investing seven times the recruiting budget from 2019, part of undertaking the most concerted effort in company history to both over-hire and train a contingency workforce. This will effectively place us in the position to terminate poorly performing officers more quickly, as well as fortify employee morale and the overall value of our employee base. Having a “reserve” pool of employees will drastically lower our overtime expenditures, permitting Top Guard to reallocate funds into the vigorous training of new hire support staff. Top Guard’s primary focus is in reducing any unacceptable demands on our high performing officers, as well as keeping our management team focused on providing adequate direction and feedback to our clients and officers. Cancelling meetings, ignoring emails, or failing to properly communicate expectations or give due respect to every aspect of our operation is the residual effect of having staffing/attendance problems. This is fallout that is not only unacceptable, but diametrically opposed to Top Guard’s service first business model.
To so many of our amazing security officers who consistently show up professionally as scheduled, and provide excellent service each and every day, we salute YOU. Top Guard not only benefits from your service and commitment, but you continue to set a benchmark for customer service in our industry.