The right hire will not only complete your security team, but also enhance and add to your security team’s culture, as well as improve productivity and bring more operational success to the department. Whether hiring a security officer or middle manager on the enterprise team — though the competencies may differ — the general principles remain the same.
“You are only as good as the team around you,” says Kristine Raad, Director of Global Security for Owens Corning. “Hiring the right team member will have tremendous impact on driving successful initiatives, creating team harmony and elevating the status of your function. A poor match, however, can decrease the team’s productivity and even worse, erode both the trust and confidence your organization has in you and your team.”
Indeed, not only will a bad hire make your security team less effective, it also costs the organization money, and potentially a lot of it, further eroding confidence in your function. The average cost of a bad hire is up to 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Other sources say the costs can be upwards of $240,000 depending on the position.
At Memorial Healthcare in Owosso, Mich. where Jeffrey D. Hauk, MSA, CPP, PEM, CAS, CPTED, SHRM-CP is Director of Public Safety and Police Authority, the financial impact of a wrong hire is about $40K, he says. Aside from money, “a bad apple can cost your team morale, engagement, quality of services and your brand image,” he says.
Pitfalls of Hiring “Wrong”
Hauk says that hiring decisions are of the most important decisions a security leader has to make, and they are often challenging and laborious work. In Hauk’s experience, the tasks of hiring healthcare security professionals and retaining those team members are challenged by intense job demands on security staff, erratic labor market forces, low compensation levels, and lack of professional respect. “This can’t be solved or changed by approaching the problem utilizing the same methods and practices of the past,” Hauk adds.
He says some of the costs of hiring the wrong employees include:
- Cost of the hire, including advertising, interviewing, screening, etc.
- Cost of onboarding, including training, uniforms, equipment and management time.
- Lost productivity—it may take a new employee a year or more to reach the productivity of an existing staff member.
- Cultural impact—whenever someone leaves, others take time to ask or wonder “why?” Staff members who see high turnover may become disengaged and/or lose productivity themselves.
Attitude is Everything
Today’s security leaders agree that teams should be carefully selected to not only meet the organization’s needs in terms of competence, but perhaps more importantly, set the department up for future success through forward-thinking, diversity of thought, a strong moral compass and integrity.
Jim Sawyer, CPP, CHPA, Director of Security Services at Seattle Children’s, says that security leaders should look for candidates with strong interpersonal skills, customer service skills and empathy. “Thirty years ago, the stereotype regarding a security officer was a drooling, inarticulate Neanderthal who smelled of T-Rex excrement. That has changed. If you look for those strong interpersonal skills, with this in place, you can move mountains,” he says.
As a security leader, Sawyer says you can’t go wrong if your goal with recruiting is to “hire with the vision that every new hire will move up and will one day lead the department.”
At its core, Raad shares, “security to me is about the protection of people first, then assets and information. I consider the security function to be a service-related position, dedicated to assisting internal customers and stakeholders.” As such, she adds, it’s important to find both skilled security practitioners and service-oriented candidates.
But how do you find security team members that fit the bill? One way is through well thought-out interview questions and a comprehensive hiring process. Raad recommends a blend of both behavioral and competency-based questions. Situational and scenario-based questions require candidates to think on their feet and provide more insight into how they respond under pressure.
“Behavioral questions are used to evaluate the candidate’s approach to problem solving and allow the interviewer to gain insight into their personality and attitudes. These questions will typically ask the candidate to share specific stories or examples that highlight their strengths and can be used to evaluate if their personal style is a good match to the culture of your organization,” Raad says. “Competency questions on the other hand, allow you to understand the skills, talents and abilities of the candidate (such as critical thinking or analytical skills) and compare them with what you are looking for in your new hire.”
Hauk says, with the ever-changing and demanding role of security within an organization, he looks for emotional intelligence or EQ as a differentiator in this industry, “particularly the ability to be self-aware enough to realize and be conscious of the fact that you don’t know everything.”
For Sawyer, he says the vetting process should include questions that embrace equity, inclusion and diversity such as:
- What are your views on diversity?
- Tell me about a time you resolved a serious conflict with a good outcome. What was your role?
- What are your thoughts on workplace theft?
- If you caught a co-worker stealing, what would you do?
- Tell me three things you’d do to support a staff member of the LGBTQ community.
- Tell me about the best boss you ever had.
Tests for Hire
Some security leaders and organizations utilize personality tests or other screenings to identify candidates that meet the organization’s needs. There is an exhaustive list of assessments used and they don’t all cover the same things. Some commonly used tests and screenings include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Hogan Assessments, CliftonStrengths, DiSC and the Caliper Profile.
It’s important to note, however, that many of the personality tests and assessments out there can’t predict everything about a potential candidate’s success within a particular role, particularly within security as circumstances, incidents and pressures are ever-changing — more so in this industry than any other, perhaps. It’s even more important to note that some experts believe such assessments work against efforts to promote a diverse, inclusive workplace, particularly in race and gender. Personality siloes or labels can sway hiring managers to believe only a particular personality will work for a certain role or, worse, can be used as justifications to explain lack of progress or growth within an organization. For this reason, many experts recommend only using personality tests as an ongoing assessment tool to give managers and leaders better insight into how to work and collaborate with different team members.
Hauk says he doesn’t use personality tests at his organization for security hires, and cautions that they should be used with care. “I think there is value, but only if it’s one part of a comprehensive process,” he says. “Applicants should not be selected solely on the basis of personality tests alone. It has shown that this may result in less gender diversity at the workplace. Instead, if employers use them, it should be in conjunction with other tools and methods of the hiring process.”
Once you’ve found the right team members, every security leader’s goal is to retain them. Raad says that successful team building starts from the beginning. “Effective onboarding is absolutely critical to getting your new employee started off on the right foot and setting them up for success,” she says.
Raad recommends having detailed onboarding plans that include early introduction to other team members and plenty of time to get to know one another. Pairing new hires with peer mentors can help team members feel welcome and learn the basics of their new organization more quickly. “It’s also critical for the hiring manger to conduct frequent check-ins with the new employee, their peer mentor and other team members to assess how things are going and change things up if they are not progressing as expected,” Raad says.
In the end, the success of one security team member is intertwined with the success of the department as a whole. As the saying goes, “One bad apple can spoil the barrel.” For the security leader within an organization, one of their duties is to ensure that doesn’t happen. A good start may be an expanded focus beyond skills and education, to encompass a service-oriented mindset, high emotional intelligence and integrity.