One of the elements of a successful security program is the stability of the guard force. An unstable security department results in an ineffective security program.

Wasted security countermeasures, high turnover, customer and employee dissatisfaction, frustrated senior management, disgruntled guards and high unscheduled and non-billable overtime are just a few factors that contribute to the ineffectiveness. Additionally, wasted time when security management is investigating employee misconduct adds instability to the department.

Setting outsourced security up for success

There are at least two options that security leaders can utilize to determine the outcome of outsourcing security officer services. The first is where the security leader considers the services purely from a technical perspective. This approach often incorporates cost as a primary driver, where the security leader details their specific requirements in a prescriptive approach. The prescriptive approach focuses on applicable licensing requirements, specific duties of security officers and supervisors, coverage hours, penalties and insurance requirements. These can be considered inputs. It is the “take two pills and call me in the morning” mentality, which can be considered a passive response to a dynamic risk situation.

This approach often fails, as it focuses on cost to the detriment of all other factors. Often, security leaders looking to outsource security incorporate unrealistic expectations into the request for proposal (RFP) that the winning bidder promises to provide but knows they cannot keep, thereby creating an adversarial relationship.

Alternatively, the second approach is to view the contract provider from an actual service perspective in a mutually beneficial relationship where the focus is on the resulting output — an effective security department. This second views the service provider as a partner to the security team and organization, where there is a recognition of the mutual needs of both parties. This creates a win-win opportunity. The second approach incorporates partnership principles into the RFP to ensure the resulting relationship is a win-win for both parties.

The following elements should be considered when developing the RFP:

You get what you pay for

First, the concept of a living wage has steadily gained ground in the last several years and has significant bearing upon an RFP. Security officers need to be fairly compensated for their services provided. Does the security contract manager factor in the living wage in the geographic area to ensure their vendor is able to recruit and retain quality employees?

Assess site complexities

Does the client consider site complexity which will impact security officer tasks and resulting competencies? Site complexity encompasses the size of the site, number of and types of incidents, risk profile, control room complexity, security systems in place, complexity of department size, training requirements which include pre-assignment, site familiarization, ongoing training and education for the team and individuals.

Upskill outsourced employees

Training is required in hard technical areas including access control, video surveillance, radios and their usage, report writing, use of force, intercoms, elevator monitoring and lighting control. Training is also necessary for soft skills development. This includes written and verbal communication skills development, negotiating skills, conflict de-escalation, interpersonal skills and empathy, teaching and training skills, and adaptability and continuous learning. Some may question why the security team requires these skills, but considering the duties and task complexities required for security personnel to be successful, soft skills are a key component of a successfully outsourced security program. Perhaps the most challenging task a security officer will engage in is rule enforcement. Whether this encompasses requiring employees, contractors, customers or criminals to follow the rules, security personnel require an understanding of criminal and civil codes, company rules, conflict de-escalation techniques, self defense, situational awareness, emotional intelligence and strong verbal communication skills.

Performance management is also an issue for a number of security leaders who outsource security patrols. A growing body of research in the last decade focusing on security officer retention has identified pay, training, the clarity of policies and procedures, employee engagement, supervisor and management support, role recognition/task significance, career planning and organizational fairness all as factors in employee retention. While some of these factors can be difficult to incorporate into an RFP, it must be recognized that in order to develop quality security staff, time, effort and money must be spent. This means that either the contract guard company management put effort into this or the client security management must do so.

Take a hands-on approach to outsourcing security

After the extensive initial work has been completed and the RFP has been delivered and awarded, it is equally important to sustain the key components of the RFP. The likelihood of components of the RFP getting put on the back burner by the service provider is sadly alarmingly high. For a multitude of reasons, it will be critical for the security leader to continue to invest in their team.

Providing relevant and meaningful educational opportunities and investing in the professional development of outsourced security officers will only pay dividends. Recognizing their efforts and accomplishments and providing opportunities beyond their expectations are a form of collateral. With professional development opportunities and ongoing training and recognition, the outsourced security team will understand that their roles will lead to career advancement, as well as increase their loyalty to the organization.

When outsourcing security officer talent, security leaders are quite right in pointing out that it is the responsibility of the contract provider to look after their employees. However, when the primary focus is on cost, this area will suffer. Focusing on price to the detriment of everything will almost certainly lead to high turnover and poor service. To expect anything else is foolish. This is why there needs to be greater attention paid to employees, their development and overall satisfaction.

 Outsourcing security is a fundamental function of providing the best possible service with a methodology of protecting people, property and assets in all capacities. The outcome of outsourcing will be a product of the planning, the execution of the plan and the follow-up of such an arrangement. It requires the aforementioned time, effort and money to be successful. The intentional development, awarding and management of the RFP can be a highly effective element of the security program.