Do you expect security guarding companies to have solid management and supervisory systems in place, and the resources to fulfil them? Often, this is the case, but there are exceptions. Derek Tyrrell, Sales Director, Secure Site UK, looks at the increasing trend for lower cost, higher risk ‘security’ and explains how the right effort and investment pays dividends, for providers and customers alike…
Disturbing trends in guarding provision
Recently, I’ve observed a trend for guarding ‘companies’ to bid on price alone, having cut everything else down to the bare minimum. Only last week, a prospective customer enquiring about guarding claimed to be able to hire guards for £10.25 per hour. It wasn’t until I mentioned the £8.21 per hour minimum wage from April (and let’s not forget the 76p per hour for National Insurance) that their response was “Well, how can they charge that low?” Exactly! This based on the assumption they are paying guards the minimum wage, of course.
I’ve also seen a significant rise in ‘one-man-band’ guarding companies – most-likely with little experience and a lack of flexibility to cover sites should guards be off-sick. Or, worse still, providing guards prepared/forced to work back-to-back shifts. Little wonder guarding has such a poor reputation and is renowned for guards sleeping during the night!
Time, effort and investment is required
I believe that there’s the potential for a great guard in most, but this requires emphasis on looking after guards from the outset. It’s hard to be motivated if you’re badly paid, work all hours and are never supervised. In contrast, it pays dividends when guards and sites are properly managed and supervised, because guards feel valued and, in turn, value their assignment.
Supervising guards for additional benefits
Experienced providers appreciate the importance of employing a team of supervisors to visit all guarding sites on a regular, random basis. Supervisors should check guards’ performance levels, learn of site changes necessitating assignment alterations, and spot security risks to alert clients to.
The right blend of teamwork and technology
All guards should be equipped with smartphones enabling them to book-on and off their shifts via a reliable app – ideally featuring geo-fenced QR codes so they can only do so within a permitted radius of the site (not from a local coffee shop!).
Apps used should also meet lone-worker requirements via hourly check-calls, deliver SOS functionality (with immediate escalation to supervisors and managers if check-calls are missed or an emergency arises) and enable patrol routes to confirm that locations, site offices, gates and compounds are checked in accordance with assignment instructions.
Lower cost, higher risk
Guarding is often regarded as a ‘necessary evil’ or an ‘unexpected cost’, so hiring guards as cheaply as possible can appear to make it less ‘painful’. However, cutting corners means cutting support, and then you’re in the ‘hospital gown’ situation: where you only think that you’re covered!
So, who wins?
Everyone! Guards are happy and sites are well protected, meaning clients are happy and we, as a guarding provider, benefit from guard loyalty; virtually non-existent sickness and a steady stream of new guards wanting to join our ranks. But guard supervision and a back-up team, using proven technology and processes, takes time to develop and requires serious investment. But it’s worth it.