How to Build Ownership of a Contracted Security Officer Program
As enterprises are forced to cut budgets and adapt to leaner times, proprietary security forces are often one of the first things to shrink.
As enterprises are forced to cut budgets and adapt to leaner times, proprietary security forces are often one of the first things to shrink. They are often replaced by contracted security officers through larger firms, which frequently shoulder the burdens of hiring and training officers. However, bringing in outside forces can create a rift between in-company staff and the new security team. How can the enterprise security leader reach out to bridge the gap and take ownership of an outsourced security officer program?
At Columbia College, a 16-building private liberal arts college in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood, Bob Koverman, the associate vice president of campus safety and security, says there is no silo or separation between the 70-75 contracted security officers and supervisors and the in-house security staff on campus.
“We are all on the same team, with the same goals,” adds Koverman.
A key part of that lies in the hiring process. While the security provider handles the initial screening of officers, Koverman and his team at the college conduct additional interviews to see if the officers are good communicators, personable and a good fit for the undefined, urban campus environment. This helps Koverman maintain a standard of customer service-driven security on campus, while introducing incoming security officers to their on-campus boss.
“A good relationship starts with effective communication between the senior manager of the security department and people who are or have the potential to be your most significant advocates,” says Koverman. “From there, you try to understand the needs of the college and the community, because the community dictates the role of the security department. Columbia College’s philosophical approach to higher education is building a student-centered experience, so we have to share that approach with our security officers.
“Everyone must be on the same page, or the tools and support we need from stakeholders and our advocates are not going to follow.”
When they are hired, security officers at Columbia College have a wide variety of tasks to perform – patrols (by foot, bicycle, Segway or car), staffing the 24/7 command center, working with video, access control, the radio system and the mass emergency notification system, and more. However, one of the keys to customer service at the college is maintaining a familiar presence in various posts. Therefore, officers are permanently assigned to specific desk posts, either in residence halls or classroom buildings, so that students can become accustomed to a routine officer being available, and so security officers can become aware of what is and what is not typical for a particular building.
“By being available and following through on our student-centered vision, we build up trust for our department and our officers,” Koverman says.
A stronger connection to the enterprise can also be built through value-added security – at the Mall of America Field in Minneapolis, Minn., Kim Klawiter, the director of security for the Minnesota Vikings, works with his contract security team to provide multiple functions to the team and the fans.
Klawiter works with around 600 security personnel on game days. “They do everything from bag checking to ticket scanning to ushering to security for our cheerleaders… they are also working outside the stadium doing bag checks, because the NFL has changed their bag policy. They serve probably five or six different roles on game day.”
Klawiter adds, “If there’s an issue in the stadium, we direct our fans to look for the yellow jackets or the white shirts. They hopefully provide a very visual deterrent to any problems we would have in the stands. You could be sitting on one side of the stadium and see yellow jackets on the other side of the stadium; you can see them on the field doing their jobs. They’re also usually the first call for help, whether that’s somebody’s sick, or hurt, or falls, or there’s an incident in the stadium.”
Outside of game days, however, the Vikings’ practice facility has a security officer stationed at the front desk, as well as other officers patrolling parking lots.
“When we are out of town at away games, I hire additional security to patrol our parking lots to secure our players’ and coaches’ cars. This can be a traveling party of up to 150 people, so that’s 150 often very nice, expensive cars that are sitting here for a couple days, and people know they’re sitting here for a couple of days. So I hire extra security to enable me to sleep at night.”
The Vikings have worked with the same security officer company for more than five years to protect their game day experiences. Klawiter has seen good results, so he expanded their use to other facilities, such as the practice facility and for special events in the center, such as youth football: “I feel like I can trust their people, and then I don’t have to worry about it,” he says.
A key reason Klawiter doesn’t worry is his contract supervisor, who has worked in this same capacity for multiple security companies.
“It’s his expertise and my confidence in him that’s provided the continuity that I like.”
And even in multiple facilities, continuity is still key when security officers are concerned.
Mike Johnston is the regional security manager for DSC Logistics and Supply Chain Management near Richmond, Va., and he is working to save his warehouse customers money by keeping their goods secure before transit.
