One of the greatest challenges for any security director is finding and retaining the right people to fill security positions. The keys to success are to know how to attract and interview candidates and then how to engender loyalty among those who join the team. ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
One of the greatest challenges for any security director is finding and retaining the right people to fill security positions. The keys to success are to know how to attract and interview candidates and then how to engender loyalty among those who join the team. Also important is how to handle the employees who do decide to leave for other opportunities.
The first step is recruitment. Many companies will constantly look for good candidates and accept résumés for future openings at all times. Useful means of getting the word out about both general and specific opportunities at the company include advertising, employee referrals, and job fairs. No matter the format, it helps to be forthcoming with details if a specific position is open. The more specific you are, the more likely it is that the candidates who respond will be a good fit.
Advertising. Ads can be placed in print publications or online. Online sites are increasingly useful as a supplement to or substitute for newspaper ads. Some specialize by industry and can help the company reach a target candidate pool.
Managers should have sample advertisements ready for when positions become available. These ads should be updated to fit the specifics when the time arises for them to be placed. The ad should describe the requirements, including experience, training, education, and language credentials. In addition, managers should always ask for salary history or salary requirements. Many ads leave out information such as salary and whether there will be relocation expense reimbursement. If these requirements are not made clear up front, a security manager may find a great candidate and then discover that the applicant is not within the budget. This is especially important for companies with offices across the country or for multinationals and for situations where the hiring manager has limited flexibility with regard to starting salary.
Salaries differ greatly in different parts of the world. For upper level positions, if the company is willing to pay any relocation expenses or offer any bonuses, incentives, or promotional opportunities, the ad should mention this. Such details could make a difference to an applicant who has several opportunities and may encourage better candidates to apply.
The use of newspapers or online ads is more common for entry level openings, but for more advanced positions that involved specific requirements or expectations, managers should use trade magazines (many of which also have online job boards). For senior-level personnel, companies may want to consider professional recruiters as they will usually do the prescreening and background checks in addition to setting up appointments.
Referrals. Offering employees an incentive for referrals is becoming a standard practice in the security industry. Companies that pay employee referrals must keep in mind that there has to be a clear, written agreement as to how much the referral bonus is and when it will be paid. If there is a time frame, it should be spelled out. For example, most companies require that a referred employee complete the 60 to 90 day trial period before a bonus is paid.
Job fairs. A great resource for recruiting and hiring personnel is the job fair. Security managers can host a booth or table to hand out brochures and applications and talk with prospective candidates. Keep in mind that many companies may be after the same individuals, and managers must seek ways to set themselves apart or demonstrate why they represent a superior company.
It is customary to have interested candidates complete job applications on the spot at job fairs, but some applicants want to send a résumé at a later time. In these cases, ask that a cover letter be sent as well. It is important that the company reply to all those applicants who have submitted résumés. This task can be delegated to an assistant or someone who is familiar with the company’s process; it need not be done by the security manager.
HR involvement. Many companies use their personnel or HR departments to make the first cut on entry-level positions as it is fairly straightforward to assess whether candidates meet the requirements for these positions. However, even if HR is not directly involved, the department should be made aware of the opening and asked if it knows of any candidates who have applied in the past and may now quality for a current opening that wasn’t available previously. HR can also keep security managers abreast of all the current employment laws and regulations. HR will ultimately be involved in the actual processing of the new employee as well.
Interviews. Whether the first interviews are set up by HR or the security department, the most successful interview process involves many people to get multiple perspectives on the candidate’s viability. This process could include representatives from HR, finance, training, operations, and administration. Different perspectives will help determine not only the applicant’s potential for doing the job but also how well he or she may interact with the current staff. Departments asked to participate in the interview process should submit a written recommendation regarding the applicant, including perceived strengths and weaknesses and a recommendation about hiring. Although it will ultimately be the security director’s decision, this type of feedback from others in the organization can be helpful.
Once a final candidate has been selected, the company can then make sure that person is properly vetted to ensure that their background is what they present it to be and that there are no hidden skeletons. The security director should work with HR to ensure that all applicable employment laws are followed throughout this process.
After a company invests so much time and money to find the right candidate for a position, it should also take steps to retain that person. Obviously a wage that meets or exceeds that offered by comparable companies in the area is one important factor, but money isn’t everything. Employees also care about how they are treated and whether they have a career path.
With that in mind, the security director should take time to talk with staff on a regular basis to let them know that they are appreciated, to ascertain the general level of morale, and to hear firsthand about any problems that might be cause for staff dissatisfaction. The director might consider whether there are formal ways to recognize and reward good employee performance.
Promotions. One way to reward and retain the best among the staff, of course, is to offer a career path and to promote from within when possible. This tactic sends a positive message to all employees. As soon as a position becomes vacant, managers should post the opening internally. The posting should clearly state the job description, any special training or requirements, salary, hours, and when the position is to be filled. After the opening is posted, managers should accept résumés from interested employees and conduct interviews with every applicant.
Employees who are not accepted must be informed in a timely manner as to why they did not qualify and what they might do to improve their future prospects for promotion. Managers should never leave an employee wondering why he or she was not promoted.
Hiring from within raises other issues that should be addressed. For example, as managers interview in-house employees, they must be clear that anyone who is being considered may have to wait until a replacement is hired before they can transfer into the new position. Also, managers must stress that the employee may be required to train his or her replacement.
Departing staff. In some instances, despite the best efforts of the company, employees will choose to leave. If the company allows an employee to continue to work after notice has been given, managers should be as cordial with the departing employee as possible. Managers should let the departing employee know that the company wishes them well and should point out the company’s return policy if the company is one that allows former employees to come back, providing that they leave on good terms and that there is an opening for them. Making sure that the relations with the departing employee are positive sets a good example for all remaining employees, showing that the company cares about them and their future, even when it takes them elsewhere. (If, however, the departing employee is not doing the work required or appears to be hurting morale with negative talk, the company may have to ask him or her to leave before the notice period ends.)
Problem staff. Some staff will not be up to the job. How a manager handles a problem employee can also affect department morale and turnover. One of the more difficult decisions managers must make is to replace existing personnel. It is always better to try and salvage an employee if possible. When an employee fails to perform or has become disruptive, managers should try to change the attitude, give more training, or find out what the issue is and correct the problem if possible. If the situation is beyond repair, or if the employee might be dangerous, termination is the only answer. This should be done as professionally and humanely as possible, again working with HR to ensure that the department is following all the applicable employment laws.
The most successful managers understand that their top priority is attracting and retaining good personnel. With a strong team in place, the security department’s goals will be much easier to accomplish. ©Jack Thomas
Jack Thomas, CPP, is general manager for Smith Protective Services, Inc., in Fort Worth, Texas. He is a member of ASIS International.