Five critical operational threats to watch out for


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While manned security companies benefit from competitive market conditions, they still need to retain customers, attract new business, operate profitably and maintain their reputations. Security officers must consistently deliver exceptional service, comply with a wide array of rules and regulations and operate in a zero-error environment. One mistake can compromise the business as well as the customers and potentially hand over opportunities to competitors.

Minimising operational error begins with addressing five basic threats:

Threat one: Not utilising business intelligence and data analytics

In a security guarding context, Business intelligence (BI) and Data Analytics (DA) give security companies much-needed information to support important duty-based decisions. BI and DA gather all captured security-related incidents and anomalies that security officers report from the field, then quickly identify patterns and at-risk areas.

A security company that fails to implement BI and DA could face four all-too-common consequences:

Misallocation of resources – Without access to BI and DA, vital resources are wasted. Supervisors and managers burn through valuable time tracking, analysing and condensing data from multiple (often paper) sources into actionable insights. Supervisors have less time to devote to personnel matters and to delivering actual security services.

Profit loss – When human assets are not managed as effectively as possible, profit loss creeps in. No access to BI and DA reduces the clarity needed to determine resources required to supervise and secure client sites, manage visitor traffic based on volume, etc. Security companies can end up over- or understaffing client sites or even losing contracts, resulting in a decline in profits.

Weak officer performance – Lack of access to analytics denies security officer supervisors a view into their officers’ on-duty performance, potentially negatively impacting the officers’ career prospects along with the security company’s performance and profitability. Supervisors without BI and DA lack the clarity needed to identify at-risk and underperforming officers: knowing how well or poorly an officer performs is crucial to knowing how well the security company carries out its duties on a client site. Access to analytics boosts the ability of the security guarding company to manage risk and retain clients.

Threat exposure – Without analytics, a security company loses access to its own risk management and threat intelligence. With no consistent real-time analysis of current and historical data, a security company cannot track patterns and identify potential threats and risks before they materialize, nor can they implement processes to mitigate potential hazards.

BI and DA give companies immediate access to relevant intelligence and performance statistics that are actionable in an accessible digital format without the need to track down staff for a debrief or sort through paper records looking for answers. Correctly utilising BI and DA data allows a security company to deliver a better service, mitigate operational and business risks, enhance reputation and even gain a competitive advantage over rival companies.

Threat 2: Managing and monitoring officers with on-site supervisors

Many security companies and their clients find it imperative to employ an on-site supervisor to manage a team of guards. Numerous challenges and risks arise with this approach. First and foremost, on-site supervision pushes up operating costs and makes security more expensive for the client, as the company passes costs on. Second, this type of business model does not allow the security company to maximise the potential value add of investing in remote security supervisor technology. (There are exceptions based on client requirements.)

A remote management model does not require supervisors to physically work on site and helps the security company attain economies of scale by reducing middle management costs. It also fosters active competition on price by making the cost of the service more economical for the client without compromising quality of service or increasing risk.

Remote monitoring and management technology enables the remote security supervisor to easily and effectively manage multiple sites in any part of a city, country, or the world, without losing contact with or supervision of the security workforce. When equipped with the optimal technology and monitoring tools, the remote supervisor not only has a live and comprehensive view of all security officers on different sites, but also gains immediate insights into issues and incidents guards face on their shifts.

A remote supervision model provides a competitive business and workforce management advantage and adds significant business value to security companies at all touch points of business. Adopting this model is simple, seamless and cost effective. It not only facilitates the implementation of client services, but it also reduces new client lag time and enhances workforce management from the first day on the job.

Threat 3: Poor shift readiness

Every successful security company is built on a solid foundation of getting the fundamentals right. However, many security guarding companies often only pay lip service to the basic function of having officers fully prepared and equipped, to the detriment of the business, its reputation and its long-term viability. Four basic factors are often overlooked:

Pre-shift briefing – Shift supervisors should provide a detailed briefing to officers about to commence duties. Ideally this briefing should be delivered via a digital post order management solution. This ensures that all officers about to commence their duties, irrespective of location, will be fully informed about potential risks and incidents to be alert for, new operational changes on the client site and new requests from the client. Security officers on the incoming shift who are client-facing require a more comprehensive briefing.

Ideally shift supervisors would be debriefed by their own supervisors about all incidents that occurred during the previous shift and this information would be passed on to the next shift. Poorly briefed guards invariably deliver inferior service irrespective of skill level.