“Cargo at rest is cargo at risk,” says Johnston. “When you look at cargo theft nationally, you typically have people breaking into shipments in transit. Here, we are concerned about the warehouse, where the risks are more likely to be burglaries, theft and internal theft.”
Because DSC is a third-party logistics provider, sometimes customers dictate who their security provider is, but for others, DSC manages the security officer selection – in choosing a new security officer provider in 2009, Johnston worked to not only compare bids but to interview the companies themselves, choosing one with strong HR support and training programs, which can take the burden of some front-end costs (interviews, hiring and training) off of the end user.
“I tend to be rather hands-on with things because of my background in law enforcement, so I work with my on-site account manager daily to anticipate any issues, such as crime problems, visitors or maintenance. I also get weekly updates from my operations manager in Greensboro,” Johnston says. “This is a key in my partnership with the security company – a strong company will encourage communication with its customer.”
The security officers at the warehouse also man the truck gate, which is audited each shift to catch any irregularities or errors, such as ensuring the right, secured cargo is on the right truck. They also perform interior warehouse patrols to check inventory and activity.
Johnston is working to improve the ROI of his customers (who are ultimately paying for the security officer investment) by having officers check multiple times per shift for broken, open or damaged products, which are then moved to a “recoup” packaging center within the warehouse.
“If we do find damage, we report it to operations so it can be repaired and put back into the supply chain,” he says.
These customer service functions help to establish the security officer as part of the overall enterprise security team, instead of a standalone department siloed away from the main goals of the organization.
With security officer programs, there is no “plug and play” option. Establishing a contract security officer program that runs and reports like a proprietary program takes time, strong direction and good communication, but in the end, it could result in improved security performance, customer service and ROI without an overloaded budget.
Security Perspectives on the Affordable Care Act
By Tory Brownyard
Key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or what many are calling Obamacare, recently went into effect in an effort to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance for all U.S. citizens through various mandates, subsidies and insurance exchanges.
There has been much debate on both sides of the political landscape on the effects this will have on the overall economy as well as many industries.
In evaluating what effect this will have on the security industry, one example of the first effects of ACA provides great insight. The Wall Street Journal recently reported the U.S. branch of Securitas, one of the nation’s largest security providers, announced it would drop its health insurance plan for its approximately 55,000 employees. Prior to ACA, Securitas had offered its employees “mini-med plans.” These plans provide basic coverage and generally cap employee benefits at a minimal amount per year. Generally, mini-med plans do not cover catastrophic illness or disease. This type of practice is not uncommon for firms employing lower wage employees that also seek economical ways to offer those employees minimal health coverage.
Jim McNulty, a spokesperson for the U.S. arm of Securitas, told The Wall Street Journalthe company would not offer options to replace the mini-med plans. “Their option is to go to the exchanges,” said McNulty. From the vantage point of the employees of Securitas, this development might become a blessing in disguise since the exchanges generally offer broader coverage than most mini-med plans.
Another point of consideration for the security industry is that the new legislation only applies to firms with 50 or more employees. Security firms with fewer than 50 employees will face a different set of challenges. For instance, under ACA, security firms with 25 to 50 people are not required to offer health insurance. However, it is expected that healthcare in this section of the industry will see rising premiums. Meanwhile, firms with 25 or fewer employees currently offering health insurance to their employees that also pay the majority of the premium will likely qualify for tax credits under ACA.
In discussing this issue with security firm owners at last year's American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) Annual Seminar in Chicago, many employers with close to 50 employees expressed reluctance to add employees because of potential implications on their businesses under ACA.
Based on this feedback, we may well be looking at slower growth for smaller security organizations as the initial impact of ACA plays out. For many employees of these firms, it may well turn out that the exchanges will offer better coverage options than what their employers previously offered. For smaller security firms, the burden of managing healthcare options for employees might be lessened. The reality is, like the rest of the country, the security industry will have to see how enrollment in the exchanges impacts costs to accurately determine if healthcare under ACA is a benefit or a burden.