Outdated and incorrect technology – Providing each security officer with a wand, torch, two-way radio and uniform does not necessarily ensure that the guard shift is ready and well equipped. A smartphone environment with feature-rich apps and software platforms delivers strong command, control and reporting capabilities and boosts productivity of guards for the duration of their shifts. It also allows savvy security companies to make the most of new capabilities in managing the shift process. Supervisors can communicate with officers and manage shifts with all the necessary oversight.

No backup guards – Shift planning is often inadequate. Some security companies do not maintain adequate workforce backups. When more than two or three guards call in to say they will not make their shift, problems escalate. Security companies must have a sufficient number of well-trained and equipped security guards on standby who keep the company regularly informed of their availability.

Backup guards are not optional. Rather, they are a vital component of business and client continuity that will negatively impact the bottom line if missing. Clients want a seamless service: they are not interested in excuses.

Threat 4: Poor service standards

Once a new client is on board, the hard work begins. Because security work must operate in an error-free environment, the security company has to deliver perfect service from day one on the customer site. An effective client service structure is built on three pillars:

Service Level Agreement (SLA) delivery and performance measurement – Service level agreements cannot exist as a component of a contract alone; they have to be live, implementable and achievable via measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). Senior executives, middle managers and officers on the ground should all be very familiar with the SLA, which is a shared responsibility. Clients want to know that the security company is delivering services per the contract and KPIs are being achieved. Equipping security officers with the correct software applications not only ensures that they carry out their duties correctly, it also provides a much-needed quality assurance tool that monitors and archives data, contributing to better overall SLA achievement and performance measurement.

Enhanced field monitoring and reporting – Security supervisors need to be actively involved in monitoring teams and reviewing generated reports. Officers must be able to report live from the field and supervisors able to monitor them live. Access to the best technology is key. A site with a few hundred officers cannot be effectively monitored by one supervisor without some form of technology that provides instant updates that are aggregated, along with built-in alerts that signal when something goes wrong.

Record maintenance – Security companies must be able to digitally archive shift records and label and index incidents so they are easily searchable for a wide array of reasons. This is particularly important if the security officer is involved in resolving an incident that results in an insurance claim or if a legal liability issue exists and a detailed report is required by lawyers, law enforcement, the insurance company, or other involved parties. In addition, on some client sites compliancy requirements require recordkeeping that security officers are responsible for, i.e. inspection and maintenance of fire extinguishers.

Threat 5: Loss of employee faith in the company

For security guards to deliver services correctly, they need to feel complete trust in their employee’s ability to manage payroll. Security officers quickly lose faith in employers if their paycheck is late or incorrect or if overtime is not correctly compensated for. Errors in payroll can generate a significant decline in trust in the company, leading to poorer service and ultimately, employee churn.

Payroll errors damage the company at both the financial and the human level. Financially, additional work hours are spent fixing errors and if the employee leaves work, more hours are lost finding and training a new officer. Rebuilding trust and faith takes time and is contingent on the security company not making the same mistake again.

Unbilled overtime is an operational and profit challenge indirectly linked to an employee which can rapidly degenerate into a serious issue that impacts the bottom line of the company. Usually unbilled overtime error creeps in when the time worked is recorded as straight time. The security company can mitigate this challenge by ensuring that the contract with its clients clearly states that all overtime or extra hours worked will be billed at a higher or premium rate. If this point is not pre-negotiated, then the company absorbs the loss of overtime while paying guards the required amount. Too many of these types of errors could result in the security company retrenching guards to try and improve their profitability, or even put future viability in jeopardy.

The security company is not only responsible for ensuring that it contractually negotiates the overtime rate; it also has to ensure that guards have the ability to record and report overtime. Investing in a smart scheduling solution for recording hours in real time and automating payroll so that officers receive first notice of their paycheck via a smartphone app allows them to quickly and easily verify their pay.

For security guarding companies, mitigating operational threats that can negatively impact profitability and viability is an ongoing challenge. But the task is not insurmountable. By investing in appropriate technologies and focusing on correct policies and procedures, a security company can successfully mitigate or eliminate many of the threats and risks discussed above. Operational threat management is not a one-off requirement for security companies: indeed, it is an ongoing responsibility. Managing threats effectively with proven technology ensures viability, strengthens customer retention and protects the company’s reputation in the long term.

Manuel Mestré

By Manuel Mestré, Vice President of Customer Success, Trackforce Valiant

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